The Leeds City Varieties’ Rock 'n' Roll Panto is back for the festive season at West Yorkshire's beloved Music Hall. This year'’s jukebox pantomime is a bombastic mashup of a tale between Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood, bridged by over a dozen chart-topping musical numbers.
The Rock 'n' Roll pantomime has become a welcome tradition at the intimate City Varieties theatre, capitalising on the Music Hall's cosy compactness and magical Victorian surroundings. Robin Hood and Babes in the Wood follows the same tradition of charm and punch as previous years, offering a dizzy romp with outrageously silly characters whilst underscored by superb Rock ‘n' Roll hits. Added value in this show comes from the fact that the entirety of the cast provide all of the music, exchanging instruments throughout scenes and providing a big-band sound within a pantomime landscape.
The cast is universally strong, with panto-dame Eamonn Fleming providing a deliciously outrageous Nanny Nellie Nightnurse, issuing plenty of slapstick for the kids with obligatory sauce for the parents. Peter Manchester is valiant and bold as Robin Hood, perfectly matched to the plucky Liz Singleton as Maid Marian, who is energetic and captivating. Darrell Brockis brings a sinister campiness and oily charm to the Sheriff of Nottingham, particularly in a rousing cover of Goldfinger with Babes Sophie Byrne and Louisa Beadel. Kenny Davies is the perfect pratfaller as Numbskull whilst Mike Slader is utterly bonkers as Much the Miller’s Son, providing jazzy bass lines throughout. A real standout performance comes from Matthew Burns as Blondel, who adopts a hilariously affected physical-theatre gait and a bellowing pomposity which parodies and celebrates the whole pantomime genre. His energy is boundless, with a charisma which binds the play and its exposition together seamlessly.
Visually the show is compact and cute, with a warm homespun feel from props and puppets. The effects are relentlessly inventive and will keep families enthralled whilst the music - from technical to performance - sounds and feels great, particularly the closing numbers which will get audiences on their feet. The cast genuinely appear to be having great fun with this show, which makes the antics and music all the more involving.
Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood - The Rock 'n' Roll Panto hits the right note every time and delivers on each level, scoring plenty of laughs with kids and delivering dozens of toe-tapping numbers for the folks. Busy, bawdy and brimming full of mirth and merriment, this is a little glitter-bomb of a show which packs plenty of festive punch and provides a perfect Christmas adventure for all the family.
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