Get ready to get sequinned out: Norwich Theatre’s panto is a riot of glittering costumes, frenetic dance routines, anthemic songs, and smart and silly humour.
Taking a twist on the traditional Sleeping Beauty, we see the familiar tale rejigged from the perspective of the Good Fairy – or, to be more accurate, a trainee fairy, as Joe Tracini takes the lead as the magic being without much magic and a tail instead of wings.
Against all odds (but pretty predictably – this is panto after all) he succeeds in preventing the Evil Fairy (a suitably cackle-heavy Beverly Callard) from killing off the Princess (Millie O’Connell, who gives the best vocal performances of the night, and lights up the stage with her presence).
Despite a slight mix up with a spinning wheel, she is successfully united – more consentingly than in the traditional version – with the dashing Prince (Karl Queensborough, who seems to be very much enjoying swapping the seriousness of Hamilton for the insanity of panto, and delighting the audience as a result), making the old Queen (panto stalwart Richard Gauntlett, who clearly retains his talent for one liners) very happy.
Panto never really needs to make much sense – after all, how difficult can it be to keep your daughter away from a spinning wheel, especially if you explain the whole curse thing? – and there are some non-sensical diversions into the Wish House and a journey inside the Princess’ mind, but they gamble along quite snappily and give excuses for some local references and traditional panto singalongs.
There are plenty of musical references for those with keen ears, and a handful of meta jokes and gentle political commentary to ensure that kids and parents alike can enjoy the show.
The sets by Lowestoft firm Scenic Designs are impressive and the whole production feels suitably big and energetic for a Christmas splash.
There are brief moments that feel a bit too much like public therapy for writer and star Tracini but they are barely detectable within the pervading bombastic, over the top moments of sheer silliness.
It is still, at its heart, the princess’ story despite the subtitle and no worse for that. Open your heart to the silliness and you’ll have a right royal time.
- Sleeping Beauty continues at Norwich Theatre Royal until 7 January 2024