Executive Producer/Director Bonnie Lythgoe
Writer/Creative Designer Christopher Wood
Photos by Robert Catto
Pantomime queen Bonnie Lythgoe has done it again with her latest production, ‘Sleeping Beauty’, playing at the State Theatre.
The traditional English panto, with topical and local references, follows the successes of Lythgoe’s previous offerings, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Peter Pan & Tinkerbell’, so expectations were high.
The show opened with Melissa Tkautz as the Good Fairy, and when the company burst into song with the 1969 Shocking Blue version of ‘Venus’, those expectations were going to be fulfilled.
The strong cast includes British performer Frazer Hines as King Louis, Katrina Retallick who reincarnates Mary Poppins as Nanny Tickle and Embla Bishop as Sleeping Beauty. Nanny Tickle’s song, ‘I Am a Nanny to the Royalty’ could have come straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan. After the mention of the inevitable appearance by Prince Valiant, was I wrong in expecting a character with a Prince Valiant hairstyle? When Daniel Milne emerged as the Prince, I was reminded of the casting of single-threat Pierce Brosnan in the film, ‘Mamma Mia!’. Cameron Taylor as Cousins, the assistant to the arch-villainess, channels Peter Lorre as an Igor-style character.
One of the two highlight performances comes from Kev Orkian as Silly Billy who ties the story together. I felt compelled to google him to find out if it’s his real name or is he paying homage to an infamous doctor? Orkian is brilliant as the “Buttons” character who ignores the fourth wall as he provokes responses from the willing audience and tells jokes of varying quality. A big reaction comes from the ever-popular Twelve Days routine that involves throwing a wreath of toilet paper into the audience.
Several other outstanding moments in Sleeping Beauty come from Rhonda Burchmore as Carabosse, the villain of the piece. Burchmore’s rendition of ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’, complete with Cher’s enunciation, immediately before the intermission, is a show-stopper. It was a high point that could not have been topped.
Chris Wilcox’s lighting, with banks of coloured lights, is unusual for panto, but somehow works, and on the opening night, one of the follow spot operators might have been a sleeping beauty who lost concentration on a few occasions. Special effects by The Twins FX add to the overall appeal of this production.
Bonnie Lythgoe’s Sleeping Beauty provides an exceptional theatrical experience for people of all ages. After all, where else can to you go to boo, cheer and yell out anything you want?
The performances of Kev Orkian and Rhonda Burchmore alone are worth the price of admission.