by Sally Churchward.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Goldilocks and the Three Bears is the most spectacular show I have ever seen (December 13).
It has more lights than have ever before illuminated the Mayflower stage and is an incredible experience for the senses from the first moment the curtain goes up at the Southampton theatre.
But the show didn’t just look good. It was extremely entertaining with a tight cast who bounced seamlessly off each other, playing the show for maximum laughs for all of the audience – about half the jokes would have flown over younger audience members heads but delighted adults, while the kids were still chucking about the latest trick Sooty had played on Richard Cadell. That said, they mostly involved Jason Donovan’s long and varied career, with references to Neighbours, Kylie Minogue, his hit singles and Joseph, rather than anything too blue.
Despite the title, the Three Bears (Shakira Simpson, Shona White and Ewan Goddard) are in supporting roles. The story is of evil Count Ramsay of Erinsborough (Jason Donovan) who wants to get his hands on the aforementioned bears for his Circus of Nightmares, which he’s set up as a neighbour (cue for plenty of jokes) to that of our hero, Joey the Clown (Richard Cadell), his mother Dame Betty Barnum (Adam Strong) and Goldilocks (Faye Brookes).
The Barnum circus is in financial dire straits, the bears could save the day until the Count kidnaps Baby Bear and Joey has to step in as the star. It all ends happily ever after, of course.
The show jumps straight in after an introductory dance from the ensemble with a striking and somewhat scary scene, with a wonderful turn from Jason Donovan as the evil Count Ramsay. His performance, combined with the lighting, loudness and uncanny giant circus animals were a bit much for the younger members of my party. While I was pretty blown away by the spectacle, the youngsters were watching through their fingers.
Those with sensitive children would be well advised to stay away from the front of the stalls and book the rear stalls or circle for a less intense experience.
Richard Cadell as Joey the clown and Sooty lightened the mood shortly after, and thanks to their hilarious antics, the nasty Count was put to the back of everyone’s minds.
I’d been dubious about how well a hand puppet would hold an audience in a theatre as vast as the Mayflower, but the task held no challenge whatsoever for Sooty and his human sidekick. From audience interaction to slapstick humour, the entire auditorium was eating out of their hands – not the one with the puppet on.
Despite his chilling entrance, Jason Donovan showed himself to have great range and his natural humour took the edge off his baddie persona.
One of the comedic highlights which must have taken untold hours to rehearse, was a scene in which Donovan and Cadell bounced off each other, dropping in and out of character, with Cadell/Joey irritating the Count/Donovan by miming seamlessly to snatches of song after song, from Do You Want to Build a Snowman to Push It. It was one of those scenes that was so expertly executed that it was only after that I reflected on just how much work must have gone into making it look effortless.
There were some great fun scenes, including the extremely watchable Adam Strong in the role of the Dame, Goldilocks (Faye Brookes), Joey and the Count going full panto with lots of silliness and slapstick performing a version of the 12 Days of Christmas.
Special mention must also be given to the scene in which Joey’s clothes disappear thanks to Sooty’s magic and a truth machine. My small companions will be laughing about that for a good year.
The production made the most of the circus setting and featured genuine circus-style acts including some breathtaking rollerskating from The Skating Sensations (Armando and Jane), a dramatic balancing act from Rolla Rolla/Junior Lichner and some impressive magic that left me frustrated that I’d been unable to figure out any of it.
The ensemble were totally on point throughout – the show would merit a second watch to pay more attention to what some of the secondary performers were doing while the main actors were in the limelight.
One of my highlights belonged to the set designers – an incredible giant elephant that loomed out across the front of the audience – a genuine ‘wow’ moment, one of many on the show.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a show with no weak links.
The staging was utterly breathtaking and the designers and crew deserve a standing ovation of their own.
The performances were funny, charming, engaging and the show would have been well worth watching even if performed against a black curtain, thanks to the writing and warm performances of the spectacular cast.
Combined it makes something incredibly special – a wonderful night out that childhood memories are made of.
Tickets for Goldilocks and the Three Bears, which runs until December 31, are on sale at mayflower.org.uk or 02380 711811.
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