Mesdames et Messieurs are invited to ze most panache pantomime of all as Leighton Buzzard Drama Group present Beauty and the Beast.
That is about as genuinely French as I or the pantomime will get... but make no mistake, this is a fun, flamboyant show for families to see in the New Year.
LBDG spent ten painstaking months on this production, with gorgeous sets and costumes – and many of the dresses were handmade by director Kim Aguilar.
But anyhow, back to France!
In the pantomime, we see pretty lady Belle (played by a streetwise Gemma Aguilar) hard at work making a happy home for her father while vile sisters Ermengarde (Emma Cooke) and Esmerelda (Lainy Ward) waste money at the local salon.
Ermengarde is a TOWIE lookalike gone wrong with plastered makeup and enormous eyebrows while Esmerelda is a dead ringer for Baby Jane, with a headful of childlike ringlets.
The pair are the laughing stock of pompadoured salon owners, Monique and Marcel (Lauren Massey and Louis Cross) – who channel French rococo style with their Essex ‘charm’.
Meanwhile, Belle meets a handsome Prince in the forest, but he soon falls into the clutches of evil fairy Belladonna (Jo Taylor).
After he rejects her advances, Belladonna casts a wicked spell turning the Prince into the Beast (John Stone). True love can break the spell ... but only before all the petals of a rose have fallen.
Dressed like a dominatrix with a mad laugh and eyes rolling to the back of her head as she waves about her wand, Belladonna might be more of a fright to mums and dads than the booing kids – oh, but she’s good fun!
Suave, arrogant Gaston (Hannah Rourke) comes to woo Belle in his tight leather breeches, but she rejects him and instead accompanies dame Madame Fifi (Tony White) and lazy boy Jacques (Sian Treacy) to the Beast’s castle where she becomes his prisoner.
Ah, but love always finds a way and everyone except the bad guys ends up happy.
The panto pays homage to the Disney movie without overdoing it, Madame Fifi sings the title track as Belle dances with the Beast wearing the famous yellow dress.
If there’s one thing I would really have liked, it would have been for the Beast to have looked a bit scarier – maybe with a crazy 80’s hair metal wig and some big claws or fangs.
I enjoyed watching the eccentric, polka-dotted dame Madame Fifi and she reminded me of last year’s dame Margarita Juicelita. But next year, I would love to see a panto dame who’s fierce!
Beauty and the Beast plays at Leighton Buzzard Library Theatre until January 23. Book here for tickets.