Betty Blue Eyes bewitches London's theatre critics

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Reece Shearsmith with Betty the pig in Betty Blue Eyes
Image caption,
League of Gentlemen star Shearsmith (r) plays chiropodist Gilbert Chilvers

The opening night of new musical comedy Betty Blue Eyes drew a star-studded audience to the Novello theatre in London's West End on Wednesday.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter, writer Stephen Fry and broadcaster Sir David Frost were among those who attended the Cameron Mackintosh production.

Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and new Britain's Got Talent judge David Hasselhoff were also in attendance.

The show - based on 1984 film A Private Function - features an animatronic pig.

It tells of a small community in post-war Britain raising a pig to slaughter in honour of the 1947 royal wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten.

The cast is led by League of Gentlemen star Reece Shearsmith, who plays a meek chiropodist who steals the swine at the behest of his social-climbing wife.

The Guardian's Michael Billington praised the new show, saying that Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman's adaptation of Alan Bennett's script was "better than the original".

"The show's creators preserve the satire on small-town snobbery, greed and racism... while sharpening the storyline and using music genuinely to enhance character," he added.

In his four-star review in the Independent, Michael Coveney praised composer George Stiles and lyricist Anthony Drewe for "a series of charming songs".

Shearsmith and lead actress Sarah Lancashire, he went on, had been well cast. "He's charming, deft and moon-faced, while she translates her airs and graces into elegant dance lines and killer commands."

However, the critic reserved a special mention for "star of the show" Betty - "an animatronic pink beast, controlled remotely [who] does win hearts".

The Stage newspaper called Betty Blue Eyes a "likeably performed and technically accomplished musical".

However, its critic added that, unlike the theatre adaptation of 2000 film Billy Elliot, "the stakes don't feel quite so high".

"While you root for the real boy, it's difficult to become quite so animated about an animatronic pig, however cute she first appears."

The Telegraph's critic Charles Spencer included several porcine puns in his own four-star review.

"I'm telling no porky-pies when I say that this delightful new musical with an irresistible pig as its star left me grunting and snorting with pleasure," he wrote.

Betty Blue Eyes, which was directed by Sir Richard Eyre, is scheduled to run until 22 October.

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