Beauty and the Beast at the Whitley Bay Playhouse

I have always loved the idea of going to see the panto in a big group with friends and family. My youngest son's birthday falls a few days before Christmas and this year he would be turning four so it seemed like the perfect time to try and start the tradition. I chose Whitley Bay playhouse as our venue because it is easy to get to and has plentiful free parking. In the end, I managed to get a group of 26 together and we pre-booked our tickets months in advance. Booking in advance enabled us to get really good seats just a few rows from the front. Booking in a group of 20+ also allowed us to secure tickets at just £14.50 each and we didn't have to pay any booking fees.

The cast is filled with stars and includes former Emmerdale star Roxanne Pallett, Jeremy Edwards of Hollyoaks and Holby City fame and the welcome return of pantomime favourite Steve Walls. We all took our seats and couldn't wait for curtain up.

Jack's Aunty and Cousin waiting for the show to start

The first 20 minutes of the show was more like a stand up routine which was used to introduce the variety of characters to the audience - I have to say I was starting to worry a little at this point as some of the jokes did fall a little flat........

However once the tale of Beauty and the Beast started to be told, we relaxed into our seats and had an absolutely fantastic evening. The show had something for everyone. The music was modern and the older children in our group loved singing along to their favourite songs and watching the fantastic dance moves on stage. My 5 year old daughter (and the mums in the group) were swept away by the romance of the story and we all enjoyed singing along to old favourites from the film such as 'Be our Guest' and 'Beauty and the Beast'. We were pleased that the candlestick and teapot were included too and it was magical watching them being brought to life on stage.

Jeremy Edwards was superb playing the part of a pompous and arrogant Gaston who is followed around the stage by a group of adoring ladies. He cannot understand why Belle would not fall for his obviously handsome looks and takes every opportunity to flash his guns and try to impress. His character allows for a lot of innuendo which for me, I would expect from a panto and most of it goes over the children's head. Good fun for the grown ups but it may not be to everybody's taste. Gaston definitely reminded me of a certain type of man who can be found frequenting the bars of Newcastle and trying his luck with the ladies and I found him highly amusing.

Our younger children's favourite part of the show was definitely the classic 'he's behind you' moment. Watching them all on their feet screaming at the top of their voices really made my night - it is just lovely watching them all having so much fun.

What was a surprise during this show was the quality of the singing voices. Roxanne Pallett sang beautifully as Belle (I forgot that she'd previously won Celebrity Stars in their eyes and appeared on Soapstar Superstar). She sang an impressive number from Frozen which was a stand out scene for me.

The Beast also had a fantastic voice and his performance of 'Stay with me' by Sam Smith was also one of my favourite scenes - the performance really made me feel sad for the beast and it reminded me a little of The Phantom of the Opera. It has to be said the beast was a little scary when he first appeared on stage surrounded by smoke as he was disturbed by Belle's father. He did tone his scariness down quite a bit after his initial appearance and it wasn't too scary for little ones.

The show ended with the wedding of Beauty and the beast and everybody was up on their feet dancing. We left with some very excited children who continued singing and dancing all of the way home. Everybody commented how much they enjoyed their evening and we are already looking at booking up again for next year.

Beauty and the Beast continues at the Whitley Bay Playhouse until Sunday 4th January and Blue Genie will be returning in 2015 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Thank you to Whitley Bay Playhouse who kindly provided images from the show.

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