Friday, 18 December 2015

REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking, Starring Katie Price

There is hardly a soul out there unfamiliar with the enchanting tale of Sleeping Beauty, but for the few who are unfamiliar with the story, here's a very quick summary. The classic tale goes that a King and Queen were once upon a time blessed with the most beautiful baby girl in all the kingdoms, whom they named Aurora. To celebrate her birth, they invite all the fairies of the land to share their blessings, but one fairy is forgotten - the evil fairy, Maleficent. In a fit of rage, she curses the child saying that before she turns 18, she will prick her finger upon a spinning wheel, and die. The good 'lilac' fairy then uses her blessing to amend the curse so instead of dying, Aurora will fall into a sleep of 100 years, and can then be awoken by true love's first kiss. Throw in a handsome prince, and ta-da - you've got yourself the timeless fairy-tale we all love. 

This wonderful story translated into a fantastic pantomime filled with fantastic humour, beautiful singing, and some hilarious comedic moments. This adaptation was written by Eric Potts, who served the old tale justice, while rejuvenating it in an exciting new way for a whole new generation of kids to enjoy. Director Ian Talbot has done a fantastic job in staging the show, however, it felt like most of the highlights of this pantomime came from impromptu moments of improvisations from the cast, rather than the scripted text and choreographed moves. 

The 8-person adult ensemble of this cast were all fantastic. You could see the genuine friendships between them shine on stage, and the cheeky looks they fired between each other just added to the sense of fun between them. Special mentions to Raphael Pace and Tilly Ford who were the two outstanding members from the ensemble, particularly in Act II's 'December 1963 (Oh, What  A Night)' which was superbly original. 

Although you won't see their names at the top of the bill, the stars of the show
were undoubtedly Simon Nehan as 'Nurse Molly Coddle' and Alan Committie as 'Chester the Jester'. Nehan, in particular, was absolutely sensational, and offered one of the best comedic performances I've seen all year; belly-achingly

funny. His natural quick wit shone, despite being dressed head to toe in some of the most outrageous drag costumes you'll ever see! Committie also offers a fantastically energetic performance and proved to be a real crowd favourite. Nehan and Committie together with Ben Goodridge (who played the partially deaf, and utterly lovable 'King Hector') offered the highlight of the evening with a wonderfully modernised, and immensely energetic version of 'The Twelve Days of Christmas'. 

Carla Nella plays 'Sleeping Beauty', who has been re-named from 'Aurora' to, simply, 'Beauty' for this show. Her performance was good, but that's about it. The script really didn't give Nella much to play with, other than in an elaborate flashback scene from her childhood days at school. Her characterisation was very-over-the-top-sickeningly-sweet-Disney-princess-like, but for Panto, that worked just fine. Her shining moments were in the epic finale where her she
really showed off the strength of her voice.
At the top of the bill is TV personality Katie Price as the evil fairy 'Malevolence' (it appears 'Maleficent' was copyrighted...).  Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Every time she set foot on the stage, I found myself cringing into my seat at her excessive pouting and smouldering which was all Katie, and no 'Malevolence'. The good news is, she was able to make a joke about herself and her many books, marriages and Page 3 career, but that's really about it. She didn't know any of the choreography her fellow cast mates knew thoroughly; she just swayed from side-to-side during the dance numbers, and when she did attempt to follow the odd dance move, she just looked so uncomfortable. Futhermore, her 'singing' was all mimed - and badly too. I can't even say if it was her pre-recorded voice or someone else's... She lip-synced her way through 'Black
Magic' by Little Mix, turning her back on the audience on more than one occasion so we couldn't see her face. I'm pretty sure this was to cover the fact that she didn't know the words... 

Overall, this show is really great fun for all the family and is filled with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for children and adults of all ages to enjoy. 

The role of 'Malevolence' will be taken over by Anita Dobson from 28th December, and while I can't guarantee she'll be any better than Price, she certainly couldn't be much worse, so maybe wait until then to see this panto!

The show is hilarious; full of energy and chaos, and will definitely put a smile on your face this Christmas season, regardless of which cast you see. 


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