Sleeping Beauty ~ Rhyl Pavilion Theatre

Sleeping Beauty stays at Rhyl Pavilion Theatre until 6 January 2018 – BOOK NOW! www.rhylpavilion.co.uk/sleeping-beauty/

Star rating: ******

I’ve seen more than my fair share of Pantomimes this season – oh yes I have! I’m having a ball and I’ve liberally dished out the stars which have been richly deserved. However, I have found one which deserves more than five stars, and that’s Sleeping Beauty which is gracing the stage of Rhyl Pavilion Theatre.

I couldn’t find fault with this stunning spectacle if I tried and there’s not one weak link amongst an exceptional cast who each play a full role in the show. Unlike many shows I’ve seen before where a Fairy might only be seen for a few key scenes and a King would appear a handful of times – every character is at the hub of the perfectly paced production.

There’s a fantastic mixture of musical numbers and with Sarah Jane Buckley as Fairy Snowflake, Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse and Amy Thompson as Sleeping Beauty herself, at the helm, musically the show is already in superb hands. All three female leads have stunning vocal capability which they demonstrate to the maximum. Add Sean Jones to the mix as the hilarious Silly Billy and Chris Warner Drake as the Prince and the performance level is taken to another dimension. With Charles Burden as Nanny Glucose bringing a wealth of experience to the show and Sam Patrick making an excellent Pantomime debut.

The combination of modern material blended with traditional madcap pantomime high-jinx delighted the packed house and truly makes this a pantomime with something for everyone. Family orientated with jokes for adults and the smaller members of the audience.

The scenery is quite something, providing an elaborate backdrop fitting for the fairy tale. There are a few special effects which I won’t spoil, however the quality of the content means that effects are merely a bonus feature. Magic is created by every actor on stage who are each giving 110% to make this a pantomime de force.

The opportunities for audience participation are plentiful, the fourth wall is smashed, just as it should be. Sean Jones is nothing short of a comedy genius and his natural talent is reminiscent of the comedy heroes I grew up watching. Charles Burden’s Nanny Glucose is an able sidekick for Billy, a traditional Dame indeed with many quick changes and a superb range of costumes. Chris Warner Drake played the Prince as a solid, dependable hero and he was a perfect match for Amy Thompson as the gentile and beautiful Princess. I’ve seen Thompson as Sleeping Beauty previously and she never fails to impress me, she is one of the finest Pantomime Princesses I’ve seen. Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse was a revelation to me, such a seething, feisty and fiery baddie – Entwistle embraces the role and gave an outstanding performance. As for Sarah-Jane Buckley, she’s the epitome of magic, sparkle and silliness. She’s glitzy, glittery and also offers precise comic timing and a West Country accent! The best Fairy in Panto-land, in my humble opinion.

If you’re in need of a post-Christmas pick-me-up then this seaside extravaganza is just the ticket and you’ve got just over a week to see it.

Sleeping Beauty ~ Malvern Theatres

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres until 8th January 2016 – to book visit: Malvern Theatres Website

Star Rating: *****

What a pantomime, in all the best senses of the word, Sleeping Beauty in Malvern is most definitely my pantomime of the season. It has been cast perfectly with stars who all grasp the concept of family entertainment and the heart of the tradition and have produced a glorious show which has really put me in the festive spirit.

The set provided an elegant backdrop, the costumes were fabulous and it was clear that this has been a real team effort where everybody should be commended for creating a magical party atmosphere. This pantomime take on the fairy tale varies slightly to the Disney version which most people are aware of, but the basics are all there and the straight forward story was easy to follow for my young toddler, he enjoyed every moment.

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Chris Pizzey stars as Silly Billy and has also directed the show.

