The rock 'n roll panto features a multi-talented company of actor-musicians

By: Dec. 05, 2022
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Review: GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, New Wolsey Theatre Goldilocks and the Three Bears is one of the lesser known titles in the pantomime collection, but it has seemed to find a recent resurgence; and the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Director Peter Rowe are known to enjoy dusting off the less-obvious names and giving it a rock'n'roll twist.

We start with the pop of a pyrotechnic and meet the sprightly Fairy Aurora (Natasha Lewis) who narrates the story of Dame Belinda Big Top (Steve Simmonds) and her circus as they hit hard times. Poor Belinda faces competition from rival circus owner, the wicked Wilberforce T. Whippum (Richard Costello), and his two dopey sidekicks Flog'em and Fleece'em (Will Hamilton and Hannah Baker, respectively), who are raking in the coins with their animal acts which includes Dexter the dancing dromedary.

In fact, Belinda has even had to send her dear daughter Goldilocks (Lucy Wells) and her Three Bears (Adam Langstaff, Tasha Shande, and Elizabeth Rowe) over to Whippum with the hopes of them bringing home some extra money, as Whippum plans to buy Belinda's big top and pull the pegs on her show.

Together, Belinda and her daughter Goldilocks must work with ringmaster Tommy Topper (Jared Leathwood), Bobo the Clown (Luke Thornton), and Ali the Aerialist (Natasha Lewis) to hatch up a plan to set the animals free, escape from Wilberforce T. Whippum's evil ploy, and give Belinda's old carnival the boost it needs.

From the moment you walk into the auditorium, Cleo Pettit's set design transports you right into the world of circus, from the jolity of Belinda's big top to the sinister mood at Wilberforce T. Whippum's Wonderful World of Wildlife tent, all supported by Richard G. Jones' atmospheric lighting design too. It took me back to childhood when I spent summer holidays being taken to the circus, and felt on-trend with young generations having been captured by the likes of The Greatest Showman and a live-action remake of Dumbo in recent years.

As expected, Dame Belinda gets the best selection of the camp and colourful costumes, and Steve Simmonds has mastered their Dame look and characterisation of sharp-edged dry humour, which locals have come to love. I enjoyed all the costumes, but if anything I would have liked to have seen more of them as most of the characters kept the same look throughout. Another New Wolsey favourite is Lucy Wells, who shines as Goldilocks with gorgeous vocals and charm throughout. Richard Costello also gets audiences eager to react with his wickedness as Wilberforce T. Whippum.

The cast is made-up of a multi-talented company of actor-musicians, playing over twenty classic songs in the infamous rock 'n' roll pantomime form live on stage. It's always such a unique and fun experience getting to see the cast jump from character to instrument instantaneously, and I never doubt their talents. Though the song choices didn't bang in quite the way I'd hoped. Most of the choices fit the themes of the show well, but the energy never wholly lifted and I felt like I was waiting for the big number that got everybody going, but it never came.

The plot also didn't really pack much of a punch, and it now feels clear to me as to why this is a title that is usually kept in the drawer. The show just felt a little lost and lacking in the usual high-energy, loaded laughter, and charm that you expect to get in a New Wolsey panto. That said, it knows its audience and the fans were out in full force with young tots dancing in their seats to elders itching to start chanting "he's behind you!" as soon as they could. I'd still encourage you to roll up and get your tickets to this family-friendly staple for some wholesome fun!

Goldilocks and the Three Bears runs at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich until 28 Jan 2023, and will also be live streamed from Thu 15 Dec 2022 - Mon 2 Jan 2023.

Photo Credit: Mike Kwasniak