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Beauty and the Beast at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Published by: Clare Brotherwood on 11th Dec 2014 | View all blogs by Clare Brotherwood

Steven Blakeley, Kevin Cruise, Michael Winsor and Georgina Leonidas

The Theatre Royal Windsor has always been famous for its traditional pantomimes.

Back in the day they used to be written by the gracious and much missed actress, the late Mary Kerridge, and didn’t need to rely on big names to draw the crowds, sticking with regulars like Joe Brown and Bryan Burdon.

Then there were a few years when they weren’t so good – until ex-Heartbeat’s PC Geoff Younger and now Windsor’s regular Dame, Steven Blakeley, came on the scene as writer three years ago, and Martin Cabble, otherwise known as Britain’s Got Talent’s Kevin Cruise, became creative consultant.

Now Windsor’s panto really rocks, and even more so this year with the not so well known Beauty and the Beast. When the curtain went up to MD Lindsey Miller’s pulsating music the audience was raring to go – so much so that when former lead singer with the Three Degrees’, Sheila Ferguson, made her entrance as the wicked enchantress Maleficent, she couldn’t be heard for enthusiastic boos.

But this sassy lady from Philadelphia wasn’t standing any nonsense. “Ah, shut up,” she snarled, instantly earning her place as the nasty villain, especially when joined by her alarmingly realistic dancing wolves.
Sheila Ferguson

Maleficent is the one who changes the local prince into a beast and his manservant into…. Basil Brush, and the introduction of the talking fox into the story really works. After over 50 years, children still love his naughtiness while accompanying adults warm to his cheeky, irreverent charm.

It is Rhydian as the Prince, however, who really blows me away. Without wanting to insult The X Factor, I’d never have thought such a good voice would come from that series. He’s magnificent, and not just as a singer. As the Beast with a heart he brought tears to my eyes, and I was fascinated by the breathy way he delivered his lines, rather like Darth Vader!

This production, which runs at a fantastic pace under the director of Roger Redfarn, is certainly strong on vocals this year, what with Rhydian, and Sheila Ferguson who, since topping the charts 17 times in the seventies, has made a name in musical theatre. Thankfully, she was given the chance to belt out some wonderful numbers including When Will I See You Gain (soon, I hope!).

Since Steven and Kevin came on board, however, it is the comedy that really shines. With his orange tan, dazzling white smile and OTT camp humour I’m afraid I dismissed Kevin Cruise when he was on BGT, but now I can’t wait to see him perform. He really is a master craftsman of what he does and I look forward to seeing some of his own Moon on a Stick productions and hearing about the Cabaret Academy he is launching - in my home town no less! He can work an audience like nobody else. When he was throwing giant inflatable footballs into the audience the roar that came up would have beaten any crowd at Wembley. I defy anyone to resist his enthusiasm, charm and playfulness, and one of the highlights of this show is the way he is always bursting into song.

Steven Blakeley as the Dame has also become a firm favourite. He just so fits the role, and the company’s own version of the 12 Days of Christmas, with articles flying about the auditorium, had everyone helpless with laughter, while my four-year-old friend Oscar is still going round singing ‘five toilet rolls’!

With Harry Potter star Georgina Leonidas as Belle, Carry On’s Sally Geeson as Fairy Beneficent, singer, actor and voice-ever artist Michael Winsor as Bell’s wistful father Maurice, and Postman Pat, there is plenty to enjoy.

Windsor’s version of Beauty and the Beast is Boom Booming marvellous!!
Pictures courtesy of the Theatre Royal Windsor 

Beauty and the Beast is at the Theatre Royal Windsor until January 11.

Box office: 01753 853888


1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 3 years ago
    Thanks, Clare. A fabulous and colourful review! Merry Christmas!
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