Matthew Stepanek as Beast, Kate Dressler as Belle.
Matthew Stepanek as Beast, Kate Dressler as Belle.
Steve Freedman

Theatre Britain's Beauty & the Beast Purrs

Theatre Britain's annual British "panto" fairytale at the Cox Playhouse in Plano is always a holiday treat. This year Beauty & the Beast, not the talking furniture Disney musical, but a campier comedy by Jackie Mellor-Guin, uses all the traditional gimmicks we now know to expect. Kiddies will latch onto lonely Belle (Kate Dressler) and the fuzzy-faced Beast (Matthew Stepanek) who wins her heart. But "Mrs. T Time" (Ivan Jones in a glam-drag, sparkly dress dangling with teabags) and "Mr. Nob" (Michael Speck) are there to make sly, slightly bawdy jokes grown-ups can grin at. Caitlin Duree plays Felan, a name that cues plenty of puns throughout for the girl-in-boy's-britches part.

Company founder and director Sue Birch goes all out with her pantos. The scenery by Darryl Clement spans the stage with faux-stone castle walls. Costumes by Tory Padden clad the mean stepsisters (Octavia Y. Thomas and Devon Rose) in candy-box pastels.

The rules of panto call for the audience to stand for a sing-along and to warn characters aloud whenever the ghost (Rose) appears. Audience interaction is a big part of panto fun. Go ahead and hiss the Beast, then "aww" when he turns back into the prince.

Beauty & the Beast continues through December 28 at Theatre Britain, Cox Building Playhouse, 1517 H. Avenue, Plano. Tickets, $11-$21, online at theatre-britain.com or 972-490-4202.

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