Sleeping Beauty

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Theatre Royal in St Helens and Regal Entertainments continues with its welcome tradition of producing pantomines outside of the festive season with Sleeping Beauty for the October Half Term.

A much-loved tale of beautiful princess Aurora cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel by evil fairy Carabosse and sleep for a hundred years is brought to life by a hard-working cast – with all the requisite panto elements like glitter, songs and bags of audience participation.

Familiar faces in the cast include St Helens resident dame Si Foster. With a ‘You Hoo’ he is a good humoured figure who the audience clearly has real affection for.

As always Foster has great rapport with comic Lewis Devine (Chester the Jester) – a now familiar face in Theatre Royal pantos a clear audience favourite. His scene with the children from the audience on stage was as funny as you’d hope.

Samantha Palin is an impressive baddie Carabosse – striding about the stage and delivering some one-liners as wicked as her character. Clearly having bags of fun being the baddie, she almost made you root for Team Carabosse!

Mia Molloy and James Lacey play it straight as Love’s Young Dream Aurora and The Prince, both bringing like ability and great vocals to the stage.

Making up the principle cast is Warren Donnelly as The King and Abigail Middleton as Fairy Sparkle, who got to enjoy the spotlight at the end of of Act 1 with a powerhouse rendition of When You Believe.

A good panto in my eyes is one where I spend quite a bit of the show watching my little boy’s reaction to the on-stage action! And he was fully immersed in this show – booing, cheering, singing and laughing. His favourite bit? The “rude” nursery rhymes had him and the other young audience members in hysterics.

It’s a cheerful, crowd pleasing affair performed and received with warmth. And as ever the ticket prices are commendably affordable – starting at just £13.

Up next for Christmas at the Theatre Royal is Aladdin starring Strictly professional dancer Robin Windsor – we are looking forward to it already.

Just one cautionary note for parents of younger children – you can no longer borrow free booster seats at the theatre – instead having to purchase an inflatable one (which you get to take away with you) for £5 – a cost which could add up for larger groups. Just something to perhaps consider when deciding where to sit if you are with younger children and don’t want to shell out for a seat.

Sleeping Beauty is on at the St Helens Theatre Royal until Saturday 29th October. Tickets available here.

 

Peter Pan

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from last Christmas’s terrific Snow White, Regal Entertainments 2018 festive pantomime is a high-flying production of the classic children’s tale Peter Pan, directed by Chantelle Nolan.

From the colourful costumes and sets to special effects including a lovely flying sequence complete with impressive projections and a scream-inducing underwater 3D section (word of warning, younger children may find the shark a bit too scary!), it felt like this was St Helen’s most lavish panto to date.

The theatre’s resident comic Lewis Devine takes on the role of Peter Pan, a slight departure from his usual comedy sidekick role, although he does bring in plenty of comic touches regular audiences will recognise.

Clearly relishing the chance to play the leading man, a relaxed Devine enjoys easy rapport with the cast and audience alike. And as always he is great with the kids who come up on stage at the end of the show.
One thing Peter Pan does have is a brilliant baddie in the nefarious Captain James Hook – here played by Brookside favourite and theatre regular Louis Emerick.
Emerick is probably too likeable and charming to ever be a really bad baddie – but that’s ok. The audience loved his easy manner on stage and his Scouse gags got plenty of laughs.
He shows great chemistry with the Theatre Royal’s popular resident dame Si Foster who plays a warm and witty Mrs Smee (as well as writing the show).
It’s a delight watching them together on stage and if you thought you saw the year’s best version of ABBA’s Fernando in Mamma Mia 2 – think again!
In fact all the songs hit the mark, with musicals fans in particular sure to be delighted with some lovely company numbers including Revolting Children from Matilda, and Wicked’s Dancing Through Life. And the reworking of Nativity’s Nazareth into Neverland to open the show was inspired!
2018’s cult hit Baby Shark is included and the only disappointment on the music front was the absence of a number from The Greatest Showman, which seems to a staple of many pantos this year.
Strictly Come Dancing’s Kristina Rihanoff has lots of fun as a stubborn and sulky Tinkerbell – and it was a treat getting to see her show off some ballroom moves – while Georgina Parkinson (Wendy) and Abigail Middleton (Tiger Lily) made the most of their supporting roles and both showed off fine voices. A large juvenile cast ably supported the principles, as did the ensemble.
The only real criticism is possibly one of Peter Pan as a panto as a whole, rather than particularly in relation to this production. With no real love story, or an out and out comic ‘Buttons-esque’ character, the show did lack romance, and laughs – while plenty (the running Peter’s Camp gag was a real winner!) – were not as constant compared to previous pantos here, particularly the sort of slapstick humour that has kids in hysterics!
But that aside, this is a highly-enjoyable, warm, family friendly version of a much-loved story brought to life by a cast clearly enjoying every minute.And as usual, tickets are commendably good value and affordable for families – starting at just £11.
Until Sunday 13th January 2019 tickets available here.