Directed by Chris Pizzey, the story of Sleeping Beauty is told through a terrific mixture of popular musical numbers, slick and well placed choreography and the tongue in cheek humour that one associates with this genre of show. Amy Thompson is a beautiful Princess Rose, she has all the gentile, too-good-to-be-true loveliness but she avoids portraying her as sickly sweet and brings some substance to the role. Her vocal ability is stunning and she has wonderful chemistry with her Prince (David Barrett). Barrett plays the role in a humorous super-hero style but doesn’t take the character too seriously, which works. He is well-matched vocally with Thompson and I felt that the audience were on his side. Rebecca Wheatley was a wonderfully giggly and sparkly fairy, she was superb at telling the tale both through narration and song, I was already familiar with Wheatley’s singing voice and she didn’t disappoint. Chris Pizzey also took the role of Silly BIlly “when I say Silly you say Billy!”, as an experienced children’s’ entertainer he was spot on in the comedy role and his cheekiness was infectious. Quinn Patrick was my kind of Dame, as Nanny Glucose he interacted brilliantly with the audience, picking out a ‘boyfriend’ from among the audience. His comic timing was particularly on point and he had a hilarious scene with Pizzey in act two involving a ‘mirror’, what was a highlight. I was also delighted to hear Patrick call upon so many classic pantomime jokes, all of which he executed fantastically. What of the baddie? I hear you ask? Oh yes I do! Gillian Wright (who made her appearance to the tune of the Eastenders theme) is now my all-time favourite pantomime villain. As Carabosse, her evil laugh was a joy to behold, she coaxed the audience participation from the outset and she threw herself into her big number, proving that she is so much more than just Eastenders’ Jean Slater. Wright can sing, dance, express so many emotions with facial expressions which was entertaining in itself and she clearly enjoys what she’s doing. I would travel anywhere to see her on stage again.

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Gillian Wright is my favourite baddie to date! Fabulous as Carabosse.

If you want a traditional, family pantomime with plenty of opportunities to sing along, featuring a classic love tale told by a superb cast, this is the one for you. I can’t recommend it highly enough, a first class production.

Spotlight On… Richmond Theatre’s Star of Sleeping Beauty, Maureen Lipman

Maureen Lipman is a national treasure and well known for a myriad of fantastic performances in comedies, dramas, commercials – she can turn her hand to anything. Her impersonation of Joyce Grenfell is my over-riding memory and yet her talents stretch way beyond that example. Now, she’s treading the boards as the wicked Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty at Richmond Theatre. I can testify that Lipman in pantomime is something to behold and she embraces the experience to the hilt. I had a chat to Richmond’s resplendent baddie about the show and her new book…  

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Maureen. What do you enjoy about pantomime?

The sheer fatigue of two shows a day is lifted by the interaction with the audience. Thinking on your feet, adding topical jokes reacting to their reactions is energising.

What’s the best part of playing the baddie?

The devil gets the best tunes! My Carabosse has hark/ back moments to Grenfell and Beattie and some mimicry, childish, spiteful – all fun things to play.

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Ms Lipman is embracing the glamour and sparkle that are part and parcel of being Richmond’s most glitzy Villain!

Is it an easy role to take on?

Yes. It seems to play to my strengths. I am honestly loving putting on the sparkle and slithering around the stage. I love it when they boo and hiss at me too.

What are the strengths of this particular pantomime?

CHRIS JARVIS understands children – what they like and he has such a rapport with the house. As a director he is just kindness and care combined and collaborative too, which, after fifty years as an actress- means a lot to me. The young actors can really sing and dance and act – triple threat, and the kids are adorable and so professional.

Why do you think that pantomime is still an important part of British tradition?

Variety is missing from our lives and our screens. Sacrificed to murder and cakes. People love to be involved in a live experience. To see a traditional show through the eyes of their children is uplifting.

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Carabosse taking refreshments before she returns to banter with the audience – oh yes she will!

