Muddling through for laughs

Kiss of life: Lucy Evans as Princess Beauty and Oliver Watton as Prince Daniel.

Sleeping Beauty

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

****

THERE are certain entertainers who seem to have been put on this earth to brighten any stage and, come Christmas, find their natural habitat as a star of pantomime - Joe Pasquale is one such.

The audience comes alive and the shiny sets of this Qdos production positively sparkle whenever he appears as court jester, Muddles.

And Muddles leads the cast through the required quota of boos and hisses, behind yous and oh yes she wills, oh no she won’ts; then there are silly puns, jokes that cracker makers rejected years ago, holes in the plot you could lose Birmingham in, a wafer thin storyline, a dame who appears to have  more costumes than lines, a glamorous and oh so wicked baddy – in short, all the ingredients, mixed with loving care for a traditional family panto.

Joe Pasquale as Muddles and Ceri Dupree as Queen Passionella

Joe’s material ranges from the daft through particulalry silly to the downright mad but it is all gloriously funny.

And he seems to enjoy himself revelling in interacting with the audience; his impromptu double acts with first Kate, an audience member who drew the short straw with a seat on the front row by the stage steps, and then four year old Dillon turning into a masterclass in how to work an audience.

Dillon was one of the children selected from the audience in the traditional penultimate scene while the rest of the cast get their glad rags on for the closing number, and he was magic, a starin his own right, funny, uninhibited and even managing to get notes out of a trombone.

Meanwhile back at the palace we had Ceri Dupree as Queen Passionella, all glamorously outrageous, over the top frocks and double entendres, carrying on the mantle of the great Danny La Rue and equally glamorous, in a dark and evil way, was the wicked fairy Carabosse played with tongue very much in cheek by Wendy Somerville.

For love interest we have Lucy Evans as Princess Beauty and Oliver Watton as the Wispa eating – don’t ask – Prince Daniel, all looked over by Robyn Mellor as The Enchantress, the good fairy to Carabosse’s bad.

Robyn Mellor as The Enchantress, the good fairy

In charge, or at least he thinks he is, is the King, played by Tony Kemp while helping the side of evil if Carabosse’s green-skinned son Slimeball, ingratiatingly played by Michael Peluso.

The story is simple with the Princess fated to prick her finger on her birthday and sleep for a hundred years until she is awakened by the man she is to marry – which has Muddles, the Prince and Slimeball in the race for her lips.

With a lively ensemble and an excellent band under musical director Allan Rogers, it is all good, lively fun for all the family with nothing to frighten the horses, or shock a granny.

There are recognisable songs, a touch less on the volume perhaps, flashes and bangs and Muddles soaring over the heads of the audience on a flying motorbike. It is a worthy addition to a festive tradition and a fitting show to celebrate the Grand’s 119th birthday which this year coincided with Press night. To 18-01-14.

Roger Clarke

The Grand Theatre is one of the finest remaining examples of the work of celebrated Victorian theatre architect Charles J Phipps, and regarded as his crowning achievement. It first opened it’s door on 10 December, 1894 to an audience of 2,151 to watch the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company perform Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia Limited.

 

Joe is the prince of the pantos

****

JUST as the latest I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Here has vanished from out TV screens (mercifully), former King of the Jungle Joe Pasquale has returned to the stage and is proving to be Prince of the Pantos.

The squeaky-voiced comic is having a right old time at the Grand, playing Muddles in this fairy tale, and his brand of humour, with a few rude spots here and there, pleases parents as well as the kids.

Wicked fairy Carabosse played by Wendy Somerville.

One minute he is on stage trying, without much luck, to win the love of Princess Beauty (Lucy Evans), the next he is perched precariously on the edge of the orchestra pit chatting to people on the front row of the stalls.

Jolly Joe even rides a motorbike which soars over the audience, then, more like his days in the jungle, he swings Tarzan-like on a rope across the stage.

Even so, Muddles is pushed all the way for the panto hero title by Ceri Dupree, a brilliant 'Dame'.

He plays Queen Passionella superbly, and the rage of magnificent costumes he wears must have accounted for about a half of the panto's budget.

Wendy Somerville's powerful voice is ideal for her role as Carabosse, the wicked lady the audience love to hate in this happy show which can be even better if the music is turned down a touch here and there.

Inevitably there was a show stealing performance among the three youngsters from the audience who joined Joe on stage near the end. Four-year-old Dillon, who seemed to be having a lot of trouble keeping his pants up, managed a blast on a trombone and proved the perfect foil for the comic. The customers loved him.

To: 18.01.14. 

Paul Marston 

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