Rehearsals for Chelmsford Theatres’ Beauty and the Beast are underway as the cast and crew prepare for opening night on Friday 26 November. The annual pantomime is the biggest event in the theatres’ calendar and this year the Civic is looking forward to a return to normal after the disruption caused by the pandemic in 2020.

It’s the first time the theatres and their panto co-producers ‘One From The Heart’ have ever staged Beauty and the Beast. The production is a re-telling of the traditional French story of brave Belle and a selfish prince who has been transformed into a beast as a punishment for his unkind ways. Fans of the classic story will love this new interpretation, which has key characters with a very panto twist.

Belle and her inventor father Monsieur Labonté are joined by a cast of characters who bring everything you could possibly want to a festive fairy tale. Expect plenty of gags from panto regular Neil Bromley as the dame, Lilli La Twerp, along with multi-talented actress and comedian Nerine Skinner as Lilli’s daughter Billi. Actor and musical theatre star Jane Horn lends glamour and her fabulous voice to Mizzo, the personal stylist cursed alongside the prince, and Ella Tweed and Nay Nay Gapomo make enchanting leads as Belle and the Beast.

Each theatre has its own distinctive way of doing panto and Chelmsford Theatres’ Christmas shows are well known for being witty and uplifting productions which rely on the power of a great ensemble rather than a single big-name star. This year is no different, and the perfectly formed cast and crew have roof-raising songs, dynamic dance numbers and magical sets to transport audiences straight to the enchanted castle.

Chelmsford City Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Marie Goldman says the theatre can’t wait to get started on this new production.

“It has been wonderful to see the cast and crew rehearsing in the theatre this week. Panto is an important experience for so many of us, connecting families and friends at Christmas and giving our youngest audience members a joyful first taste of live theatre and the arts. The success of these popular shows can also help to set theatres up for a good year and it’s a huge relief to see a normal run this winter.”

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader, Chelmsford City Council
Credit: Aaron Crowe Photography

Performances start on Friday 26 November and tickets are selling fast, with bookings currently at around 70%. Producer Daryl Back thinks this new version of Beauty and the Beast will become a panto classic.

“I can’t believe it’s the first time we’ve ever done this story and I’m so proud that we’ll have a brand-new work for 2021. As ever, we have an incredible cast with a mix of seasoned performers and rising stars, and I hope Chelmsford Theatres’ Beauty and the Beast will become your new favourite adaptation of this traditional tale.”

Daryl Back, Artistic Director of One From The Heart

Beauty and the Beast runs from Friday 26 November 2021 until Monday 3 January 2022 with a relaxed performance on Thursday 30 December at 2pm. To book tickets, visit www.chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres , call 01245 606505, or visit the box office in person at Civic Theatre, Fairfield Road, Chelmsford, CM1 1JG.

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