THEATRE REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty at Sheffield Lyceum
LAST year was hard for many reasons, and not getting my fix of panto was one of them, so I'm thankful theatres are buzzing again with excited audiences.
I’ve waxed lyrical on these pages for many years about how a-maz-ing Sheffield Lyceum’s panto is, largely due to long-standing dame Damian Williams (forget Biggins, he’s the best in the biz).
And I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to catch this year’s instalment of Sleeping Beauty.
As the official panto correspondent, I can report Williams as Nurse Nellie is as brilliant as ever and his costumes are still as ludicrous.
Williams is at his best when he’s ad-libbing or ribbing a poor picked-upon dad in the front row — who is given the best gag of the show courtesy of a giant buzzer and poor timing!
After 14 years as the theatre’s dame, Williams has earned legend status and I’m calling for a statue of him to be erected in the city.
Janine Duvitski (Abigail’s Party, Benidorm) is the famous face among the cast and brings a warm and gorgeous grandmotherly vibe to the good fairy.
It’s great to see an older woman in the role and she brings a sprinkle of experience to the young ensemble.
What’s also refreshing is a non-white prince cast as the lead, and Dominic Sibanda’s beaming smile liights up the stage as he attempts to keep the cheeky Williams on track.
And it’s not just the cast who give it their all — musical director James Harrison’s enthusiasm can be seen pouring out of the wings where the band, also in costume, are positioned.
This year’s production brings with it the most daring stunt yet — a giant mechanical dragon accompanied by two fire throwers.
For once, I was cursing my position in the front row as I could literally feel the heat.
I’m unsure how the stunt ever got past health and safety, but it brings the wow factor and something new to the stage.
There are also the usual panto staples, like audience water-spraying, birthday shout-outs, a glitzy wedding and, apart from the masked audience, not a Covid reference in sight! Pure magic.
Sleeping Beauty is at the Lyceum until January 3