Cinderella

Cinderella Image 11 - Credit David Munn Photograph

Panto isn’t just for Christmas at the Theatre Royal in St Helens with Regal Entertainments continuing their tradition of regular school holiday pantomimes with this Easter’s offering of Cinderella.

The theatre continues its run of attracting well-known names to St Helens with Lee Latchford-Evans from cult pop group Steps taking the role of Prince Charming.

A trained actor as well as singer, Latchford-Evans showed off an easy likeable charm as the Prince as well as a predictably good singing voice.

Georgina Parkinson was a sweet-voiced Cinders with funny man Lewis Devine returning as Buttons following his stint at The venue at Christmas, and proving just as popular with audiences this time.

Cinderella Image 1 - Credit David Munn Photography

Resident dame Si Foster (who also co-writes with Ben Ebgelen) and Mark Newall take on the role of Kendall and Kylie the Ugly Sisters – a brilliant double act who throw plenty of shade and wow in a series of tremendously tacky frocks and wicked weaves. Watch out for the Bags for Life gag – bravo!

Samantha Palin is a warm and distractedly dotty Fairy Godmother, with big hair and bling that wouldn’t look out of place on a Real Housewife of Cheshire. And Andrew Geater is a dashing if somewhat snooty Dandini – they both have fantastic voices and get their moments to shine vocally.

I’m a sucker for the traditional panto transformation scene that usually closes Act 1 and the show certainly doesn’t disappoint here with a gorgeous mix of ballet, baby animals (courtesy of the charming juvenile dancers) and yes – real Shetland ponies! (One of these makes a hilarious reappearance in Act II that had my young co-reviewer in stitches and that I know he will be talking about for days to come.)

Cinderella Image 10 - Credit David Munn Photograph

All of the music is incredibly well chosen. From 80s anthems like Holding Out For a Hero and Love Lifts Us Up (Where We Belong) to musical theatre floor fillers like One Night Only and Fabulous Baby, every song was a total crowd pleaser.

And needless to say Step’s fans won’t go away disappointed with a medley of their biggest hits featuring to the audience’s total delight.

Add to this beautiful and vibrant costumes, charming sets and a brilliantly funny and topical script (anyone who has ever pleaded with ‘Alexa’ will appreciate one gag in particular) that will appeal to all ages, adds up to a warm and witty show that will leave you feeling fuzzy inside.

And with ticket prices starting at an incredibly reasonable £13 – this is a high quality family pantomime at applaudingly affordable prices.

A cracking treat for Easter!

On until Sunday 15th April, tickets available here.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Lucy Jo Hudson and Ensemble

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s that time of year again, oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it bloomin’ well is! As pantos pop up across the country and evil villains prepare for an almighty booing, St Helens is no exception with a star-studded Snow White opening at the Theatre Royal for the festive season.

Starring Corrie and Where The Heart Is favourite Lucy-Jo Hudson and a pre-recorded ten foot tall Magic Mirror in the form of local legend Johnny Vegas, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has it all from plenty of ‘it’s behind you’ to a spectacular interactive 3D section which is spine tingly good and more than worth the ticket price alone.

There is something for everyone in the high energy and hugely entertaining production. With superb sets and lavish costumes full of colour and sparkle, Regal EntertainmentsLtd put their impressive stamp on this production, further demonstrating their commitment to delivering high quality, accessible local theatre. Writers Si Foster (who also takes on the role of Evil Queen Camilla) and Ben Engelen deliver an enormously funny script with plenty to keep the little ones entertained and even more to thrill Mum and Dad…just wait for the outrageous Andy Pandy scene! Hilarious! Nazene DanielleLangfield’s choreography is impressive and intricate as both senior ensemble and children from local dance schools all get the chance to shine.

Richard Hazlewood, Johnny Vegas and Si Foster

Lucy-Jo Hudson makes for a perfect princess; she’s sweet but sassy with an incredibly beautiful voice, her time on TV show Dance, Dance Dance clearly well spent as she delivers each routine with precision. Receiving many of the laughs is local funny man and audience favourite Lewis Devine as Muddles, hugely charismatic and immediately likeable he has the audiences in stitches from that start with his mad-cap antics and hilarious impressions.

St Helens Theatre Royal once again deliver a perfect panto, Snow White is a guaranteed festive treat for all ages, it’s easy to see why this show has already been extended offering audiences an extra week to catch it. With impressively high production values, plenty of audience interaction and a strong cast who bring an enormous amount of fun to the show, Snow White is a wickedly wonderful night out!

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is on at the Theatre Royal St Helens until Sunday 14th Jan tickets available here