Sleeping Beauty panto revs it up a notch

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Review
Sleeping Beauty
Runs until Dec. 31
Capitol Theatre
Fort Edmonton Park
Tickets: Start at $18. Visit http://www.fortedmontonpark.ca/the-capitol-theatre/

Director Dana Andersen’s annual British-styled panto at Fort Edmonton Park’s Capitol Theatre is developing a reputation as one of the best – if not the best – in the region.

Playwright Jocelyn Ahlf’s revamp of Sleeping Beauty is bold, bright and brash, and music director Erik Mortimer delivers additional lustre with nods to several recognizable pieces.

There’s a lot of good things about this show. The 13-member cast is attired in dazzling costumes and the multi-media scene changes are slick and sophisticated without detracting from the story line.

The robust singing voices capture some of the more fantastical elements of the production while the political jokes and social commentary add a spicy layer to the proceedings.

Expect to hear a lot of sassy jokes. No one and nothing is sacred. Pop culture jabs are poked at Jason Kenney, Melania Trump, Harry Potter, The Biebs and Andrew Lloyd Webber to name a few. Oh yes, the cast also delivers a few wisecracks on Rogers Place, fracking, roaming fees and no free parking in downtown Edmonton.

But the show’s strongest arsenal is the cohesive chemistry between actors. Ahlf stars as the evil fairy Carabosse, a majestic Maleficent-type figure who comes sweeping onstage garbed in a sparkling black dress with a swirling diaphanous cape. Mounted on her head are a pair of curved horns similar to those worn by ancient Egyptian goddesses.

Furious about being deliberately left out of the baby’s celebrations, Carabosse wields her magical might and casts a spell that dooms the child. To protect the baby, Carabosse’s sister, SugarPlum (Davina Stewart) the good fairy, hides the child with some deft sleight of hand.

All villains have henchmen and Madelaine Knight is Sourpuss, Carabosse’s furry sidekick. Barely recognizable in cat makeup, a ratty blonde wig, serious padding and a chipmunk voice, Knight’s character is treated as comic relief. Loyal only to her mistress, Sourpuss sports a sly grin, a sneaky demeanour and charts a course of manipulation and sabotage.

Jameela McNeil, fresh off John Ware Reimagined plays Rory, Fanny Bumfuzzle’s ward. An independent thinking modern woman bent on a career, Rory delights in conducting boring scientific experiments. Her only complication is a long-standing romantic feud with Tom, the Miller’s son (Gabriel Gagnon), a rather handsome, but vain young man who searches for love in the wrong place.

Darrin Hagen outdoes himself as Fanny Bumfuzzle, a female baker with an outsize body and an out-size personality constantly firing on all cylinders. Hagen has some of the play’s best zingers and the gender reversal simply adds to the fun.

Davina Stewart, one of the panto’s stalwarts, is immediately recognizable as SugarPlum in her pink bubble-gum beehive wig and frothy gown. Although a magical creature, she’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

And Luc Tellier is an absolute charmer as Master Cat, Tom’s roguish companion, who uses trickery and a measure of deceit to gain status, wealth and the hand of a lovely young woman for his penniless master.

Special kudos to costume designer Nicole Labrecque for exceeding expectations with her stunning designs  that are both intricate and detailed.

Sleeping Beauty is filled with lively music, silly physical comedy, a complex villain, and a happily ever after ending. The slapstick humour and the cast’s ability to poke fun of themselves makes for a good family show. Sleeping Beauty runs until Dec. 31.

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About Author

Anna Borowiecki

Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.