I think I’ve read most, if not all of your books so far, tell me about your latest one…

It is a small book of my cartoon paintings done on Art Set on my I pad. Eighty four studies of the famous in animal guide, punning on their names: ie: AngeLEMUR Jolie and Brad PITT- BULL, ANGELA MEERKAT, MOORHEN Lipman and TUNA STUBBS. Interspaced with animal jokes it is one heck of a stocking filler and a percentage of the royalties goes to Myeloma UK.

A final word from Richmond’s Carabosse to all of the lovely people who haven’t bought a ticket yet?

Look it is a little Pop oriented for my taste but when I see all those kids, grandparents and parents on their feet dancing every night I know we have a hit on our hands.

And we’re cheaper and cleaner than the Palladium! Get down the box office, you won’t be disappointed – Oh no you won’t!

Huge thanks to Maureen for taking the time out of her really hectic festive schedule to chat to me. Her book looks like it will be the perfect stocking filler, this Christmas! Don’t forget to book your tickets by following this link: Richmond Theatre

A link to Maureen’s new book: https://www.bitebackpublishing.com/books/it-s-a-jungle-out-there

Photo credits: Anna-Lisa Maree

Sleeping Beauty ~ Richmond Theatre

Sleeping Beauty is on at the Richmond Theatre until Sunday 8 January 2017: http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/richmond-theatre/

Star rating: ****

My first pantomime of the season and what a start it was! I have not had the pleasure of watching a pantomime version of Sleeping Beauty, before, but this was a delight from beginning to end. Directed by Chris Jarvis, who also starred in the show, this magnificent piece of family entertainment had a set de force, a fantastic range of both modern and classic musical numbers and tight choreography from Katherine Iles. Plus glorious costumes for which kudos must go to the wardrobe department.

The main star attraction was Maureen Lipman, she played Carabosse, the put-out Fairy who is not invited to Princess Beauty’s Christening and reacts accordingly! I have never seen Lipman in a pantomime before and I was keen to see her transition from the variety of other work for which she is well known. She was, without doubt, one of the best baddies I have seen. Lipman’s quick-witted humour lent itself superbly to pantomime and she was both terrifying and hilarious in equal measure, as well as fabulously turned out. Gags from her popular impersonation of Joyce Grenfell and the old BT advert lines were cleverly interspersed and there appeared to be a good deal of recognition from the audience. Everyone should see Lipman play the baddie, she is extraordinarily good at being bad.

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Maureen Lipman stole the show as wicked Carabosse

Chris Jarvis, who must be commended for directing the production, was a lively and likeable Chester the Jester, definitely a thumb’s up from me for his antics and excellent chemistry with Lauren Hood who was a very sweet Beauty. It was difficult to take Dan Partidge seriously as the Prince, but I felt that was because he picked up on and worked with the tongue-in-cheek style which befits Britain’s finest tradition. Partidge had a fine singing voice and ballads were certainly his forte. Matt Rixon was resplendent as the Dame, Nursie. There were plenty of gags about his being a man dressed as a woman and his height seemed to enhance his performance and make it all the funnier. Graham James made me chuckle as the doddery old King who needed a hearing aid as opposed to a baby daughter, really! Tania Newton was quite the shining star as the Queen and wouldn’t have been out of place in Eastenders, only it would have to be a much lighter hearted version of the hit soap opera, as her comic timing was spot on. If anything, Newton is underused and more could have been made of her part.

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Chris Jarvis as Chester the Jester

A few special effects were used, but otherwise it was a basic pantomime which relied on humour, story telling and well chosen songs to carry it through. There was an abundance of audience participation and interaction, it felt like a very traditional affair and I recommend this as the perfect family pantomime to kick-start the festivities.

Photo credits: Craig Sugden

Spotlight On… Malvern Panto ~ Sleeping Beauty Star, Amy Thompson

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

Amy Thompson is a recognisable face from Five’s Milkshake, but this Christmas she is transforming into a beautiful Princess to lead the story of Sleeping Beauty at Malvern Theatres. Amy chatted to Break A Leg about the show:

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Hi Amy, thank you ever so much for talking to Break A Leg, what are you most looking forward to about panto this year?

