Review: Sinbad, the Rock'n'Roll Pantomime, by Peter Rowe, New Wolsey Theatre, until January 28 2017
PUBLISHED: 10:47 01 December 2016 | UPDATED: 11:26 01 December 2016
In an age when most pantomimes are traditional and predictable, the New Wolsey's new rock'n'roll panto, Sinbad, doesn't arrive like a breath of fresh air but more like a full-blown tempest. In among the rock'n'roll classics like Living on a Prayer, Smoke on the Water, The Tide Is High and Sending Out an SOS, we even get some lines of Shakespeare's King Lear: "Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!" to underline the power of the story.
Sinbad is just as much a musical farce as it is a panto and it hits the stage with the force of a winter storm off the North Sea. It’s fast, it’s funny and it’s imaginatively staged by writer-director Peter Rowe, aided by some colourfully inventive sets by designer Barney George.
He makes great use of the space – not as easy as you would think when most of the floor space is taken up with the equipment to power a full-sized rock band. The story is a clever blend of traditional panto storytelling and a knockabout caper.
Elizabeth Rowe anchors the show as the storyteller Scheherezade while Graham Kent’s Dame Donna Souvalakia Sinbad is an integral part of the tale rather than just a comic adjunct. Her romance with Rob Falconer’s Tinbad the Tailor gets almost as much stage time as Sinbad’s own quest to win the hand of Princess Pearl.
It’s a fantastic ensemble show and even though it is early in the run, it’s clear that the cast are obviously enjoying themselves and are playing well off one another and that feeling of good-natured camaraderie is infectious and transmits itself to the audience.
New Wolsey regular Dan de Cruz positively relishes the boos and jeers from the audience as he milks every ounce of sneering sinister malevolence out of his role as the evil sorcerer Sinistro. The hero and heroine in panto are usually fairly thankless roles because they are usually fairly bland characters personifying everything which is honourable, virtuous and upright. Thankfully Pete Rowe gives his young lovers, Steve Rushton (Sinbad) and Daniella Piper (Princess Pearl), some spirit and plenty of pluck as well as some amazing songs to sing and a couple wonderful friends (Lucy Wells as Jade her maid and Adam Langstaff as Bosun Tommy) to interact with.
Songs like Madonna’s La Isla Bonita and Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love are delivered with the skill and power of a first-rate tribute band while fitting perfectly into the emotional heart of the show.
It’s great that after 15 years of producing rock’n’roll pantomimes Peter Rowe and the New Wolsey’s seasonal offerings keep getting better. For my money this is the best of the lot.