Letter of the week: South Shields pantomime is a 'special show'

The cast of Beauty and the Beast.
The cast of Beauty and the Beast.

I was at the first night of this year’s Customs House Beauty and the Beast panto on Tuesday, November 27.

I must admit that I chose the first night to enjoy the cock-ups that would inevitably be part of the first show.

How wrong can a person be. From the outset when beauty (Annie Guy) sang her first song I knew this was going to be a special show.

Her voice was amazing, crystal clear and pitch perfect. The rising star of our Shields panto is local lad David John Hopper, who played Arbuthnot for maximum laughs. He was the glue that held it all together.

Beauty’s father, a German I think by his lederhosen, had a weird accent. I did not recognise him at all, until I looked at the programme, Customs House stalwart Gareth Hunter took that part and made it his own.

Click here to read the Gazette's own review here
The baddie was played by Afnan Iftikar, a great singer with a Scottish accent who when he first appeared snarled at the audience in an unGlaswegian, timid way.

It took a while to realise he was the bad guy as he was dressed in red and not ‘Baddie’ black. Once he went really nasty the kids went for him, the adults too.

The poor prince turned into a beast by the fairy queen (a great singer too) was played by Steven Lee Hamilton.

He turns his hand to the panto hero every year. His singing, solo and in harmony with beau. We had songs from Frozen and the greatest Showman.

The young dancers gave their all, the stand by dancing girls up on the top tier howled their support and sang along with everything.

Dame Bella is played by our very own Ray Spencer MBE.

How the producers thinks of the outrageous costumes they force him into I do not know. At one time he was a chandelier with flashing lights.

What can you say about Ray, the consummate professional, ad libbed his way through the few minor script malfunctions, which just made the show funnier.

The slapstick was very funny, lots of pie, very slippy.

Last week's Letter of the week: Who foots the bill for closure-threatened South Shields School?
If Arbuthnot makes it to January 5 it will be a miracle.

Beauty and The Beast started at 6.30pm and with a short break the show finished at 9.30pm.

Starting times get earlier each year so Ray gets home early for his jarmies and cocoa.

All in all, an uplifting theatrical experience, the singing up to West End show standard. I said to my friend at the end it was like watching the musical Beauty and The Beast with funny bits.

There are still spare seats don’t miss it, support your Customs House – use it or lose it.

Colin Campbell.