Being back here in Malvern, because I did my very first professional pantomime here in 2009 with UK Productions and I was Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk. It’s nice to be back and this will be my eighth pantomime now. To come back here a bit more seasoned and playing a Princess is just lovely. The audiences here are lovely and the new cast are great, this is the third time I’ve played Sleeping Beauty. Sleeping Beauty is a Princess from the start, too which is nice to play, I’ve played Snow White and Cinderella and they’re downtrodden to start with and then become Princesses.

What makes you excited for this year’s panto?

I’m excited every year but I think this year we have a strong mixture of people in the cast and we all get on really well.

What do you like about playing this type of role?

My job is to tell the story truthfully and tell it well, I like getting lost in the part and playing out the story of this young eighteen year old who has had all of this building up in the background, everything had been building up to her important birthday.

My costumes are beautiful and although I don’t know what my songs are going to be yet, I’ve always had lovely songs to sing in the past.

What do you love about panto?

It’s so much fun and I don’t think it’s Christmas without panto. I love the audience reactions and the fact that it’s a lovely story to tell.

What would you say to the people of Malvern who may not have bought a ticket yet?

 This script is very truthful to the story, laced with fabulous songs and a brilliant cast, lots of comedy, something for all the family. Whether you’re three or eighty three, there’s something for everyone.

Thanks for chatting to me, Amy – can’t wait to see you strut your stuff!

 

Spotlight On… Malvern Panto ~ Sleeping Beauty Star, Rebecca Wheatley

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

Rebecca Wheatley is recognisable from a number of shows on stage and screen, I know her best as Amy from Casualty. However, this Christmas she dons her fairy wings and is set to take Malvern Theatres by storm. I chatted to Rebecca about the show:

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Hi Rebecca, thanks for talking to Break A Leg, have you performed on stage in Malvern before?

I have, I done two shows here, I did Menopause The Musical and I came here with Pickwick Papers. It’s a beautiful theatre isn’t it? Really lovely.

What do you enjoy most about panto?

I just think it’s great fun, you never feel more Christmassy than you do when you’re doing panto, it’s hard work but it’s a good traditional show and I love going to a panto, too.

Have you played a fairy before?

I’ve never played a fairy before, I’ve been a nurse and I’ve been a mermaid…

What will you bring to the role of the Fairy?

I will be fun and a bit cheeky, there will be magic, sparkle and extra twinkle.

Have you been on the receiving end of the good natured hecklers before? It seems to go with the territory with pantomimes!

I’ve never experienced that before, I’m steeling myself!

Moving on from panto, briefly and onto Casualty which you last appeared in sixteen years ago, do you miss being in the show?

I loved being in the show, we were al one happy group together which gradually dispersed and I miss working with that group. There’s something special about working in an iconic show, it was a lovely job which launched a lot of things for me.

What had inspired you to become a performer to start with?

I think when I was a child I was a show off an noisy and I love making people laugh and playing characters.

Finally, what would you say to potential audience members to encourage them to come and see the panto?

It is absolutely the one thing that you have to do every Christmas, it’s tradition and it’s a lovey Theatre. There are lots of surprises and it’s got heart, fun and games and I think we all need a bit of that!

Huge thanks to Rebecca for a lovely interview and I look forward to seeing her play the Fairy for the first time, very soon!

 

 

Spotlight On… Malvern Panto ~ Sleeping Beauty Star, Chris Pizzey

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

Chris Pizzey is abandoning Basil Brush (one of his regular colleagues) for the pantomime season and joining the gang in Sleeping Beauty at Malvern Theatres, he’s playing Silly Billy and directing the show! I caught up with Mr Pizzey to find out all about this year’s extravaganza.

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The cast are getting ready to entertain you at Malvern Theatres

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Chris, is it gong to be your first time in Malvern?

No, it’s not, I am returning as three years ago I directed Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, here.

