Writer: Peter Rowe
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Holly Spanner
The creative team at The City Varieties are back for another year with their hugely successful Rock N’ Roll Pantomime, this time Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood. Incidentally, it was during the 1941 Christmas production of Babes in the Wood that a woman in the audience famously gave birth!
This is the pantomime that gets better every year. Sean Turner’s set is fun, colourful and luxurious (a fact also pointed out on more than one occasion by the cast). From the dense, overgrown floral Sherwood Forest, to the grand castle interior and the dark, dank, rat-infested dungeon, there is nothing average about this production. The story never drags, and succeeds in retaining the attention of younger members of the audience, partly thanks to the unique musical infusion. Rhyming couplets are used in the narrative, allowing even more laughs to be had by what is implied by the delightfully over-the-top Matthew Burns. Much excitement is caused when the giant inflatable boulders, somewhat of a legend at the venue, fall down on the auditorium.
As is fast becoming traditional for The City Varieties, the cast also comprises the onstage band, switching seamlessly between actor and musician to play a variety of well-known rock anthems. This year’s offerings include I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), I Shot the Sheriff, Rockin Robin, Born to Run and Goldfinger among others.
It is great to see Liz Singleton returning to the Leeds stage. A natural leading lady with a killer voice, she belts out (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, ensuring she has the attention of the entire audience. Pantomime Dame, Nanny Nellie Nightnurse played by Eamonn Fleming, well known in the north, uses quick-fire gags to encourage the audience, throwing in a healthy helping of innuendo for good measure (although a trick was missed with the ‘golden chest’!).
Kenny Davies is the perfect veteran halfwit and has appeared in all of the Rock N’ Roll Pantomimes at the City Varieties. Naïve and loyal, you can’t help but love him; while Darrell Brockis as the resident baddie, the Sheriff of Nottingham, ticks all the right boxes for being the character you love to hate.
The show finishes at 21:45, allowing time to get your little ones home at a decent hour. Expect plenty of upstaging by cast members and a healthy helping of traditional audience interaction, so grab your neon lights from the foyer and enjoy this uplifting, fun-filled, Rock N’ Roll Pantomime for the whole family.
Runs until 10 January 2016 | Image: Tony O’Connell