Sleeping Beauty – The Civic – Review
by Brian Merriman
Produced by The Civic Theatre and Rob Murphy
Directed by Rob Murphy
Duration 150 minutes including interval (15 minutes) – 2 shows daily until December 31st
Traditional panto is the beating heart of every community at this time of year. Though audiences in the capital city are spoiled for professional pantos and musicals, it is often the local panto that truly communicates with all members of the community. The Civic Theatre is clearly delighted to return to live panto on stage. It is hard to believe that there are some very young children who have missed out on this treat for the past two Christmases.
The Civic renews its association with Rob Murphy, who will soon be locating to the National Stadium with the anticipated ‘Snow White’ where his character Buffy is an annual favorite. Rob also runs a stage school and what every music and drama student longs for is a stage and a chance to perform for an audience. This multi-talented troupe of students packs a punch in the musical numbers throughout this show – and a particular note to the two boys in the chorus, hopefully, they will be role models for more young lads to take to the stage next year.
Any reviewer is often reminded about the true meaning of panto as the young ones in the row in front of me threw themselves, their cheers, boos, and advice at full tilt as the plot evolved. There’s lots of glitz and glam, though the two male roles don’t get many costume changes, the ‘Dame’ certainly swallows up a full wardrobe!
Traditional panto knows how to keep wringing a laugh out of old jokes and this is no exception. The many short scenes use ads from years ago, including referencing ones for Gillette and Fairy Liquid long gone from our screens. The set changes ran smoothly and the scenery creates the magic. The traditional front curtain scenes would have benefitted from just that, and saved some full set transformations. There was a fun chase scene where the spell book wasn’t tossed around, and some abrupt song endings and sound issues on the first night, but nothing could prevent the colourful show from zipping along, cheered all the way, by many generations.
There was product placement too from the newest store to open in the Square, and that’s where regional panto aces all others – it’s the local references that add so much more story relevance to the audience, that cannot be matched from the more all-encompassing professional stages in the Capital. Another bonus is free parking behind the theatre!
The six-strong front line gave it loads. Kevin Keeley as ‘Tickles’ was an energetic, uplifting, and comic tour de force and a lovely contrast to the dour drama queen that was ‘Dottie’ (Robert Downes) complete with her Mrs. Brown’s laugh.
Sarah Harvey as ‘Fairy Light’ can really belt out a number, as can Sorcha Furlong who was a delicious Maleficent. She can really sing, so much so, the audience couldn’t but cheer her big hits, before remembering their obligation to boo the Baddie!
Panto is often the training ground and first break for rising stars. The talented debuts of Joe Jennings as ‘Prince Bruno’ and ‘Keila Ana Whelan’ as Princess Aurora, ensured these juvenile leads were much more than the ‘love interest’. They brought comedy, pathos, and really fine vocals, ensuring the ‘ballad moments’ were as captivating for the youngsters as were the up-tempo anthems – quite a feat! Overall, the quality of the vocals and singing was an undoubted highlight of the evening.
The atmosphere in The Civic was lively and excited as they welcomed the return of panto to their community in Tallaght – in fact, there was a ‘deadly buzz’ all evening.