The Connaught's production of The Sleeping Beauty this year is proof, if ever proof were needed, that sticking to a traditional formula not only keeps the audience firmly in its comfort zone and ensures that it will have a fantastic time, but also guarantees that you’ll have a sure fire hit – and this production has success written all over it.
From the moment that the evil fairy appears - in a puff of smoke, of course – the audience throw themselves into the ritual booing and hissing with gusto. Nikki Kelly seems to relish this and, with every line, turns her nastiness up a notch.
Then, stage right, we have the Lilac Fairy Helen Peters who arrives to change the evil spell from instant death to a very long sleep. She is given some wonderful one-liners, although she could do with slowing down the delivery a little so that they are not missed amongst all the other noise and action on stage.
Comedian and impressionist Tony Rudd takes the role of Muddles and, with Peter Jamieson as King Crispin, between them they do a very good job of the messy decorating scene, without either of them uttering a word.
Sophie Bloom fulfils every little girl’s dream when she steps onto the stage as Princess Aurora. Sounding as perfect as she looks in the part, she displays a wonderful vocal talent and she obviously loves the fact that she is playing yet another Princess after starring as Cinderella a couple of times in the past.
I am sure that the producers won’t mind me saying that, from the audience reaction, this show seems to have not one, but two, headliners. First is piano-playing, Opportunity Knocks-winning, regular pantomime Dame Bobby Crush. His performance is, quite simply, the ultimate in professionalism.
He uses the audience to get the laughs with incredible skill and, despite wearing the most amazing array of costumes, never gets overshadowed by them. Anyone seeking a masterclass in portraying the consummate pantomime Dame need look no further than Crush for their inspiration.
But Crush shares the limelight with a young man who, although it is hard to believe after seeing how well he performed, is making his pantomime debut. Superstar finalist Jon Moses as Prince Valiant strides across the stage and delivers his lines with real confidence and, in superb pantomime prince style, more than a small helping of cheese.
Displaying the amazing vocal talent that took him so far in the search for Jesus, and that can now be heard on his first record release he blasts through an amazing variety of songs, from power ballads like "Somewhere out there" all the way through to David Guetta’s massive 2012 hit "Titanium". He also shows off a capacity for comedy as well, with his slow-motion fight with Carabosse one of the highlights of Act Two.
In the very best tradition the show ends with the wedding scene where all 16 dancers join the main players to show off amazingly sumptuous costumes before dancing down into the auditorium to encourage the audience to get up and dance – although it has to be said that no encouragement was necessary. The whole audience had such a great time that it was only too happy to oblige.