IF you need evidence why Regal Entertainments was in the running for a series of pantomime awards in London this week, then a couple of hours spent at the Theatre Royal in St Helens will be all that you need.

The Regal team, led by theatre manager and producer Chantelle Nolan, has concocted a winning formula with shows spread over the course of year that put audiences under a joyous spell.

With Beauty and the Beast – the story of a young woman who falls for the cursed prince – they again deliver the goods, packing in laughs, hilarious gags, big numbers, outlandish outfits and plenty of surprises to create a stunning show that will have youngsters (and plenty of adults) grinning from ear to ear.

St Helens Star: Audiences have been packing into the theatre for the Easter showAudiences have been packing into the theatre for the Easter show (Image: David Munn)

Once again Theatre Royal favourite Lewis Devine commands the stage brilliantly, on this occasion as French Frank, and he’s complemented by the superb Richard Aucout, as Potty Polly.

Together, the duo tee the show’s gags perfectly before delivering them with sublime execution.

Abigail Middleton, meanwhile, is simply magnificent as the dastardly Madame Botox. She does more than enough to rev up the crowds into producing a cacophony of boos.

The show’s beauty, is the delightful Lauren McCrory, who makes a return to the Corporation Street venue (where she has previously played Wendy Darling in Peter Pan) and is exceptional as Belle.

St Helens Star: Potty Polly, Belle and French Frank deliver stand-out performancesPotty Polly, Belle and French Frank deliver stand-out performances (Image: David Munn)

This is rip-roaring entertainment. The kids in the crowd could not stop smiling, singing and shouting out – and isn’t that just the sort of response you want from a panto?

The show runs until Sunday, April 16, so there’s still time to book and see this wonderful old theatre alive and kicking with an atmosphere of joy and fun.

Andrew Kilmurray