***RECOMMENDED*** No one does fairy tales (pun intended) as well as PrideArts.
And no one does adult adaptations of children's fairy tales better than Tom Whalley. After a very successful run of Whalley's "Jack Off the Beanstalk" in December of 2022, PrideArts is once again presenting a holiday version of one of Whalley's very British pantomime interpretations with the hilarious "Sleeping with Beauty." 3 SPOTLIGHTS
For those of you unfamiliar with the style of pantomime (often just referred to as "panto"), it is a very specific type of theatrical presentation that relies heavily on audience participation to enhance the sense of merriment and it is quite popular in Britain. Not to worry, though, as the actors will not grab you to join them on stage. But the more engaged and vocal an audience is, the more energetic and ribald those actors will become. Don't hold back -- they clearly love the attention. There is no fourth wall here.
Queen Clitoris (Neill Kelly) has just given birth -- live, on stage, no less -- to her darling daughter. Twenty-one years later, Princess A'Whora (Emma Robie) is all grown up and longing for -- well, let's just say, some adult male companionship. The court jester Muddles (Jeremy Cox) is madly in love with the princess but not a suitable candidate. Enter the charming and handsome Prince Albert (Joe Lewis), who also may not be the most eligible bachelor. Complicating matters is the evil witch Malefic*nt (Korinne Yonan) and the goofy Fairy Hanny (Danielle Jean). Adding to all of the fun are two Go-Go Boys (Tyler Meyer and Joey Prette) who act as back-up dancers during the musical numbers and make short cameo appearances in various other scenes as well.
Of course, a script like "Sleeping with Beauty" needs a solid cast of actors to truly sell it. Thankfully, director Bryan McCaffrey has assembled a very lively bunch indeed. Kelly, as the Queen, has remarkably good comedic timing and a quick wit. On opening night, he was tossing off ad-libbed one-liners left and right, most of them directed at a very good sport seated in the front row who was clearly enjoying the interaction. Yonan has just the right balance of bitchy bravado and meek self-deprecating slyness as Malefic*nt. Her demonic swagger is delightful. Robie is enchanting as Princess A'Whora, gifted with a lovely singing voice. But it is Jean who surprises the most when her Fairy Hanny breaks out into a tune from the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls" which brings down the house.
Anna Wegener's music direction is admirable and the small trio of musicians skillfully handle songs which range from Eric Carmen's huge 1970s hit to more contemporary selections from Kylie Minogue, Rhianna, Britney Spears and even the newly-crowned Queen of Christmas herself (Mariah Carey), whose ubiquitous holiday song closes the show. Choreographer Kristine Burdi has done a nice job of creating complex dance movements that can be performed within a tight playing area on a smaller stage.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages is encouraged for this show. While it does have a relatively short running time, PrideArts has chosen to insert an intermission with the goal of selling more of those alcoholic beverages at the bar/box office for a nominal donation.
NOTE: "Sleeping with Beauty" is intended for adult audiences aged 18+
"Sleeping with Beauty" continues through December 17, 2023
PrideArts Center is located at 4139 North Broadway, Chicago, IL
Curtain Times: Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM, Sundays at 3:00 PM
Tickets: $35 for all performances. Seniors and students receive a $5 discount
Please visit www.pridearts.org or call 773-857-0222
Running time is approximately 90 minutes with one intermission