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Sleeping Beauty Stateside

January 22, 2012

Just received a few reviews and photographs of a bold venture that took place in Connecticut USA this Christmas- The first “Traditional” pantomime staged there in Sherman, at the Sherman Playhouse playing from December 2nd on various dates until New Year’s Eve. The script was adapted from my original version (produced at The Kenneth More Theatre Ilford and at Leeds and Sheffild) by Patricia Michael and Jack Watters.

        

Pat Michael is no stranger to Pantomime- as one of the UK’s leading “Principal Boys” she has appeared the length and breadth of the country in the role, and made one of her last appearances with Danny La Rue at the Theatre Royal Plymouth in “Mother Goose” before relocating to America where she now lives with her husband Josh Siegel. Pat appeared in musicals in the West End and made her debut appearance at the age of sixteen, and continued to appear in panto for the next thirty years. She not only adapted but Directed this production, aided by Jack Watters who has an encyclopeadic knowledge of British Pantomime, having been brought up in the traditions of Scottish Theatre, and an expert in all things “Matcham”- The theatres and designs of legendary architect Frank Matcham. Jack makes trips all over the UK each year to see various Pantomimes, and he and Pat have taken the best elements of Panto and Music Hall  and combined them with USA humour and local politics to present this as a home grown Pantomime for Connecticut!

At first the bookings did not appear to be flooding in- remember in the States “Pantomime” is the word used to describe a mimed performance. Pat pointed out in the programme that “there will be absolutely no white-faced man in an imaginary box”, and gave her reasons for choosing to premier a pantomime as “Why should the Brits have all the fun!”

Fortunately the reviews and the “word of mouth” resulted in the show picking up until the happy situation arose when the show was a sell-out. This has meant that next year this “experimental” project will be repeated, and “Cinderella” is hopefully the choice of the Sherman Playhouse, again written by yours truly, and adapted by Pat. As Pantomime should be this “Sleeping Beauty” was very much a community project with a large cast of sixteen and an army of production staff. John Taylor who played the Dame- Nurse Nellie, like Pat and Jack has his theatrical roots in the UK, and this is not the first British Festive offering he has been involved with- he recently directed Dylan Thomas’s “A Child’s Christmas In Wales” at the Playhouse.

   

 

Here’s what some of the reviwers thought:

David Begelman: The News-Times.

Sleeping beauty has something for everyone, and for all ages. Director Michael’s adaptation of the Fairy Tale legend of Sleeping Beauty is distinguished by her deft hand in updating it.

Allusions toKenmorewashing machines,New Milfordand Walmart are not only funny, they’re bound to surprise any theatregoer expecting an unabridged and medieval ambience.

George Linkletter Citizen News said:

One of those traditions is known as the Dame, a kindly older woman played by a comic male actor. Another tradition is the Principal Boy, played by a tall young woman with gorgeous legs shown off beneath a short tunic. And the third tradition involves the audience which is encouraged to break through the “plane” of the stage and interact with the actors via song and cheering at certain points

John Taylor is simply outstanding as Nurse Nellie, an ageing vamp who still has a spark for romance, even if her allure has faded over the years. Mr Taylor has immense fun with the mature female role and his enjoyment infects all around him.

And a personal favourite of mine, Ellen Leary reports:

We were met at the box office by two stately Palace protectors- in full costume and character. When hearing that I had come to review the play, one muttered something to the other about “boiling the oil”, and my theatre companion and I exchanged smiles- “this is gonna be good!”. We were right!

I was delighted to hear that the Panto was so well received. It isn’t the first I’ve written  for an American audience- A version of my “Cinderella” was performed in Los Angeles in a University Theatre a couple of years ago, and two others- one being “Aladdin” and the other “Jack & The Beanstalk” have been performed in Boston- this is my first  “c0-production” with the hugely talented Patricia Michael and the vastly knowledgeable Jack Watters for The United States, and I’m delighted it all ended “Happily Ever After!”

The photographs included here are by kind permission of Josh Siegel.

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