What was the middle name of the daughter-in-law of the best friend of the blacksmith who forged the sword that killed the beast? I don’t have a clue. And neither do any of the candidates being tested by Queen Aggravain on her quest to find a worthy royal wife for over-dominated, cocoa-drinking son Prince Dauntless. In a Shrek-like twist, the only bonafide true princess in the local neighbourhood passing all preposterous trials and winning the prince’s heart turns out to be a rather unrefined one. Winnifred (aka Fred) was raised in muddy swamps and booms jollily like a Kings Cross train service announcement. Originally a 1960s Carol Burnett vehicle, Mary (daughter of Richard) Rodgers’ take on the classic Princess and the Pea fairytale is a heart-warming, charmingly innocent family Christmas offering.
A cast of eager young musical theatre talent (some still finding their feet), wear their hearts on their sleeves and dance their woollen tights off to some fast-paced, impressively leg-tangling choreography by Racky Plews. Jenny O’Leary as Fred establishes some lovely chemistry with suitably bashful Dauntless (Mark Anderson). Paddy Glynn as his Oedipus-style mother ups the anti with a graceful yet commanding presence, perfectly supported by Denis Quilligan, her mute king husband who communicates energetically through charades. The production lacks detailed character development in terms of the youngsters and sometimes the general flow is hampered by some inexplicable pauses and dead stage moments. However, all in all, this deliciously ludicrous tale is America’s answer to the British pantomime tradition and a perfectly jolly seasonal outing.