Some pantomime titles seem evergreen – they bloom afresh year after year. Others seem to have their own season. Rapunzel, an example of these rare specimens, is newly fashionable – in Bury St Edmunds last year and in Basildon this Christmas.
The Towngate Theatre's pantomime has again been written by Brad Fitt and has Grace Eccle as its titular heroine, Rapunzel. She's named for a flower, a magical one which saves the life of the queen her mother.
The trouble is that the king (of Basildonia, naturally) picked it without first asking permission from enchantress Ragwort. Nigel Peever as King Caractacus has a nice line in well-meaning absent-mindedness which makes this mission entirely credible.
Ragwort (Sophie Ladds) lives up to her name. She's a poisonous specimen and Ladds thoroughly revels in the audience's reaction to her machinations. Neither nurse Dame Dotty (Lincoln Hudson) nor her son, would-be helpful Schnitzel (Simon Fielding, who also directs and choreographs) can stop her seizing the young Rapunzel and imprisoning her.
That prison is a smartly revolving tower and it's up to dashing Flynn Rider (Ashley Emerson) to ride to the rescue. Which he does, both energetically and tunefully. This production has making ice-cream for the princess' birthday party as its slop scene variation (hilarious) and the forest chase sequences are well handled.
Rapunzel runs at the Towngate Theatre, Basildon until 5 January.