This year you’re playing Silly Billy?

Yes, lots more silliness and magic and all sorts!

Have you played that type of character before?

Yes, I do a lot of that kind of thing and I enjoy it, it’s a good comedy part to play.

Basil’s (Basil Brush, one of Chris’s side-kicks) not joining you this year?

Basil’s not joining me for this one but that’s fine, we’ve been together all summer on tour.

What differences do you find between working in a pantomime and appearing in shows such as The Basil Brush Show?

There are differences as a performer, I think many people can look at panto and think it’s just a bit of silliness but it’s not at all. If you get it right you’ve got a fantastic story where you are gripping the kids, maybe for the first time in their life. So you’ve got the truth of the story which is the essence and everything’s got to hang off that. Then you bring into the mix all of the comedy and magic, all the big dance numbers. I want our dance numbers to be West End standard, they’ve got to be as good as we can make them. Too many people think “it’s just panto”. There’s lots of fantastic visual effects as well. So, panto isn’t the same sort of thing as we do with Basil Brush, Basil is real Vaudeville, slapstick for the kids, whereas panto has got the truth, the love and the magic of Christmas, it’s also got the fun and mayhem all bundled into one.

What do you think of the heckling that goes with the territory?

Oh, well you always get hecklers but I love that, I say bring it on! There’s nothing more that I like than going off at a tangent, getting the spotlight up and saying “OK, let’s have a chat!”. I think that’s another reason why people love panto, every show is different and you don’t know what you’re going to get back, you’ve got to be ready to ride the wave, it’s all fun and games.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket to come and see Sleeping Beauty?

You must come and see Sleeping Beauty because it’s got all of the tradition you’d expect from a panto and we’ve got some serious special effects. Especially as we build towards the crescendo in act two we’ve got some fantastic special effects that I think are going to set us apart this year. It’s going to be a real moment for the kids, I know what’s going to happen and I know they’re going to be saying “woah!”. We’ve got a great fight scene which it’s worth coming to see the panto for, alone! Plus it will be a jam packed show with fun and mayhem.

Thanks to Chris for his time and I look forward to heckling him in December!  

 

Spotlight On… Star of Malvern Theatres’ Sleeping Beauty, Quinn Patrick

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

Quinn Patrick plays the role of Nurse Nelly and I chatted to the seasoned Pantomime Dame to find out what he’s looking forward to this year:

Thanks for talking to Break A Leg, Quinn. So, this year you’re playing Nurse Nelly in Sleeping Beauty, but how many times have you played the Dame to date?

This is the tenth time that I have played the Dame, I’ve played one half of the Ugly Sisters three times and various bumbling old Kings, too. When I first played the Dame I knew that was what I wanted to do.

Do you own many of your own costumes, as many Dames seem to do?

I’ve got a lot of my own costumes, I’ve not done Sleeping Beauty before, so I need to find out what the scenes will be so that I can link the costumes in. I worked for UK Productions for the first time last year and they have lots of lovely costumes.

How do you deal with the customary heckling? Do you have a ‘bring it on’ attitude towards them?

I’m not afraid and I don’t goad, I’m not worried about the heckling because it’s panto and you expect some heckling if they’re enjoying it. Some audience members get a bit lost in the moment.

What is your favourite part of pantomime and the performance?

You put the shoes on and the whole things feels the same as the last time, but different too, if you know what I mean? There’s the rehearsals and meeting the new cast, the technical week where it suddenly comes together. Then you have the first night and you’re really glad you get through it. You work hard on the comedy, but when you get in front of an audience the job really begins. The audience reaction ensures that you keep the good stuff, you mustn’t be afraid to cut stuff. Some material might be great in rehearsals but doesn’t work when you’re in front of an audience.

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The cast of Sleeping Beauty getting ready to entertain at Malvern Theatres.

What’s the best thing about this tradition?

