Beauty and the Beast. Picture: Pamela Raith
Beauty and the Beast. Picture: Pamela Raith

Deciding when you can really start to get into the festive spirit is always the subject of debate – but there’s no doubting that the Lichfield Garrick pantomime is fast becoming the real start of the celebrations.

This year’s offering, Beauty and the Beast, is another dose of pre-Christmas cheer as the show brings plenty of fun served up with a plentiful side of laughter.

Panto dame Sam Rabone once again leads a talented cast which includes Ben Thornton making his return to the city stage. They are joined by the likes of Kat Chatterton as a brilliant Belle, Natalie Pilkington, Melad Hamidi and Sarah Anakin.

One of the best decisions the Garrick ever made was to move away from the usual sales trick of using a celeb name who once upon a time starred in a long-forgotten TV show to head up the panto. The move to focus efforts instead on letting a cast of talented performers shine and enhancing the production overall has been a masterstroke.

The benefits of such an approach were clear for all who gave a standing ovation at the end of the performance – Beauty and the Beast is slick, fun and features genuinely engaging action at every turn.

There’s sometimes a snobbery around panto that can suggest it lacks the authenticity and quality of other forms of theatre. But a quick glance around the audience at the Garrick showed just how powerful good pantomime can be in bringing a smile to the faces of a diverse audience.

Beauty and the Beast enjoys a sharp script, fabulous staging and costumes that are worthy of a standing ovation on their own.

But the real joy comes from the excellent performances, with Rabone again demonstrating his ability to play puppet-master with an audience and make them feel part of the performance rather than mere observers. The result is a show full of feel-good fun that gives people a chance to enjoy a few hours of true escapism – something we need more than ever right now.

Even as the curtain fell at the Garrick, many were already relishing the thought of celebrating Christmas 2024 when the city’s very own panto dame will return with Jack and the Beanstalk.

But before then there are still plenty of chances to get Christmas off to a cracker with Beauty and the Beast running until 7th January.

For ticket details visit the Lichfield Garrick website.

Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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