I attended press night on December 1st for this years panto offering, Aladdin, at the Churchill Theatre. I consider myself a bit of a panto buff having worked far too many in my years front of house, would this live up to my expectations and get me firmly into the Christmas mood on the first day of December.
This version of Aladdin, written by Andrew Ryan tells the traditional tale of Aladdin (played by Luke Roberts) determined to win over Princess Jasmine (Jen Pringle) whilst Abanazar (Scott Maslen) is determined to reach the lamp in the cave and sets about convincing Aladdin to do his dirty work. Of course a panto has to add a twist and in this one we also meet Aladdins brother, Wishee Washee (Mark James), his ‘mum,’ Widow Twankey (Bobby Crush) and the local Policeman PC Pong (Charlie Guest). The pantomime was very traditional with your typical ghost scene, slapstick, physical humour, a dame in a plethora of outfits and children on stage and as a result it felt very safe in places. A lot of the jokes were classics and there was very little fresh material. Whilst the children loved it I think the adults in the audience would have appreciated some fresher material as well as the traditional gags.
The show was well cast, although the star of the show was Jess Robinson who played the Slave of the Ring. She has a background in impressions and made use of this along with her great vocals frequently throughout the show. Scott Maslen, of Eastenders fame and this years eye candy for the mums (and myself) did a fantastic job of being the baddy and literally appeared to throw himself into every scene. Durone Stokes (who I saw in Grand Hotel) also made a charming Genie and could not only sing and act but danced brilliantly. Durone and Scott’s duo, Step Into the Bad Side was one of my highlights of the show.
Wishee Washee spent more time on stage than Aladdin himself. He was very solid and appeared to be a firm favorite with the children in the audience. His scene with PC Pong which saw them skidding around the laundry floor was great fun for me. The 2 complimented each other well and had adult and child alike laughing, even more so at some of the uncomfortable landings for Charlie Guest. Due to the amount of water in this scene neither could wear a microphone so due to this we did struggle to hear them on occasion in this scene.
There was a good range of songs from Musical Theatre classic ‘Defying Gravity’ to Book of Mormon ‘You and Me’ as well as some of 2015 pop classics like ‘Cheerleader.’ It did however seem to lack a song that got everyone up on their feet or even clapping in time with the music.
The Churchill Theatre always has big sets and costumes galore. This year was no different with glitter galore and it was a nice touch by the set designer to have the lanterns dotted around the auditorium.
This would be a choice choice of panto for the family and children of all ages would love it. Tickets can be purchased here. The show is on until the 3rd January. I’d love to hear from you if you have seen it to see what you think!