Sleeping Beauty at The Churchill Theatre
December is in full swing and this can mean only one thing…..it is panto time! My first festive outing of the year was to the Churchill Theatre to see Sleeping Beauty.
Throughout the Churchill’s production of Sleeping Beauty we meet Princess Beauty (Claudillea Holloway) and Prince Harry of Holby (Lee Mead), arriving to the Fairytale Kingdom of Bromley to wish Beauty a happy 21st Birthday. We also meet Carabosse, the Wicked Fairy (Myra Dubois) who has put a curse on Beauty and the Lilac Fairy (Bonnie Langford) who, along with Muddles, the Court Jester (Lloyd Hollett) and Queen Voluptua (Joelle Moses) is determined to make sure no harm comes to Beauty on her birthday. Of course Beauty does indeed prick her finger on a spinning wheel but she is swiftly saved by true loves kiss and we end with a pantomime wedding walkdown.
The success of this pantomime relies heavily upon the personalities of the cast and all of the excel in their own way within their part. Bonnie Langford is not only a pantomime legend but a theatre one and you can see why. She has a wonderful charm about her and gets the audience on side quickly. She fronts 2 of the big musical numbers and high kicks her way through other numbers. Playing the Prince can always be a bit of a wet part in panto however Lee Mead is great and gives in to taking the mickey out of himself and tries to sing, ‘ Any Dream Will Do,’ at numerous intervals throughout the show.
Myra Dubois was an excellent addition to the pantomime and her jokes kept the adults alert. She trod the fine line of being a pantomime baddy and having the audience booing her, with getting the audience on side enough to laugh at all of her jokes. Lloyd Hollett as Muddles had a huge amount of energy and clearly took a great amount of delight in making the cast on stage around him laugh as much as the audience. One highlight of the show was the 12 days of Christmas where, thanks to Hollett there was toilet paper, toy boats and wigs being flung over the whole stage and making what can be a tired pantomime tradition very funny.
One criticism of the show is the sound balance, at times the band and click track overpowered the lead vocals, this was especially true for the Act 1 finale, ‘When You Believe’ and Lee Mead’s ‘What Makes You Beautiful,’ which was a shame, especially when such accomplished vocalists are fronting the number.
There was a nice selection of pop songs and songs to appeal to the younger audience members. One criticism about Sleeping Beauty as a pantomime is that there isn’t a wow moment in it akin to Cinderella’s dress and carriage transformation, Aladdin’s entrance to the cave or Peter Pan and The Darling Children flying to Neverland. I wonder if to make up for this something more could have been made dramatically of when Sleeping Beauty and her courtiers fell asleep as it felt rather anti-climatical.
Overall Sleeping Beauty is blessed with a wonderful cast, enjoyable songs and numerous funny moments for all of the family to enjoy. It is a fitting way to get yourself into the festive spirit and a trip to the fairytale land of Bromley and in particular the Churchill Theatre is bound to get even the hardened Wicked Fairies into the Christmas mood.
Sleeping Beauty is on at the Churchill Theatre until the 2nd January 2022. You can find out more or book tickets on their website.