Sleeping Beauty

Paul Hendy
Sheffield Theatres and Evolution Pantomimes
Sheffield Lyceum

Damian Williams and Ben Thornton in Sleeping Beauty Credit: Pamela Raith
Dominic Sibanda and Hannah Everest and Ensemble in Sleeping Beauty Credit: Pamela Reith
Lucas Rush in Sleeping Beauty Credit: Pamela Reith

Sleeping Beauty is a superb re-animation of Sheffield Theatres’s and Evolution Pantomime’s regular Christmas offering at the Lyceum Theatre.

From the off, the energy and enthusiasm of the entire cast is infectious and the audience is quickly enthused to join in responses, sing along to the songs, sway to the music and cheer or boo as appropriate.

Damian Williams is as outrageous as always as the Pantomime Dame, a solid, raucous Nurse Nellie with a huge stage presence, a booming voice and a range of suggestive winks and nods to drive the action along. The Dame costumes by Michael J Batchelor are more inventive than ever, enhanced on at least two occasions by the inclusion of puppet figures.

Damian’s confrontational Dame is balanced by warm and child-friendly performances by Ben Thornton as Jangles and Janine Duvitski as a delightful, grandmotherly Fairy Moonbeam, who relate easily to the young in the audience, provide reassurance when needed and elicit enthusiastic responses.

At the heart of the performance are Hannah Everest as a true Beauty and Dominic Sibanda as a very handsome and charming Prince. The couple have an excellent rapport, are convincing lovers, sing beautifully and join the supporting Villagers in well choreographed dance routines.

As the villain, Carabosse, Lucas Rush is the star of the show. He looks superb in leather trousers and an open shirt, moves about the stage with evil intent, has facial expressions intended to terrify and a laugh that chills to the bone. But he also manages to imply that is just a bit of fun, no-one need by really scared, and the children have as much delight in booing him as he has in being booed.

This is very much a family and local pantomime. It is quite likely that some members of the audience will have been coming since they were children and will recognise the regular comic routines. But there are significant differences this year because Carabosse is surrounded by a small army of ghouls who have an important function in the expanded ‘bench with a ghost’ scene. But the seasonal opportunity to make uncomplimentary remarks about Doncaster and Rotherham has been retained to the delight of the audience.

One new feature has been the inclusion of a dragon and what I can only describe as ‘stage pyrotechnics’, extremely exciting and realistic, which by some magic has been approved by Health and Safety for inclusion in a public performance. Better than Bonfire Night!

There is much to delight in this beautifully presented, colourful, high energy pantomime. James Harrison’s contribution as musical director and supervisor provides a rich feast of musical performance, with high quality singing throughout and a powerful accompaniment by a small orchestral group, visible to the audience in side boxes. The small song and dance group, choreographed by Sarah Langley and often supplemented by leading characters, makes a substantial contribution to the success of the show which has something in it for everyone.

An exceptionally good Lyceum pantomime.

Reviewer: Velda Harris