Comedy Theatre, Melbourne.
30 June 2018.
Bonnie Lythgoe is a British dancer, producer and director well known for producing and adjudicating the first season of So You Think You Can Dance. In Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale, a musical comedy, she has directed and produced a funny, very slick production. The production comes to us from the UK and features some of its UK cast, including Frazer Hines of Doctor Who fame and Kev Orkian. It comes to Australia with a part Australian cast, including Australian presenter and Real Housewives star Melissa Tkautz as the good fairy, and Katrina Retallick as Aurora. The audience at the opening Australian performance were very satisfied.
There are some slick, highly rehearsed, dance numbers in this pantomime choreographed by Juliette Verne. All the ensemble dancers are focussed and skilled performers. The ensemble is cast to reflect a diversity of ages in society. The youngest of dancers have oodles of talent and training, and despite the age difference between the dancers, the youngest are able to keep up with the older, more experienced dancers. The kids in this production are clearly aiming for careers in popular dance, and have the potential to be aspiring for this. This mixed age cast from quite young dancers, through teens to adults makes the production very appealing to a range of audience ages.
The writing of this Sleeping Beauty is intended to appeal to the children as well as the adults, with harmless silliness for kids, laced with gags that are intended for adults. The story of Sleeping Beauty is secondary to the form of pantomime. This a common trope of pantomime. In fact, all the performance conventions of pantomime are exploited to good effect; it is quite unexpected to be a part of an audience so vocal, engaged, expressive and appreciative. The score combines well known tunes, with some rewritten lyrics, keeping the audience playing memory games. Slapstick comedy routines incorporating the audience and farcical chains of comedic text are expertly played by the actors.
Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale is not short on special effects and spectacular theatrical technology. Act One closes with the witch flying, using a lifter, triumphant with her spell on Sleeping Beauty.
Act Two closes with snow falling across the auditorium. Very effective casting sells this show. The court jester, Kev Orkian, has the audience eating out of his hand, and Rhonda Burchmore camps it up as the Witch, and sells her numbers like the Diva she is.
Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale is light, family entertainment. In complex times, sometimes having something light can be a really good thing.
Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale runs at Sydney’s State Theatre from 13 – 22 July. For bookings, visit www.ozpanto.com.
By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.