PANTO REVIEW: Star’s performance was a real ‘Beauty’

Some of the cast from Beauty and the Beast.
Some of the cast from Beauty and the Beast.
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Beauty and the Beast, The Cresset Theatre

Peterborough, Sunday, December 15, 2013

There’s life outside Bretton dad,” says Beauty to her father the Mayor early on in this panto... and there’s life outside Eastenders too!

Anyone planning to see this show thinking they are going to see a former Eastenders star going through the motions will get a pleasant surprise – because Ricky Groves made the stage his own with a magnificent performance.

Trading in his famous TV “Gary” persona for that of “Silly Billy”, Groves is the life and soul of this excellent performance, keeping the cheeky Cockney personality he is famed for but channelling it into a different direction.

He is central to all the major laugh-out-loud scenes and his movement, comedy facial expressions and overall enthusiasm for the role shines through. He can sing too, as he is joined by other cast members to treat pop fans in the audience to ditties from acts such as Madness, Maroon Five and Lady Gaga.

But it’s not just about the “big name” of course. Zach Vanderfelt in wonderful as Dame Dolly Doughnut and Lucy-Jane Quinlan fills the shoes of Beauty perfectly.

My favourite scenes involved Billy, Dame Doughnut, Colin (AKA Kermit) and the Mayor, especially the hilarious scene when the four of them breathlessly act out the Twelve Days of Christmas.

This show has everything you want in a panto: a traditional tale, a goodie, a baddie, songs, jokes so awful they’re funny, lots of audience participation, topical cultural references and a happy ending. Perfect.

* Beauty and the Beast runs at The Cressett until December 30, with two performances most days. Box office: 01733 265705.

Jeremy Ransome