Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 22 December 2013
Why does Christmas seem just a little closer with the People's Theatre Company pantomime at the Nottingham Arts Theatre I wonder? There are some wonderful performances in Nottingham this Christmas, so strong and all the theatres seem to have upped their game this year. If you want sparkle and glitter then the Playhouse is the place to go. If you want big names then drop in at the Theatre Royal, but if you want fun and endless chuckles then you need to go to the Arts Theatre.
Amanda Hall has written one of the best pantos yet. OK so the scenery is fairly basic but you know what, after the first five minutes you don't even notice because you're swept along with some wonderfully entertaining, and talented actors who give their all for their art. Now, they make it look so effortless, but having just a bit of an insight into these things, I know that, from the lovely and welcoming front of house staff to the actors on stage and the back stage helpers who get no recognition, it's damn hard work!
It's traditional with a slight twist at the end, which I won't reveal, but gorgeous as he may be, it's not the Prince who awakens Sleeping Beauty from her 100 year sleep!
The cast are well known to the regulars of the People's Theatre Company productions and many of the chorus, such as Roy Smith, Glenn Murphy and James Murray have all taken a back seat from featured roles throughout 2013.
So many highlights that I'll give a quick mention to some of my favourites. I loved Gavin Alston as Nanny Nettie Nettle, a "Dame" in the traditional sense of the word, who nailed not only the role but walking and dancing in incredibly high heels. Either a lot of practice and rehearsing has gone into those heels or he's worn killer heels before!
Marie Rogers gave some wonderful facial expressions as Queen Augustine and reminded me a bit of Una Stubbs, and I love Una Stubbs!
King Augustus was played by PTC regular Mike Newbold, and a comical foil for his Queen.
Katie Inglis was no shrinking violet either and definitely not weedy in voice or character, as the gardener, Dandelion, who caught the eye of our Princess "Rose"/Aurora.
It's always lovely to see Hannah Rogers-Gee in any part and was cast as the lead role this year (If I'd have known I'd have auditioned for the Prince).
Talking of which, newcomer Adam Tomas-Monk made his debut as Prince Gorgeous. The Prince with a twist (and we're not talking Chubby Checker here) who has something in common with our Queen, both carry lipgloss and a vanity mirror in their bags! I look forward to seeing Adam in more productions in the New Year as I feel he has more strings to his bow, but what a way to make a debut.
Mike Pearson (Chester The Jester) was the glue in the panto and kept it all rolling along nicely and along with Liam Hall (Heap) and Laura Thurman (Bogweed) formed a brilliant comedy threesome, especially in their rendition of "The 12 days Of Christmas". I'd seen this done a couple of years ago at the Theatre Royal by The Grumbleweeds but Mike, Liam and Laura matched that version easily. Also keep your eye on Heap and Bogweed in the dance routine for "I Only Want To Be With You", as they are very funny.
And in all good pantos there are the "goody" and the "baddie", Fairy Lilac and Fairy Black (Sophie Petruccie and Maggie Andrew). Yes that's right, award winning director Maggie Andrew as a baddie! And boy does she go for it. Itr was great to see Maggie spreading her acting wings again and, in my opinion, something she ought to do more often as she was amazingly boo worthy as the evil Fairy Black.
The jokes were corny but funny, there was loads of audience participation, a lovely variety in music, ranging from musical numbers such as "On A Wonderful Day Like Today", "The Timewarp" and "Timeless To Me" from "Hairspray" to singalong pop like "Knowing Me Knowing You" and McFly's "Love Is Easy" to the ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" by Aerosmith, culminating in a Christmas singalong of "All I Want For Christmas Is You"
Amanda Hall has smashed it again and has surrounded herself with equally talented people like Ray McLeod (musical director), Josh Kemp (Assistant Musical Director), Jessica Royce (Choreography) and a talented group of costume designers with thanks to The Burton Joyce Players and the amazing seamstress extrordinaire, Yvonne Wright who were responsible for Nanny Nettle's costumes.
If you've never been to the Arts Theatre before, then go and see "Sleeping Beauty" as an introduction to the excellent work they produce, and support your local actors and theatre. You won't be disappointed.