Writer: Peter Rowe
Director: Matt Aston
Musical Director: Greg Palmer
Designer: Judith Croft
Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Now in its sixth riotous year, the City Varieties Rock n’ Roll pantomime is back with this year’s offering, Sleeping Beauty. But this is Sleeping Beauty with a difference. Princess Aurora has become Princess Susie, the three good fairies are rolled into the larger than life Dame Taffeta Trot, and the Princess has not one, but two handsome princes vying for her love.
The evil witch, Morgana, is intent on her son becoming King, but in order for this to happen, she must first kill the rightful heir to the throne. However, with the protection of Fairy Fanciful and a sprite, Frederica, this proves more difficult than at first she imagined. When her original plan, death by finger prick, is foiled by Frederica, a fairy-in-training, Princess Sophie falls into a 100-year slumber. Not to be outdone by the witch, Frederica places the castle under a spell, so that they too will sleep for a century. However, when the Princess awakens from true love’s kiss (in the swinging 60s, much to the delight of the free-loving Dame Taffeta) the two princes do battle, X-Factor style.
The set is simple, a staircase winds up to the castle tower and fabric drapes form a backdrop to the action. There is a touch of Bollywood to the castle and with sari inspired gowns and plenty of sequins; it oozes elegance despite the simple staging.
As with previous years, the talented cast doubles up as the onstage band, predominantly situated at the rear of the stage providing the audience with a great selection of popular Rock n’ Roll classics. Hits include Michael Jackson’s Bad, I’m Every Woman, Every Breath You Take, Sex Bomb and My Guy, which, under the skillful direction of Matt Aston fit perfectly into the narrative, almost as though they were made for it. The musical numbers ensure the story never loses pace, and Peter Rowe’s script is spoken in (not always predictable) rhyming couplets full of obvious (and not so obvious) gags and contemporary references.
Appearing in every single one of the rock n’ roll pantomimes to date, Kenny Davies as Harold the Herald (also playing guitar, bass, glockenspiel, drums and percussion) is the simpleton with a good heart, and is much a part of the tradition as the giant inflatable boulders that descend upon an excited audience. Hannah Price as the evil Morgana (keys, saxophone and trumpet) is beautiful with just the right amount of wickedness that insights boos during the performance, and cheers during the encore. Justin Brett is a colourful and eccentric Dame, also turning his hand to drums, keys, guitar, bass and percussion. With such talent from the cast, there is something for everyone; ridiculous jokes, great music, a healthy helping of slapstick and a whole heap of fun on this intimate stage in Leeds.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Tony O’Connell