Crown jewels of pantomime

QDos-Theatre Royal Nottingham 'production of'SLEEPING BEAUTY'produced by Michael Harrison

QDos-Theatre Royal Nottingham 'production of'SLEEPING BEAUTY'produced by Michael Harrison

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“WHERE does the Queen sit when she comes here?” asked a little girl sitting behind me.

Not wishing to shatter the magical illusion of panto, her dad said: “Up there in one of the boxes.”

It wasn’t as daft as it sounded - after all we were in Nottingham’s Theatre Royal and there was a Queen in the house.

It wasn’t HRH Queen Elizabeth but Queen Passionella who ruled the waves…and the laughs…and the cheers on Saturday’s opening night of Sleeping Beauty.

Otherwise known as Ceri Dupree, this merry monarch had no time to sit in state as there were multiple costume and personality changes demanding her attention. She paraded a galaxy of celebs from a belting Tina Turner to a mega-boobed Jordan. However, her Shirley Bassey was a bit passe and she missed a trick - and the chance of a topical song - by not morphing into pokerface pop princess, Lady Gaga.

Headliner Joe Pasquale was blinking brilliant in his role as Muddles, stealing the show with witty quips, boundless energy and a daredevil streak which saw him shoot high above the audience on a motorbike.

But he proved a loose cannon for performers Scott Mobley and Lucy Evans, playing the prince and princess, who were targets for his humorous ad-libs.

Like a shameless magpie, this family spectacular raided the best of TV’s reality shows - with amazing 3D special effects leaping out at you in a cartoon-like I’m A Celebrity’s bushtucker trial and an X-Factor style voiceover paving the way for the panto to begin.

Costumes for the most part were splendidly eye-catching, apart from the princess’s gown in the finale where she looked like a gypsy queen in a frocky horror show of billowing floral fabric.

But one princess is very much like another and one of the biggest laughs of the night came when Joe Pasquale asked a four-year-old spectator who had been her favourite character. Without a moment’s hesitation, she answered Cinderella, who yet again hadn’t been invited to the ball.

Sleeping Beauty runs at Nottingham’s Theatre Royal until January 15, 2012.

GAY BOLTON