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SLEEPING BEAUTY

29-12-2009

Sleeping Beauty

It’s that time of year again when men dress as old women, women dress as young men and Terry Wills is at the Birmingham Hippodrome to witness it all.

“Oh no they haven’t.” “Oh yes they have.” “Oh no they haven’t.” “Oh yes they have”.

Yes, moms and dads bow to tradition, book tickets for the pantomime, telling all and sundry it’s mainly for their children’s benefit, but inwardly admitting it’s the perfect opportunity for them to recount the happy days when they were oh so young!

So what was the reaction of those who may have been experiencing their first taste of a unique British institution that’s so ingrained in tradition it manages to attract some of the biggest names in show business to let their hair down and make fools of themselves safe in the knowledge that at the final curtain the audience will be calling for more.

This year the Birmingham Hippodrome, renowned for producing the country’s most prestigious pantomimes, have an all-star cast headed by one of its most favourite sons. The irrepressible Joe Pasquale, who so loves Birmingham audiences he’s retuning to the Hippodrome for the third time in six years, and Ray Quinn, last year’s winner of‘ITV’s Dancing on Ice, and runner up in the 2006 X Factor and has since moved on to play leading roles in West End musical productions.

Add to these Lucy Evens, who started her career at the tender age of eight playing Cosette in Les Miserables, and has appeared in a variety of theatre and television roles including Lauren Wilson in Coronation Street, Ria Jones the youngest actress ever to play the role of Eva Peron in the musical Evita, and Ceri Dupree who has to be the funniest female impersonator around, and it not difficult to predict that Sleeping Beauty will again prove to be one of the countries top pantomime’s. And this year not solely down to individual performances.

No, by comment consent, the major talking point was the astounding new 3D technology. The audience find themselves sitting in a roller coaster that transports them into a castle before gasping in amazement as a variety of creatures, birds, frogs, spiders, and snakes leave them ducking and weaving as a variety of creatures whiz towards them before hovering menacingly just a few inches away. And it wasn’t only the adults who ducked and weaved from side to side, hands outstretched, attempting to grab them before, led by an evil looking snake, they retreated back into the Forest of Thorns!

As for individual performances inevitably it’s Joe Pasquale (Bubbles) who leads the way via his combination of virtually non-stop chatter delivered at a rapid rate of knots. Highlighted in one scene, when chatting to Lady Passionella (Ceri Dupree) he barely pauses for breath for an indeterminable amount of time.

Ceri Dupree himself, recognised as being among the world’s finest female impersonators sends up Shirley Bassey, Amy Whitehouse, Gloria Gaynor, Jordan, and Julie Andrews in a variety of completely over the top dresses.

Inevitably and where would any pantomime be without them, are the hisses and boos whenever the evil wicked witch Carabosse (Ria Jones) makes an unwelcome appearance, stressing she is determined to prevent the Prince of Dudley marrying Princess Beauty.

Prince, Ray Quinn and the Princess (Lucy Evans) were also unwilling victims of the 3D wizardry that in truth outshone everything. The songs weren’t particularly memorable but nevertheless they contributed, as well as were allowed, and the final royal wedding scene fully illustrated the magnificent costumes and sets.

The company as a whole bring a sense of enjoyment to the show when either singing or dancing. Full of energy and enthusiasm they provided a near perfect back up alongside the babes from the Birmingham Stage School.

Inevitably Sleeping Beauty incorporates the accepted and expected quips relating to local Midland towns and cities plus cleverly weaving television’s Churchill into the equation.

Add to these dancers wearing life like looking facemasks, the much loved Ant and Dec, plus Dr Who’s David Tennant and his famous time travelling Tardis, and there was something for most people to sit back and enjoy although I did feel the length of the production could have been trimmed.

Sleeping Beauty brings smiles and laughter to the faces of its audience, and as in previous years will bring panto lovers into the city to see just why, the Hippodrome pantomime is a must see, beat the winter blues production.

sleepingbeautypanto.co.uk

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