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Review: Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire

 Fariy Tale Magic Arrives In Sunderland

Martin Dodd for UKProductions
Sleeping Beauty
Sunderland Empire
Until Saturday 31st December 2016

Balamory’s Andrew Agnew, Steps’Faye Tozer, Coronation Street’s Vicky Entwistle and Tracey Beaker Returns’ Amy-Leigh Hickman joins Bobby Crush in Sunderland Empire’s delightful fairy tale. The sparkly show is going to be a hit with young audiences. So ‘What’s the story?’…

Amy-Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose
and Arthur Boan as the Prince
Both Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm get the credit for coming up with the tale in which a curse, by a fairy not invited to be godmother, is put on a young princess. The curse will begin when she is pricked by a spinning wheel and she’ll sleep for a 100 years and will only be brought back to life with  love’s first kiss.  It is a classic day of good against evil, with an added measure of bumbling royalty for good measure.

Faye Tozer as the Good Fairy
The show begins with Faye Tozer literally flying in as the Good Fairy. Straight away, with the opening number Pure Imagination from the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, you get the impression that the singing will be a highlight of the show. Faye will also get a chance to sing some of her Steps hits in the second act which is a real crowd pleaser.

Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse
The fairies,played by a great ensemble, line up and award the infant princess their gifts and then the evil fairy Carabosse appears, even though she is uninvited. Vicky Entwistle is great as the nasty one and enjoys winding the crowd up without over doing it. Her performance throughout the show was superb.

Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy
The Princess Rose grows up and suddenly it is the eve of her birthday. Amy-Leigh Hickman is a charming princess. She has a daft friend, of course, and that is Silly Billy, performed by director Andrew Agnew, who really started to engage well with the younger kids in the second act.

Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly and
Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy
Arthur Boan makes his professional debut as the Prince and he is probably the tallest man in panto. The King is performed by Marcus Knibbs.

The cast is completed with Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly. Bobby appears to enjoy his role as the panto dame. An appearance of a piano in the second half gave a chance to twinkle the ivories in a twinkly Liberace moment.

Amy-Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose
and Arthur Boan as the Prince
So far so good, in a pretty panto, full of songs. Indeed I have made a number of references already to the great second act, which was funny and shorter, much shorter. Here lies my one problem with Sleeping Beauty. It is too long at 2 hours 50 minutes. It seemed to really appeal to the young members of the audience but, at nearly 3 hours, it is something of an endurance test for them. A number of the scenes would have been much punchier if they had been shorter and, as a result, sharper. Act one, in particular, would benefit from some trimming. Time to use that Prince’s sword to make some cuts.

Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly
Running time aside, there are a number of great touches. The scene in which the Prince propels 100 years ahead uses projections that give a 3D effect without the need for glasses. They had the desired wow response from the younger members of the audience. Andrew Agnew is in his element when introducing 4 young members of the audience during the community singing. 

Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse
Sleeping Beauty is a great match for Faye Tozer and Vicky Entwistle as the 2 fairies. Free from the rude jokes that feature in some of the other big pantos, it is fine pantomime for families with younger children.

Review by Stephen Oliver(Follow on Twitter: @panic_c_button)

Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022* or*calls cost up to 7p per minute plus standard network charges. Booking and transaction fees may apply to telephone and online bookings.


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