Chris Eldon Lee reviews “Sleeping Beauty” which is at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre until January 18th 2014.
The Ethos of Qdos Entertainment Company is clear to see. Their pantomimes major on celebrity, spectacle, slickness and pizzazz; with heart and soul in somewhat shorter supply.
They provide ‘Big’ pantos to a number of major provincial theatres these days – so this production of Sleeping Beauty has been doing the rounds for a year or two now with both Joe Pasquale and Ceri Dupree in the key roles. And this has two effects.
They’ve honed the humour to the finest of degrees (including, I suspect, the ad libs) and the showmanship is superb. But the show itself is so familiar to them, there’s a tendency to rush it – the lines falling over each other (and losing their meaning) in their hurry to get out. I did laugh a great deal – but there were also moments when I was well aware we were just the next audience on the conveyer belt and felt distanced from it all.
There is no doubting that Pasquale is a very clever comic. He knows exactly when to run amok…though not necessarily how far to go. Stretching gags to breaking point had the audience in repeated peels of laughter, but I was less comfortable when he was humiliating fellow cast members (and, it seemed, so were they).
On the other hand his work with audience members is a master class of coercion and constrain. He stood back to let 4-year-old Dylan steal the show trying to play a trombone twice his size and got the lad copying his every move in a delightful way.
Ceri Dupree’s dame is more Danny La Rue than Lily Savage. Describing herself as “mutton dressed as ferret”, she proceeded to parade an amazing array of over the top frocks and was quite brilliant doing her Tina Turner turn.
Wendy Summerville is an excellent witch. Her versatile voice powered its way right round the auditorium and she got more boos than Jacob Zuma. The baddie is always the better part but Robyn Mellor’s Enchantress matched her sweetly, complete with Las Vegas singing style and wobbly wings.
There’s precious little plot in the first half (though it ends in most spectacular fashion). But after an interval of 100 years, the story is given more space and the show breathes more easily…except possible for the dancers who are breathlessly energetic and inventive through out. There were times when the chorus line almost stole the scene with stepping that was faster than River Dance and gymnastics that Beth Tweddle might admire; even when they weren’t dressed as pink gorillas or hound dogs from hell.
When all is said and done, Wolverhampton’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ is first and foremost a Pasquale package – and 1000 people on Press Night got exactly what they expected and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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