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The Sleeping Beauty (Chelmsford)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
We’re somewhere vaguely Slavic at a time which is more-or-less medieval. A prologue tells us that King Stefan (Michal Cantwell)’s wife has died, leaving him with their baby daughter. The trouble is that, somehow or other, Fairy Carabosse was never invited to the christening. Not that you can blame the king – once Stephen Carlile moves into the green spotlight as the most malevolent of Carabosses.

It’s a real boo-hiss performance with much swishing of cloak and train and wielding of both a long staff and very high heels. It’s as much as Melanie Masson as Fairy Fortune can do to ensure that all will eventually come right. Beauty herself is Abigail Matthews, attractive in personality and in voice with Kirk Jameson as the no-nonsense Prince Harry who objects to an arranged marriage but falls for (as he thinks) a simple village lass.

The two main comics are John Weldon as a be-spectacled Welsh-accented Muddles, the court jester and son to Richard Earl’s exuberant Nurse Nellie. Local children and students from Laine Theatre Arts make up the chorus, and are given plenty of energetic dances by choreographer Richard Peakman. The whole show is in fact musically strong – Mike Cotton is the musical director – as well as visually pleasing.

Simon Aylin’s script has just enough variations on the familiar to keep the audience involved with the action and director Michael Pentiman isn’t afraid to go for some special effects, including flying for the scene where Harry sees a vision of the princess (it’s just a pity that her costume failed to disguise the harness as it should have done). The children in the audience joined in with gusto as required and loved their interaction with the characters who chased into the auditorium. Even the episode with the water pistols!


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