Reviewed By: Natalie Salvo
Audiences love an enchanted fairy-tale and Sleeping Beauty is no exception. Bonnie Lythgoe Productions are presenting their fifth Australian pantomime, Sleeping Beauty- A Knight Avenger’s Tale at Sydney’s State Theatre for a limited season. This is one fun and entertaining show, which uses a fine mix of music and magical pixie dust to deliver on its promise to appeal to audiences aged 3 to 103.
WAPPA graduate, Embla Bishop plays Princess Aurora AKA Sleeping Beauty. She is a gorgeous princess who is doomed by an evil twist of fate. It is her birthday when she encounters a wicked witch. The evil Carabosse is played by the fabulous Rhonda Burchmore who delivers such a show-stopping version of Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time,” you could also imagine it appearing in Priscilla The Musical.
Carabosse’s plan was to see her trick the unsuspecting Aurora into touching the tainted spinning wheel. This saw the great beauty fall into a deep sleep. Aurora remains in this state for the next hundred years unless she receives true love’s first kiss from the devilishly handsome Prince Valiant (Daniel Milne (SplashDance)), who also lives up to the character’s name. Luckily, Aurora has a fairy god mother named the Good Fairy (Melissa Tkautz (The Real Housewifes Of Sydney)) to have her back.
This show doesn’t take itself too seriously. It is a comedy one at heart and audience participation is not just welcomed but actively encouraged. Kev Orkian uses his expert comic timing and is often a scene-stealer with his over-the-top style and off-the-cuff quips. He plays Aurora’s best friend and infatuated bodyguard, Silly Billy. There is also a kind and no-nonsense caregiver called Nanny Tickle (Katrina Retallick). Both Orkian and Retallick have performed in previous Lythgoe productions and they both share a real chemistry and bring absolutely levity to the proceedings.
This production also uses various cultural references as themes and talking points. There is one scene where Orkian appears dressed as Spiderman. In another, Dr Who’s Tardis makes an appearance and even becomes airborne. This is a cheeky little nod to the fact that the actor playing Aurora’s father King Louis- Frazer Hines was the Dr’s assistant on the television show for many years.
Like many English pantos there are some tried and tested scenes that appear here. One of these is where there is a monster in the forest, which allows the audience to scream out that there is a bad guy lurking behind the character and to answer some questions with an emphatic “Oh yes there is!” There was also the twelve days of winter, a nod to the fact that pantos are typically staged during the holiday period. This was a loose and shambolic song that provided much joy and laugher as toilet rolls and super soakers were used to gee up the crowd.
The jokes were varied and included silly and straight-forward slapstick to appeal to the young kids, while adults could enjoy the puns and local references (like the stops from the Bondi Junction train line and swipes at Pauline Hanson). These were by Hale & Pace scriptwriter, Terry Morrison and proved to be fantastic little slices of escapism, especially when coupled with the wonderful dance and musical numbers (look out for Icehouse’s “Hey Little Girl,” in particular). Choreographer, Juliette Verne did a stellar job with the moves and the adult and children’s ensembles were great.
The Sleeping Beauty panto may have been the second royal wedding to take place this year but as a show, it was second to none. This was a colourful and entraining mix of comedy, catchy music, dazzling costumes and sets. It offered lots of fun, games and so much sparkle that indeed you could say in all truth, “Eat your heart out Meghan Markle!”