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Get your money's worth with this beastly good panto

Beauty and the Beast, Albany Theatre, Coventry, until Jan 5.

You certainly get your money's worth at this Three Spires Guildhall production - it boasts 40 young dancers, not to mention a dame, an arch villain, his two crackpot sidekicks, a beautiful young girl, a roaring beast, plus a real live pony!

Oh yes and then there's silly Billy Bunns, played by Ian Meikle with so much cheek he even got in a plug for the group's next production in June.

And not only can this lot dance - well not the pony - but they sing really well too.

To be honest the beast (Charlie Jacobs) did more roaring than tuneful singing, but Beauty (Rachael McDonnell) had a lovely voice as did her "father" played by Ken Reader.

It does take rather a long time for the beast to actually get involved with the action but in the meantime we have Billy with his daft mum Bessie (Jon Andrews) having the time of their lives and making absolutely sure there is no shortage of audience participation.

Even I was involved at one stage as I had to hurl props back onto the stage during a hilarious Twelve Nights of Christmas routine.

I particularly enjoyed Casey McKernan's villainous villain, and Claire Briggs and Lucy Owen did a great job as Smash-It and Grab-It, his less than artful dodger partners in crime.

The sets were good too and it was nice idea to have Roisin Gaffney introduce the story so that we all knew where we were up to in the plot which offered great contemporary songs that everyone knew.

Writer and director Jamie Sheerman did a fantastic job with this huge cast - some of the best performers were only eight and many looked even younger. He also didn't make the mistake of letting the action run on too long - a common fault with many pantos.

True, there was the odd tearful moment from smaller members of the audience when the beast put in his first dread appearance, but five-year-old Isla, sitting next to me, insisted he was her favourite, along with Beauty and Billy.

And there were far more laughs, largely generated by Jon Andrews who was having a few wardrobe malfunctions on the first night which only added to the general mayhem.

Well done to all at Three Spires...this is splendid entertainment with lots of matinees as well as evening performances coming up.

For tickets go to:

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