Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sleeping Beauty - Floral Pavilion, New Brighton

Sleeping Beauty by David Lee
Original Music: Andrew Rumble
Original Lyrics: David Lee
Director: Aiden Bell & Rita Proctor
Reviewer: John Roberts

Magic really has come to New Brighton again but it is not the premier production of Sleeping Beauty that provides it, it is the new fantastic multi-million pound refurbishment to bring this regional theatre into the 21st century that really puts you under a spell.

This production of Sleeping Beauty, written by Pantoni Pantomimes owner David Lee, needs to be locked in a tower for well over 100 years and never rear its head again. Pantomime should bring joy and laughter to the children, make adults revert to young children and we should all get swooped away in festive frolics of merriment and song - this just isn't the show that will do it!

This production lacks any pace (nearly 3 hours long and you know it) and never knowing what it wanted to be, was this a musical or was this a pantomime? with most of the songs being original there was no real ability to clap along to your favorite chart song, let alone leave the theatre humming any of the tunes (apart from CUTHBERT but there wasn't really a tune to that anyway!) the pit band seemed out on the limb as most of the songs in this production were from recorded backing tracks. There was a distinct lack of any of your steadfast Panto routines, from the lack of "oh no you don'ts" and "It's behind you's" to a over played and dissapointly un-messy messy routine.

There has been some real misjudgement in the casting of this production, Aiden Bell (who also directs) plays a ghastly Dame, with no real rapport with the audience, Mike Holoway of 70's teen fame provides a very creepy and almost dad like Prince, even the leading lady (Leanne Campbell) looked uncomfortable in any of her scenes with her prince, and his 'come on everybody lets clap and get some energy in the room' remark was very Ironic considering there was no energy on the stage to begin with! The final misjudgement is having a skinned costume character take the lead of the Crystal Fairy, yes the kids loved seeing 'Fifi Forget Me Not' on stage, but having delays between a played voice over and real dialogue and the lack of any facial expressions really left any scene dead as a dodo, than blossoming like a bluebell.

However there are some performances that do stand out, the first being that of stalwart children's television presenter Dave Benson Philips, you can not go and see this performer and feel underwhelmed a consummate professional even when things around him are failing (sound equipment to name one) he carries on regardless, making sure that he at least gains most of the laughs all evening, even coping with one snatchy and rude 9 year old child during the song sheet, with grace and ease. Charlotte Milchard as Carabose brought a great blend of Villainy and comedy bringing a breath of fresh air into a stale and rotten production, but it is the performances from The Rita Proctor Teensteppers and the Liverpool Theatre School Juveniles that provide the show with any real WOW factor, giving 110% into all of their dance routines throughout the production and showing the 'professionals' how it should be done.

This production started off with real promise with a great projected video sequence, its a shame that the same production values didn't follow through the rest of the production, a pity considering previous pantomimes by the same producing company at this theatre in the past have been excellent value for money and a real treat for our family.
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