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Review: Sleeping Beauty at Rhodes Arts Complex

For an all-singing, all-dancing twist on a fairytale favourite, with a stonking production team and a cast that really gives it some welly get your tickets now for this Christmas cracker of a panto.

Sleeping Beauty panto Rhodes Arts Complex

Photo: Dan Gregson

Having never visited Rhodes Arts Complex in Bishop’s Stortford before, what better excuse to go and check it out than a trip to the panto?

This is the first year that Rhodes has collaborated with Wisecracker Entertainment, whose producer, Oliver Seadon, has worked on hit family shows like In The Night Garden Live (love or hate Iggle Piggle, he has saved many a frazzled parent over the years!). Armed with bags of sweets, my 11-year-old daughter, her friend and I settled into our seats for a night of sparkling entertainment.

And boy were we entertained! From the moment Fairy Light, the princess’s godmother, appeared in her sparkly golden dress, we were transfixed. Writer and director, Ian McFarlane – who has directed some big old pantos in London and across the UK – has given the classic story of Sleeping Beauty an interesting twist, with lots of surprises along the way.

Photo: Dan Gregson

Without giving too much away, there are not one, but two princes involved, and it’s not the feisty heroine, Princess Bea, who pricks her finger on the spinning wheel… plus there are other famous fairytale characters, jitterbugs, a jester called Jasper (complete with Black Country accent) and (because what panto would be complete without one?) a dame, Nanny Nora, who delivers just the right balance of groaner jokes and seedy innuendo for the adults.

While there were no recognisable soap stars on the bill, it was quickly evident that this was a hugely talented cast – all  putting 100% into their characters. From the fearless Princess Bea, played by Hannah Louise Howell with her pitch-perfect voice to the self-centred Prince Adolpho (Joel Macey) – you can’t help but chuckle at his self-absorbed ditties.

Photo: Dan Gregson

Jodie Micciche plays both the good Fairy Light and the evil Fairy Midnight, with great aplomb and not a hair out of place after costume changes. The Ensemble, including the Junior Chorus, were excellent too, singing their hearts out whilst delivering some impressive dance routines, choreographed by Richard Jones (Associate Choreographer for Mary Poppins in the West End, don’t’cha know!).

And hats off to Laurie Denman, the Musical Director, for such a fantastic fusion of original, catchy tunes, alongside some cleverly incorporated favourites from the likes of Elton John, Madness and The Greatest Showman, to name a few. There’s a brilliantly crafted musical medley in Act Two, which just makes you want to get up and dance (ok, perhaps that was just me?!). There was also a very funny rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas, which includes references to rubber rings, pants and a bra… I’ll say no more, other than the kids were in stitches!

Photo: Dan Gregson

It was all performed in front of a simple, yet effective and colourful set with fantastic lighting, which really did add to each scene’s mood and highlighted the impressive costumes. I couldn’t fault it for good clean(ish!) family fun.

BOOK NOW: Sleeping Beauty at The Rhodes Arts Complex, 1-3 South Road, Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire CM23 3JG; 01279 710200. Tickets: Full Price £22, Concessions (over 60s and under 16s £20), Family Special £77.

Words: Jo Findlay

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