With all the fun and frivolity one would expect from a King’s Theatre pantomime, this year’s production of Beauty and the Beast is set to be a spellbinding hit. Aside from the laughs and the usual pantomime nonsense, panto star Elaine C. Smith is clear that one of the best things about this year’s panto is that we are all back together again (with no signs of any Covid cancellations). It has been a long time coming for the hordes of people who pencil in the panto as one of their key festive season events, and on tonight’s showing it is easy to see why.
The tale is as old as time, but for anyone who is somehow unfamiliar, a spell is cast on a young prince named Sebastian (Calum McElroy) who judges every book by its cover. He is cursed to live as a beast until the day he falls in love and realises beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Enter Belle (Blythe Jandoo), who soon falls in love with the beast and, with true love’s first kiss, the spell is broken and Prince Sebastian is returned to his former self. Ghosts, wolves, and Malky McSneer (Matthew McKenna) try to thwart the pair but true love prevails.
Alongside the strength of true love, the most impressive thing about tonight’s show is the clever use of audience participation (note for all – never book the front row at a pantomime if you don’t want the joke to be on you). Even though much of it is probably choreographed, it comes across as delightfully spontaneous.
Smith and Johnny Mac, two fan favourites and regulars on the panto circuit, are back and on hugely impressive form. Playing Mrs Potty and Jack Potty, performance highlights from the pair include them proving their line-spitting skills with a Sean Connery sketch and Mac’s impressive two-minute summary of everything (ludicrous and otherwise) that had happened in the show up until the final scene.
Together with Smith and Mac, Darren Brownlie gives a captivating and hilarious performance as Shuggie (Belle’s brother) and the ensemble provide real professionalism in the big numbers. The show’s villain Malky McSneer does, however, lack some of the menace seen from pantomime villains in the past. Perhaps he is a bit too handsome, a bit too polished; perhaps it was intentional not to frighten the young audience. Still, it takes little away from the night’s entertainment, which has the audience in fits of laughter throughout. As people roll out on to the Glasgow streets there are murmurings from all angles of the favourite joke of the night.
Thank goodness for pantomime in a time when lots of people need something to put a smile on their faces.