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Oxford Playhouse

Box office

01865 305305
Beaumont Street, Oxford. A map is here.

BT Studio productions are here.

The Oxford Playhouse is closed until 6th October 2020

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Reviews of Beauty and the Beast

19th November 2019 to 12th January 2020

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

It’s tea-time at the Playhouse

Slick song and dance and a marvellous mash-up

Beauty and the Beast, at the Oxford Playhouse, until January 12

This year's Playhouse panto, written and directed by Steve Marmion, is  loosely set in a Belgian version of Oxford, where the dominant personalities are the slightly wicked witch Kardashia (Dev Joshi, blessed with a gorgeous voice) and her snarling sidekick Slick Rick (Ed Kingsley, son of Sir Ben). They transform a pair of siblings into a melon man (Paul Biggin) and a teapot dame (Philip Pellew), and turn the mayor (Adrianna Bertola, a star in the making) into a cute vixen. The dame's daughter, Belle (Roseanna Frascona) and her inventor father Endo (Stephen Hoo) involve the townsfolk in the affairs of the doomed Beast (Matthew Staite) while the unlikely presence of the town's orangutan Brian (Ricky Oakley) cheers everybody up.

The song and dance routines are slick affairs, with tributes to Iggy Pop's The Passenger, Katrina and the Waves' Walking on Sunshine and Ylvis' jolly What Does the Fox Say?. These numbers would not be out of place in a West End musical, the professionals reinforced by well-drilled local children.

The dame is a one-trick pony, delivering puns about tea and Shakespeare plays which didn't get many laughs, but the Melon Man emerges as the show's brightest comedian. There's a superb mash-up of Les Mis at the barricades and a Hammer Horror peasants' attack on the Beast's castle, the protesters bizarrely holding up an old-fashioned banner of 'Thatcher Out'.

Hannah says: It was not as dramatic as the Playhouse's previous pantomimes. I would have preferred the Beast to be like a real person with real voice rather than a recorded one.

My favourite character was Belle because she cared for the Beast and was not afraid and she never backed down. I also liked the orangutan because he tries to dance but falls asleep, tries to be a fairy godmother, but is just pretending.

My favourite part was when the Beast came out from nowhere and the stage went dark and the only thing you could see were his red eyes, and then, pow, they were gone. I would definitely recommend it for your child because it is very entertaining.

JON LEWIS & HANNAH LEWIS (8)

Review from the Guardian.

A giggling, melon-racing feast of fun

An empowered Belle leads an energetic cast in this song-packed extravaganza, featuring nifty shadow play, terrifying puppets and infectious 80s classics

With the general election looming, writer-director Steve Marmion promised to “go lightly on the politics” in his new pantomime. A wise decision, given the fractious national mood. Instead, Marmion’s fifth panto in a row at the Oxford Playhouse turned out to be a song-packed feast of fun, with a tremendously energetic cast cranking the momentum up to a furious pace.

In place of topicality, Marmion dribbles a few classics through the show. Some nifty shadow play sets the scene at the beginning of each half, and the Beast – when he appears – is a Gruffalo-style giant puppet on stilts, with a detachable claw that shoots in and out of the early scenes. There’s a clever bit involving the Beast’s flaming red eyes just as the curtain falls for the interval – “mildly terrifying”, according to my nine-year-old.

Much more up her street was the way Belle (Roseanna Frascona) was self-assertive and empowered – very much in the modern Disney mode – even suggesting to the prince (Matthew Staite) that she might prefer him in monster form. Brian the Orangutan (Ricky Oakley) and the mayor-turned-fox (Adrianna Bertola) also got the children in the audience on side – especially judging by the pair of kids hauled up on stage for a little friendly melon racing. Philip Pellew’s teapot-shaped Dame had the youngsters giggling, and gothic sorceress Witch Kardashia (Dev Joshi) induced a shock or two in the little ’uns.

Best of all, perhaps, was the infectious song and dance that formed the bulk of the show: 80s classics such as Toto’s Africa and Katrina and the Waves’s Walking on Sunshine did a lot of the work, but the presence of Iggy Pop was a bit of a leftfield surprise. By the end, the nine-year-old was jigging and clapping with reckless abandon, which is the ultimate tribute.

ANDREW PULVER

There are reviews from The Stage ("all the beloved elements of traditional panto with a generous dollop of pop culture... satisfyingly moral and heart-warming" - ★★★★), the Oxford Mail ("a cheery and charming, massively musical pantomime").

Previous productions

Dick Whittington and His Cat (November 2018)
Jack and the Beanstalk (November 2017)
Cinderella (November 2016)
Aladdin (November 2015)
Beauty and the Beast (December 2014)
Robin Hood (November 2013)
Dick Whittington, 30th November 2012 to 13th January 2013. See the reviews in the Archive.
Mother Goose, 2nd December 2011 to 15th January 2012. See the reviews in the Archive.
Cinderella, 3rd December 2010 to 16th January 2011. See the reviews in the Archive.
Jack and the Beanstalk, 4th December 2009 to 17th January 2010. See the review in the Archive.
Sleeping Beauty, 5th December 2008 to 18th January 2009. See the review in the Archive.
Aladdin, 30th November 2007 to 13th January 2008. See the review in the Archive.
Dick Whittington, 1st December 2006 to 14th January 2007. See the review in the Archive.
Cinderella, December 2005. See the review in the Archive.
Guys and Dolls, by Oxford Operatic Society, 21st to 26th November 2005. See the review in the Archive.
Peter Pan, December 2004. See the review in the Archive.

For more details

see the Playhouse's web site at www.oxfordplayhouse.com.