Review: Sleeping Beauty, Regent Theatre Ipswich, until January 2, 2017
- Credit: Ipswich Regent
For a big helping of festive high spirits look no further than the Ipswich Regent where mischief and music are cheerily served up in this mostly traditional pantomime.
The cast of principals, augmented by a troupe of professional dancers plus a team of talented young dancers from the area, tell the story and have some topical fun along the way. A glittering proscenium arch frames the sets and musical accompaniment is provided by an ensemble of drums, bass and keyboards.
Headline star is Sheila Ferguson, who was lead singer with Seventies girl group The Three Degrees (When Will I See You Again?) and has lately been working as an actress and singer. She takes on the role of wicked but hugely glamorous Carabosse, one of fairy tales’ scariest characters of them all. It is Carabosse who, when omitted from the guest list for a Princess’s Christening, plans an elaborate revenge. On her 18th birthday, Princess Tamara, will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Fortunately, thanks to the intervention of a good fairy and a prince the sentence is commuted to a 100 year sleep.
That’s the story but the show is so much more. There is slapstick and I have to say my notes were quite badly affected by the drenching they got from comedy lead Chester the Jester (high-energy, little bit naughty Mike McClean – the kids adore him) who, along with panto dame Nurse Nora (splendid David Phipps-Davis – how many costumes?) ran amok in the stalls with their super-soakers. Cue uproarious laughter from the Sunday matinee audience, which was largely children. Principal boy, Keith Jack, runner up on BBC1’s Any Dream Will Do was a convincing romantic hero (he even did one scene with his shirt off, see right), and CBBC’s Ella Gilling gave a delightful performance as Princess Tamara.
Town FM’s Wayne Bavin was Tamara’s father King Cole and turned in a surprising second half routine in hot pants – you had to be there – and completing the line up, the very classy Alice Redmond as Fairy Fortywinks. She did it with a hint of Cockney rather than Suffolk which, I suppose, saved the princess from becoming Sleeping “Booty”.
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There was loads to enjoy in this well-put-together show and so I will forgive them the occasional very old joke. The 3D ghost scene in the forest was a total triumph with the screams from the young audience reaching roof-lifting pitch. In another scene a topical reference is hilarious. Sadly I can’t reveal what it is because they would probably shoot me with that super-soaker again. In my experience of pantomime, you can safely gauge its success or otherwise by the numbers of little ones who troop off to the toilets during the performance. In this case, there was hardly an exit – success.
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