Theatre Britain's Beauty & the Beast Purrs

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

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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