You know that Christmas is on the horizon when panto season begins don’t you? Well it’s that time of the year again and theatres across the country are attracting well-known stars from TV and film to star in their pantos and attract large audiences over the festive season. Churchill Theatre Bromley has a lot to live up to after last year’s Cinderella, which starred former EastEnder Matt Lapinskas and Nickelodeon favourite Anna Williamson. This year the panto is Sleeping Beauty with the main star former Coronation Street baddie Rob Donovan aka Marc Baylis.
Sleeping Beauty tells the well-known story of a Princess (Sophia Thierens) who is cursed by evil witch Carabosse (Zoe Birkett) and is in danger of death if she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel before she turns 18. Thankfully the Princess has a fairy Godmother (Sonia) that changes the curse so that if the Princess does prick her finger, she’ll go to sleep for 100 years rather than die.
As is tradition with panto, the plot is merely a vehicle to hang the set pieces and jokes on whilst keeping the audiences attention. The show mixes in pop culture references with well-known songs including Taylor Swift’s chart-dominating Shake It Off in the panto’s first half. A lot of the humour is based around one-liners or sight gags and we were slightly disappointed that it didn’t quite work on two levels the way last year’s panto did. This production is definitely one geared more towards children rarely rewarding the adults that accompany them to the show.
Sleeping Beauty takes time to find its feet in the first half and suffered from a lack of energy but it did pick up in the second half. From panto you would expect high-energy OTT performances but the show didn’t really get going in the first half save for the show-stealing performance of Zoe Birkett as Carabosse. She really shined in her role, relishing being evil and stealing every scene she was in. Sadly she only got one singing solo, which is a shame considering how great a vocalist she is, but it’s the one that will stick in your mind after you leave the show.
Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly and Jamie Rickers as Silly Billy kept the kids entertained and they injected some much-needed life into the production. Despite Rickers being a little hoarse, by his own admission, he did a good job of keeping the kids’ attention and interacting with them throughout the show. Crush on the other hand provided more of the adult humour as he picked a man out of the audience for a running joke throughout the show. Popstar Sonia was in fine voice as the Good Fairy and one of the highlights of the show was when she sang her hit You’ll Never Stop Me From Loving You. Bruce Montague also made the most of a small role as the King and his attempt at rapping near the beginning of the show raised plenty of laughs.
The production’s star Marc Baylis did a decent enough job in the acting parts but unfortunately he’s not much of a singer. When it came to singing duets with Sophia Thierens’ Sleeping Beauty, it all felt a little flat. The energy level was low and due to the lack of harmonies those parts didn’t really work as well as they should have.
Sleeping Beauty sadly isn’t a patch on last year’s Cinderella. Despite being directed once again by Alison Pollard and written by Andrew Ryan, Sleeping Beauty just felt a little bit flat. Some of the pop culture references were a little too out of date (e.g. The Weakest Link which has been off air for a few years now) and the two lead characters were outshined by their supporting cast. That having being said, children will absolutely love the production and forgive many of the things that we felt let the show down. Sleeping Beauty is still great fun but after last year’s stellar Cinderella it sadly pales in comparison.