THANKS to the Norbury Theatre in Droitwich, panto season is not ‘behind you’ just yet and a vocal crowd cheered, booed, hissed and heckled during the fantastic Sleeping Beauty.
The story (in case you do not know it), centres on Beauty – a princess – who, due to the evil Fairy Nightshade, pricks her finger on a spinning wheel spindle and falls into an endless sleep. The only way she can be awoken is by a kiss from her one true love.
You could tell the cast loved being on the stage and there were some fantastic portrayals.
Opening the show and returning to keep us posted on what was going on was the storyteller – well played Lucy Conn – a motherly figure with gentle character and voice.
Next on, Princess Snowdrop – played by Karen Evans – she was the epitomy of good and had some fantastic dueling sessions with her sister and nemesis Fairy Nightshade.
She was ably assisted by the fairy godmothers who – dressed in colourful costumes – had cute caring personas and provided plenty of chuckles when they bestowed their wishes on Beauty.
Darcie Eglesfield was the perfect princess Beauty – very lovable and with a voice like an angel on all her solos and duets.
The pick of those was ‘You are the Reason’ with Prince Eric, played by Jess Dutton. The Prince had great chemistry with valet Rupert (Christopher Newbould) who was hilarious at times – having the audience in stitches. One of the pair’s highlights was their rendition of The Beatles’ Help when they were encased by branches in the forest because of an evil spell.
Matt Fearnley was great fun as Nurse Nanny Ella Biscuit. With his/her array of outrageous outfits, he got the crowd going and earned plenty of laughs along the way.
Jimmy Hill was made to play Jolly Jack – he had a great rapport with those watching, getting them to shout his greeting, enjoying some good one-liners, playing an impressive guitar solo during Queen’s Dont’s Stop Me Now and with Mollie (Grace Duggan), leading the song at the end.
King Timidly and Queen Bossynova’s interaction on stage was wonderful to watch. Everyone empathised with brow-beaten John Birchley who had some great lines in response to his ‘bossy wife’. Becky Fearnley portrayed the ‘bossy’ queen fantastically too and showed her versatility with an opera-like solo performance on ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ in the second half.
Carl Smythe was solid as Lord Chamberlain Harry too.
But the stand-out performance of the night went to Amanda Blockley as Nightshade. She owned the stage when she was on, extracting all the boos and hisses she could ever want and having some great banter and plenty of ad-libbing with the crowd. Her two goblins – Emmie Collins and Stacy Harrison – also kept the giggles coming with some memorable moments in response to her evilness.
The set was impressive for the show, easily shifting from the palace, to the forest, the kitchen and Nightshade’s lair.
And the choreography was as good as ever – particularly during the toy box scene in Beauty’s bedroom. Shout-out to the children here as well for popping up to bring gifts to the princess and joining her in the forest as a animals – they certainly had the ‘awww’ factor.
Well done to writer and director Fiona Adams and her team for putting on this super show.
After Christmas, New Year and all the festivities, January is billed as the most depressing time of the year. Beat the winter blues by heading to the Norbury – it will have you vocally interacting, singing, clapping and tapping your feet and help keep the cold out until spring pokes through.
The next performances take place at 7.30pm from Thursday to Saturday, January 18 to 20, with a 2.30pm matinee on the Saturday.
Further shows will be at 7.30pm from the Thursday to Saturday after, January 25 to 27.
Visit www.norburytheatre.co.uk/ for more information and to book tickets.