Review by CJ
Rhonda Burchmore, Melissa Tkautz, Kev Orkian, Frazer Hines, Katrina Retallick, Embla Bishop, Daniel Milne, Matt Geronimi, Cameron Taylor
The Comedy Theatre (Melbourne, Australia)
150 minutes (including intermission)
The fairy Carabosse (Burchmore) is snubbed from attending the christening of King Louis’ (Hines) daughter Aurora (Bishop). In retaliation, Carabosse curses Aurora to die after pricking her finger on a spinning wheel before the end of her 21st birthday. The good fairy (Tkautz) alters the curse to ensure Aurora does not die, but instead slumbers for 100 years until awakened by true love’s first kiss.
It is up to Aurora’s true love Prince Valiant (Milne), best friend Silly Billy (Orkian), governess Nanny Tickles (Retallick) and father King Louis to ensure the curse does not lay claim to Aurora on her 21st birthday.
When I reviewed Bonnie Lythgoe Productions’ The Adventures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell in Return to PantoLand last year, I mentioned how much I was looking forward to being front and centre for their production of Sleeping Beauty. Today the prophecy was fulfilled and Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale did not disappoint.
Forget the Sydney Opera House and the Gold Coast*, Rhonda Burchmore is the national treasure that everyone should be flocking to Australia to see. Burchmore’s portrayal as the wicked and wounded fairy Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale is nothing short of spectacular. With deliciously devilish acting, a powerful singing voice and unexpected aerial stunts, Burchmore is an absolute delight to watch on (and above) stage.
Kev Orkian was the stand out actor for me last year and this year, alongside Burchmore, is no different. Orkian’s comedic timing, banter with the audience and ability to give his co-stars — and the audience — the giggles are the most effective I have seen on stage. Orkian is able to command attention on a full stage with the slightest gesture or facial movement. It is nothing short of masterful and I hope he continues to contribute to the OzPanto productions for many years to come.
The interactive element to pantomime means the fourth wall is constantly being broken in Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale and I love a good fourth wall break. Crowd participation is encouraged and the actors play up to it well. It gives an extra depth to the theatre that you can’t get at a movie or at home watching the telly.
Overall, the plot to Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale feels like it takes elements from the classic fairy tale, the Disney animated adaptation and the live action film Maleficent. This combination and the humour infused throughout creates a strong story that is enjoyable for kids of all ages. In fact, much of the adult humour — including political, current event and not so current music jokes — will fly over the heads of the little ones like a TARDIS.
With only a week left in Melbourne before heading to Sydney for a week and a half, it truly is a case of ‘if you snooze, you lose’. If you’re in either of these cities, love live theatre and are young at heart, or just looking for a beautiful live performance for the kids these school holidays, I highly recommend Sleeping Beauty – A Knight Avenger’s Tale.
* Please don’t forget them, they’re lovely and I don’t want to be exiled.