Dec 16 2011 By Alison Haymonds
Sleeping Beauty Pantomime Theatre Royal Windsor December 7, 2011-January 8, 2012 01753 853888 www.theatreroyalwindsor.co.uk
How Sleeping Beauty managed to sleep during Windsor’s pantomime beats me.
The most startling thing about the show this year is the sheer ear-splitting noise. Everyone was miked up, with the volume turned up full blast, and then they actually brought out an extra microphone for Tony Christie’s big number - more of that later - though he needed it to make himself heard above the audience who joyously bellowed out the ‘sha la la las’ at the top of their voices.
Slightly less side-splitting were the jokes. You do expect dreadful ones in pantomimes but these must take the Oscar. They made Christmas cracker jokes sound like The Fast Show; even Bruce Forsyth would have rejected them, and that’s saying something. They were so bad that in the end I found myself laughing and, anyway, by then, the cast’s sheer energy, good humour and dogged determination to entertain won me over completely, along with the rest of the enthusiastic audience.
This was a pantomime of grand old troupers. I estimate the combined ages of the three main stars to be 206 – which is pretty good going. Tony Christie, Britt Ekland and Anita Harris may have long qualified for their bus passes but they can show the youngsters a thing or two about charisma, professionalism and undimmed delight in performing. Christie is in fine voice as the King and Harris as the Queen and Ekland as the Wicked Fairy exude glamour. Long may they continue.
This really is a pantomime for all ages. On the night I went with my three grand-daughters aged four-and-a-half to nine, there were lots of excitable young women, and the full range of pensioners, parents and youngsters. The age range was reflected on stage with the three old troupers, two unusually appealing comics – Kevin Cruise as Muddles and Steven Blakeley as Nurse Norah, a handsome and tuneful Prince, played by Bradley Clarkson (much appreciated by the females in the audience), a pretty Princess, Chloe Madeley, who skated (not sure why), and guest appearances from Noddy, Ollie the Dragon, voiced by the ubiquitous Christopher Biggins, and, best of all, Tequila the Chihuahua as Rasputin the Spy. Anybody left out? I think not.
There is so much to enjoy - lots of songs, dancing, gorgeous dresses and a talented cast who seem to be genuinely having fun. It’s also just over two hours – which is long enough unless you want to become permanently deaf – and the slapstick is blessedly brief. My three grand-daughters were stony-faced during the obligatory custard pie scene but they absolutely loved the crazy Twelve Days of Christmas number, which featured watering cans, welly boots and a bra made for three (don’t ask).
And of course there’s the best singalong of any panto in the area. Tony Christie teased us all the way through but he kept his big hit till the end and I’d go again just for another burst of Is This the Way to Amarillo? Even my oldest grand-daughter, who found Noddy unbelievably cheesy, was up on her feet, clapping her sparkly gloves and singing along lustily with the rest of the audience.
If you want a really jolly Christmas outing, try Sleeping Beauty – but don’t forget your earplugs.