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Dec 11, 2021
Theatre Online

"one of the best pantomimes I have seen"

This glittering production is excellent in so many ways

Tonight, I was treated to an excellent production of the pantomime, Sleeping Beauty at Derby Arena. It was produced by Little Wolf Entertainment and Derby Live.

I was transported to Derbion Castle, where Nurse Nancy is making plans for the christening of the baby, Princess Rose. When the wickedly glamorous Carabosse - a thorn in the royal family's side - discovers she’s not invited, she sets out to put a spindle in the works! It’s then down to the dashing Prince Vince to hack his way through the thorny thicket, wake his true love and help her save the kingdom.

We were promised daring duels, doting dragons, lavish sets and costumes, plus bucket loads of laughs and we certainly got these and a lot more.

This glittering production is excellent in so many ways: colourful, great sets and costumes, hilarious set pieces, magical special effects and a talented cast of actors, singers and dancers. The show moves quickly and the script is very witty with some clever one liners and local references, which delighted the audience. It can be enjoyed by both adults and children, sometimes on very different levels!

The cast features Derby favourite and superb panto Dame, Morgan Brind -who also wrote the excellent script - playing Dame Nancy Nightley. He works the audience knowingly with huge warmth and has a great rapport with everyone; such fun to watch. With him is Rita Simons- well known for her character Roxy Mitchell in EastEnders - who plays the evil witch, Carabosse. She cleverly combines pantomime nastiness with a softer side and some skilfully delivered humour. She also has a powerful singing voice.

Also in the cast is Richard Brindley, returning to Derby Arena for his third pantomime season as the hilarious Mervin the Magician. We all loved his appearances on the stage and joined in enthusiastically with the chances to participate in the fun. Abigail Finley is the often rather confused Fairy Lights: a very good comedy actress with a great singing voice. Sophia Lewis is the charming Princess Rose, Matthew Mori plays the sometimes rather soppy but handsome Prince Vince, Howard Chadwick is the bumbling King Darren and Roddy Peters is Carabosse’s servant, the very funny Norman Ton.

There is a small but very good ensemble and three teams of young local performers. I saw the Blue team tonight and it is outstanding. I was particularly impressed in the second act, when they appear with the rest of the cast in a big production number, fully holding their own with the adults.

This is a traditional pantomime with all the essential elements and the audience loved it. It is good to see the decorating scene with some added scenic special effects, which enhance the enjoyment of the slapstick routine. The production, I am pleased to say, safely includes inviting some children on stage to help with the usual community sing song.

The sound and lighting is great and the balance between the performers and the fantastic band is perfect. The sound here at the Arena in the past has not always been good, but tonight it was great. I could hear every word.

This production is in my opinion one of the best pantomimes I have seen in many a year. A great cast, dynamic staging, well performed choreography, well-chosen music and an engaging script.

I will not say why, but the opening of Act 2 was fabulous and made me and others gasp at times.

I left the Arena surrounded by so many very happy people of all ages, lovely to see in these dark times and surely what pantomime is all about. It continues at Derby Arena until January 8th. Go see it if you can - I am sure you will not be disappointed.

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