FIRST REVIEW: Sleeping Beauty, Sunderland Empire, until December 31

Faye Tozer as the Good Fairy
Faye Tozer as the Good Fairy
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The age old tale of good vs evil is delivered in brilliantly bonkers panto fashion in Sleeping Beauty.

In the white corner as the Snowflake fairy is Faye Tozer who locks horns with Vicky Entwistle in the green corner as Carabosse.

Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse

Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse

The pair are practically perfect in every way in their opposing roles as panto goodie and panto baddie.

Despite Faye making her name in pop band Steps, she’s a natural on the theatre stage. I remember being impressed with her acting and comedic timing in her stint in the Singin’ in the Rain tour and she brings it again as the Good Fairy.

It’s a shimmering performance and while she twinkles and flies high above the stage captivating the young audience, Vicky is deliciously dark as her fairy foe. It’s Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent meets Janice Battersby in her commanding performance. Despite this being the first outing of the show, the pair have already established a great dynamic.

Their chemistry forms part of slick panto, one of the best I’ve seen at the Empire in years, in fact. (And I’ve seen a lot of pantos)

Amy-Leigh Hickman as Sleeping Beauty

Amy-Leigh Hickman as Sleeping Beauty

There’s something for everyone here, from the innuendo of luvvie dame Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly, who the older generations will remember, to the bouncy Amy Leigh-Hickman as Sleeping Beauty and Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy, who’ll both be familiar to the CBBC generation. Andrew is a delightfully daft jester who had the kids in stitches with his slapstick humour and infectious audience interaction.

Their performances are punctuated with plenty of local references, from a stroppy little fairy from Marley Pots to the brilliantly-named King Winston of Witherwack.

It all takes place in a magical setting of spooky forests and majestic castles, with plenty of flying scenes and nifty use of graphics to keep the little ones in awe.

A well put together plot with some clever use of rhyming couplets is complemented with a toe-tapping score, featuring tracks from Little Mix and Justin Timberlake which had people joining in from the opening note.

Bobby Crush and Andrew Agnew

Bobby Crush and Andrew Agnew

And you no longer have to go to Arizona in Park Lane for a Steps megamix. Faye takes centre stage for a trip down pop memory lane with a mash up of Stomp, Deeper Shade of Blue and, of course, Tragedy, complete with that iconic hand to head dance move. That one will go down a treat with the Saturday night crowd.

This year’s panto - what a little beauty.

Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly

Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly

Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy

Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy