REVIEW | Sleeping Beauty Panto

All photos Robert Catto

Experience a True Panto at Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale

Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, Friday June 29

Review by Samantha Webb

Rhonda Burchmore as Carabosse. Photo by Robert Catto

Opening night of this new production from Bonnie Lythgoe saw a classic English Panto – with all the essential ingredients of song, dance, slapstick, innuendo and contemporary music and comedy references – come to Melbourne’s iconic Comedy Theatre. Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale presents a hero, a princess, a good fairy and her evil nemesis plus a funny man to bring the house down.

It has to be said that until recently, Australian audiences have been perplexed by the popularity of the pantomime as it exists in the UK. However, thanks to Bonnie Lythgoe’s introduction of the ‘Panto’ concept to Australia over recent years, it seems local audiences are certainly welcoming the family-friendly productions.

In her latest venture, all the great English Panto moments are wrapped up in the age old tale of Sleeping Beauty with a twist that includes Dr Who’s Tardis, a best friend called Silly Billy and Nanny Tickle who is nothing at all like Mary Poppins!

Melissa Tkautz as the Good Fairy

Sleeping Beauty tells the story of Princess Aurora, who by a single prick of her finger is put to sleep for 100 years. Doomed by fate, only a Prince’s sweet kiss can break the spell and awaken the sleeping beauty. Featuring dazzling costumes, stunning sets, magic, special effects, hilarious comedy, thrilling musical numbers this latest fairy tale promises to be fun for all ages from 3 to 103.

This show is a must for the whole family. I took my father who was visiting from England along with my two boys aged 15 and 11. We all laughed until we cried, particularly when Silly Billy played by the brilliantly funny Kev Orkian and the King, played by Frazer Hines, lead a screamingly funny sing along of the 12 days of ‘Winter’ that ends with ‘and a bra that was made to fit three!’

Rhonda Burchmore was magnificent as the evil Carabosse. She completely brought the house down with her rendition of Cher’s ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’. Somehow the stage was set to see her fly out above the stalls against a dark backdrop and fairy lights. This effect was repeated later in the show when the Tardis was flown out right over the heads of the audience. Very clever!

Embla Bishop & Daniel Milne

The lead roles of the two young lovers are played beautifully by Embla Bishop as Sleeping Beauty with Daniel Milne as Prince Valiant.

For me personally, as an English-born, now Australian citizen, it was a perfect opportunity to see a Panto that brought back childhood memories. The show combined both English and Australian humour, making references to Dandenong and Pauline Hanson alongside Frazer Hines emerging from the Tardis in a kilt! (For all Dr Who fans). The latter was probably lost on some of the Aussie audience who wouldn’t remember Hines who was in over 100 episodes alongside Dr Who.

The whole cast were high quality, from the young dancers through to the strong leads, with great vocals and choreography throughout. The stage and lighting were also first class.

My visiting father never thought he’d see a Panto in June in Melbourne… and loved every minute of it! I highly recommend you get along and join in the fun, laughs and audience-interaction banter before close on the 8th of July and moves on to Sydney.

Thanks to Bonnie Lythgoe Productions for another cracking, side-splittingly funny show! We cannot wait for Jack and the Beanstalk next!

Sleeping Beauty: A Knight Avenger’s Tale

Melbourne, Comedy Theatre
Friday 29 June – Sunday 8 July
Bookings: or 1300 11 10 11

Sydney, State Theatre
Friday 13 July – Sunday 22 July
Bookings: or 1300 139 588

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