Beauty and The Beast - Little Waltham Drama Group - 18th January 2015

Fresh faces and a new creative team for this year's show from a group with a strong tradition in village pantomime.

Directors Hannah Walker and Louise Louth wisely retain some of the most cherished features – the proscenium paintings and the confectionery walkabout, this time to a piano rag from the excellent orchestra of Dave Perry and Trevor Lee.

They cope impressively with a bright mixture of music: Steps, Wham and One Direction as well as Oliver and Aspects of Love. The chorus, stylishly dressed, get some great numbers [choreographed by Kim Travell], including Power of Love and a nice arrangement of Best Song Ever.

The successful mix of youth and experience is exemplified in the great comedy duo of [Tweedle]Dick and Dom [Ryan Chapman and Ken Little] – shame they don't have a funnier script to work with; it's noticeable that the best laughs come from the ad-libs. Brian Corrie gets his share, too, this year he's attempting a French accent …

Rebekah Walker makes a superb Rose – her “Yesterday” a musical highlight – nicely contrasted, especially in their dance duet, with her giant of a beast, Ash Cobden, transformed to a dashing Prince, but keeping enough hair for a fashionable hipster beard.

Rather too much of the story, when it surfaces, is entrusted to the good vs evil pairing of Vicky Weavers [fairy dust and smartphone in her reticule] and crabby Julie Cole. Other ingredients include a proper pantomime cow, a bungling inventor, a hilarious sing-along, a gorilla ghost routine and a formidable Dame in the shape of Viv Abrey's Nanny Ivy.

Like many of us, she's going through an out-of-money experience, reduced to Tesco for a birthday teddy bear for young Rose. But she couldn't get better value entertainment than this friendly village panto, the latest in a long line stretching back to the first Cinderella in the early Seventies.

Michael Gray