Guild Hall’s new panto era starts with a Beauty

The prospect of having a 100-year-long kip might sound appealing to frazzled parents at this time of year, but there’s certainly nothing snooze-inducing about this year’s Preston pantomime.

Sleeping Beauty Charlotte Dalton with Hayley Hassall
Sleeping Beauty Charlotte Dalton with Hayley Hassall

You might have already had your fill of mince pies or had enough of hearing department stores playing endless festive songs but Christmas never really feels it’s truly begun until panto season has begun.

Sleeping Beauty is the first in-house panto under Preston Guild Hall’s new management Guild Promotions and they really have waved a magic wand and produced a fresh and funky take on the traditional pantomime.

Phil Walker, who also plays Silly Billy in the production, wrote and directed the show and has done a sterling job on and off stage with plenty of comedy, modern songs and special effects to keep both adults and kids entertained.

As Silly Billy, his comical facial expressions, quick wit and impeccable timing ensured the laughs kept coming.

All the cast did a wonderful job with Phoenix Nights’ Archie Kelly playing The King as though the regal role was made for him.

His gags made for a great double act with Silly Billy.

Forget Maleficent played by Angelina Jolie in the Hollywood film, Jacqueline Leonard plays a truly evil Bad Fairy who curses Princess Aurora to death by spinning wheel on her 18th birthday.

Sleeping Beauty Jacqueline Leonard

Famed for her TV roles, including parts in EastEnders and Coronation Street, Jacqueline seems to truly relish her wicked role and inspired plenty of boos and hisses from the crowd.

Hayley Hassall from BBC children’s Newsround is a perfect perky and cheerful Good Fairy and her acting is full of energy and enthusiasm.

However, her singing during the Little Mix song Black Magic was a little flat, although that might just have been opening night nerves. Fortunately, the wonderful dancing from the youngsters from Sandham Fitchett Performing Arts detracted from any wrong notes.

Charlotte Dalton as Princess Aurora and Ian Curran as the Prince made a charming hero and heroine and their singing and acting went down a storm.

Sleeping Beauty Phil Walker

Children always like hearing their favourite and the latest modern songs, and they certainly got those in this panto.

Uptown Funk, Happy, Fleur East’s Sax, Sam Smith’s Writing On The Wall, Rachel Platten’s Fight Song and the catchy What Did The Fox Say were just some of the tunes heard.

In true panto style, there’s all the old favourites from the water pistols coming out to the being lost in the woods and singing only to find there’s “someone behind you”.

There’s even plenty of local humour such as the Prince being “Prince Luke of Leyland” and a cheeky joke asking whether Preston North End have won the Premiership yet after the 100-year slumber.

Sleeping Beauty Archie Kelly

And of course, some of the funniest moments are the unscripted ones at the end of the show when a few youngsters are chosen to go on stage to have a chat and a singalong.

From the reaction of the audience on the opening night, Preston’s panto team have conjured up a winner.