You can always tell when Christmas is just around the corner with the heralding of the Nottingham Playhouse pantomime,and I won't cut any corners here, but in my humble opinion, I think Kenneth Alan-Taylor has written the best pantomime that there has ever been for the Playhouse. Every little thing about "Sleeping Beauty" is perfect, and I have seen a good many pantos at the Playhouse.
All the regular panto family are here with the welcome addition of Jonny Fines as Prince Alexander whose kiss has the gift of life for Princess Rosalind (Kelly Edwards).
One of the hardest jobs in the theatre is to go on first and warm up the audience and Jerry The Jester (Tim Frater) got the audience going with the typical panto fare, and also introduced King Hubert, played by the wonderful facially expressive Anthony Hoggard. In turn he introduced us to his wife Queen Gertrude (Rebecca Little), Rebecca and Anthony are a wonderfully believable pairing and bounce off each other beautifully, and that is the joy of working with each other on many occasions because everything seems so very natural between them, as well as the other cast members.
John Elkington provides the "common touch" as Nurse Tilly Trott and trots out many of the old favourite jokes that he has delivered over the years, but as he said, that is what is expected and what we love at the Playhouse, and they still get the laughs, so why not! As dame of the panto he also gets several amazing costume changes.
The lovely Francesca Ellis plays good fairy as Fairy Wisheart and displays her gorgeous vocal talents at the end, with her version of "Let It Go" from "Frozen". lovely to look at and lovely to listen to as well.
And where there is a good fairy, there is always an evil counterpart and Hannah Whittington plays Maleficent, magnificently evil, deserving of all the "boos" and "hisses" she received.
So to the lovestruck couple, the Prince and Princess for whom the story revolve around and it's nice to see a male actor play the Prince, where sometimes there is a female actor take on the role, so thank you Sir Kenneth (well let's face it, it should be for services to the theatre!), for keeping it realistic.
Jonny Fines, in his first panto appearance at The Playhouse, won the audience over with his good looks, athletic moves and singing voice. Kelly's good looks also made her an archetypal Princess, but with that modern swag about her.
There is the usual mix of songs, old and new, a few borrowed from other musicals, a nod to Morecambe and Wise as well as some shameless promotion for next year's panto and the wonderful "Forever Young" which you can see from 29 January 2015 (and I recommend that one as well).
Music was provided live by "uncle" Johnny Morton and the band, crystal clarity of sound by Adam P Macready, wonderful lighting effects from lighting designer Jason Taylor all add to the experience you will have at the Playhouse. The costumes were, as usual, over the top and colourful, exactly how they should be and some very tightly choreographed sections by Adele Parry.
There are many new jokes, topical as always, and the whole show just seemed to be so fresh and alive. The other pantos in Nottingham this year have a high benchmark to reach with "Sleeping Beauty" as this is everything you want from a family pantomime.
"Sleeping Beauty" is on at the Nottingham Playhouse until Saturday 17 January 2015