Sleeping Beauty – Review – Bradford Alhambra
By Sandra Callard, December 2021
After last year’s nightmare lockdown over Christmas we were all ready for a rip-roaring pantomime at the venue which beats all others for pantomime fun, the Alhambra in Bradford – and goodness, that’s exactly what we got.
This year the story of Sleeping Beauty is told, with the superb Billy Pearce once again at the top of his talented form with a gargantuan array of jokes. Add to these some remarkable physical gyrations and the result is reams of helpless laughter from a packed and masked theatre – it was something to behold in these sombre times. Sometimes the quivering patrons did not know exactly why and what they were laughing at, but the sheer talent of the man Pearce could make a bitter lemon collapse with helpless laughter.
“Absolutely enjoying his part”
Pearce was unexpectedly, but brilliantly, supported by Dr Ranj, a successful physician who has appeared on numerous television programmes advising on various health issues. His pleasing appearance and self-effacing manner have won him an avalanche of fans and his foray into pantomime is another feather in the cap of his already overloaded headgear. His singing attempts were ludicrously bad – and he knew it – which was exactly why he got away with it.
The capacity audience didn’t care that he couldn’t sing, as we just loved the fact that he sang as if he actually could. He played the part of the Royal Physician exactly right, not as a seasoned actor, but as someone who was absolutely enjoying his part in it.
This stage show was so colourful, glitzy and eye-popping that we should have been given dark glasses on entry, but it was astoundingly effective. The costumes of the dancers and singers were just as beautifully bright, thanks to the genius of the deftly clever Wardrobe people. The show would have been all the poorer without their skills, as well as the expert singing and dancing of those who wore them and brought them to wonderful life.
The many children in the audience also had their little bit of pantomime magic when Billy appeared in the sky driving a set of reindeer across the top of the stage and almost into the audience, bringing the necessary cheers and wows from the children, and possibly the mums and dads as well.
“Lift the hearts”
It is hard to pick out an exceptional performance as there was not a bad one, but I did love Liz Ewing’s perfect portrayal of Queen Carabosse, the wicked twin sister of King Billy. She was beautifully horrible throughout, and the faultless performance of her quick fire rendition of a lengthy piece of recapitulation of the letter S brought the evil lady a massive ovation, which in turn brought a rare but fleeting smile to the face of the wicked lady.
The show was pretty well perfect in every way and the patrons of the theatre, and especially the children, showed their appreciation in the usual way. The Alhambra is such a beautiful venue that it deserves to show only the best in entertainment, and holds a great record of fulfilling exactly that. This year’s pantomime proves how this great traditional British form of entertainment can lift the hearts of people at a time when so many are down. Catch it if you can.
Sleeping Beauty runs until 16th January