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Sleeping Beauty, Five Stars
King’s Theatre, Leven Street
It has been a long time coming but the Capital’s much loved panto is back, and how.
Exquisite lighting, fantastical effects, sublime costumes, sumptuous sets and a supremely talented cast bring this modern day retelling of the ever popular fairy tale to life with a script that gets the story across while leaving lots of room for all the madness and mayhem audiences have come to expect from a Christmas show at the Old Lady of Lady Street.
And talking of 'old ladies', leading from the front, Allan Stewart's Queen May, just call her Queenie, is a masterclass in the art of the panto dame. Stewart chats to the audience as though they're old friends, which indeed many are.
He plays them with a knowing look and the odd gentle nudge and they repay him in laughs. Some of the jokes may be almost as old as the King's itself, the tale of Nelly Dunn went down a storm, but that doesn't matter.
Playing opposite Stewart is his long time sparring partner Grant Stott. The Capital's favourite baddy is imperious as the wicked Carabosse. He, sorry, she may be evil but, no, listen, shoosh, listen, she's lovable too. Stott's mastery of the panto baddy allows him to create a Carabosse that the audience greets with fondness rather than fear. It works.
Making his return to the King's panto, Jordan Young's Muddles is a gloriously glaiket dunderhead. He charms and cajoles kids and adults alike, pulling faces and bringing his innate comic timing into play, never more so when the odd mishap leaves the cast themselves in hysterics.
Back for her third King's panto, Clare Gray proves pivotal to this retelling of Sleeping Beauty as the magnificently moody Narcissa, while newcomers Nicola Meehan and Sai Dauda bring unexpected vim and verve to the Good Fairy and Princess Aurora respectively.
Both boast powerhouse vocals and make more than most of what are normally fairly two dimensional characters.
As for the routines, highlights of the show include a pair of poisonous pythons, a 'death-defying' finale for Act One, the appearance of the dreaded Draculina, and a wonderfully clever Wellerman lock down sea shanty, there's even a Grant rap!
Oh, and let's not forget a laugh out loud ‘If I Were Not In Pantoland’ routine that leaves poor Muddles... well, wait and see, ken.
King Andy, the late, great Andy Gray, is remembered too and has his part to play too in a heartfelt tribute that brought an extended ovation, and rightly so.
For what will be the last King's panto until 2025, it flits to the Festival Theatre for the next two years while the King's undergoes redevelopment, Capital Theatres and Crossroads Pantomimes have pulled out all the stops to bring something very special to the Leven Street stage this Christmas, a glittering pantoland that will allow all but the hardest of hearts to find the child within.
Runs until January 16, 2022