The wonderful thing about panto is it’s the only time where you’ll get different generations of family at the theatre together. All ages sitting in a row from a two year old to an eighty year old.

What can the audience expect from Sleeping Beauty?

Lots of flying which sounds exciting and a really strong cast, too. I worked with Gillian (Wright, who’s playing Carabosse) last year and she’s fantastic. She’s such a nice lady and so funny, that when she plays a horrible character, you don’t expect it.

What would you say to encourage people to come and watch?

Come and have a good time, it promises to be a good show. We’ll all be up there doing our best for you!

Thank you so much to Quinn for chatting to me, I can’t wait to bring my little boy to see you.

 

 

 

Spotlight On… Star of Malvern Theatres’ Sleeping Beauty, Gillian Wright

Sleeping Beauty runs at Malvern Theatres from 15 December 2016 to 8 January 2017, for more information and to book your tickets for this fabulous family pantomime, follow this link: http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/events/event/sleeping-beauty-2/

The character of Carabosse is the equivalent of Maleficent in the pantomime version of Sleeping Beauty, produced by UK Productions. Would you believe that Eastenders’ very own Gillian Wright (Jean Slater) is stepping into the shoes of the wicked ‘fairy’? I think she’s going to be brilliant and I enjoyed a chat with the lady herself:

Hello Gillian, thank you for chatting to Break A Leg, so first of all tell me, have you played a baddie before and do you enjoy playing the baddie?

Yes, I have played the baddie before and I really enjoy playing the villain!

Do you prefer playing a wicked character?

I have played a few good fairies before, but I do prefer playing the baddie because you get more meatier stuff to do. Although I think playing both the good and bad roles are great to do, pantomime is special.

How does being in pantomime compare to other stage work such as How The Other Half Loves, which you’re currently appearing in?

Well, How The Other Half Loves is a comedy so there is a lot of laughter and it’s very rewarding to be in something where you get a good audience reaction. I’ve really been enjoying this and it’s not every day you get to do an Ayckbourn, which is rewarding in itself and requires you to be rigorous because the script is so tight. Pantomime is a particularly different style of work, but hopefully we’ll get a good amount of audience participation.

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The cast of Sleeping Beauty are getting ready to take Malvern Theatres by storm!

Moving on to your career as a whole, what has been your absolute favourite role to date?

That is a difficult question, but I really like what I’m doing now (playing Mary Featherstone in How The Other Half Loves) she’s a very nervous character and she has quite a big journey in the play. I know I will love playing the baddie again, though and I’m looking forward to starting panto. Of course, I was very lucky with the writers in Eastenders, they wrote very well for my character and that was a privilege to play.

Of course, you were Jean Slater in Eastenders, how did you find that experience?

I had a lot of support, especially when I first went in originally all those years ago. Obviously you do your own research and your own homework, but I had support from somebody who suffers from Bipolar and he was always on the end of the phone for me. I needed him less and less as the role went on, but to begin with I needed his help to understand and he was very good at telling me what the darkness would be like.

I think that mental health issues now are a bit more openly discussed and it’s not quite something to be ashamed of quite so much anymore.

Finally, what would you say to encourage people to buy a ticket and come to see you and the rest of the cast in Sleeping Beauty?

For those people who have never seen a panto before, it’s such a British tradition and it’s one of those things that’s on your Christmas list of things to do. I’ve got a really good feeling, especially now I’ve met some of the cast, today, and I’ve performed with Quinn Patrick (playing Nurse Nelly) last year and we had so much fun together. For those who have seen panto, it’s got everything in it, this should exhilarate you, have you laughing, hopefully some of the little ones will be scared because I think it’s equally important for them to be scared of me. Then there’s the romance of the story and the wishes, hopes and dreams. I also think that seeing a panto is part of Christmas and as important as Christmas dinner!

I’d like to thank Gillian for chatting to me at Malvern Theatres on 30 August, it was a real pleasure to meet her and I look forward to booing and hissing her in December!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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