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Alban Arena, St Albans
29 December 2012, 5.00pm

Apparently we are going to see Aladdin again next week! According to V that is, who was transfixed by the whole spectacle and is desperate to go again!

The fact that she is normally tucked up in bed by 7pm and yet from 5pm sat through a 2.5 hour show without getting antsy, is testament to just how enjoyable it is.

It is fast-moving and well staged with jokes coming thick and fast in Paul Hendy’s hilarious script. The audience is encouraged to join in throughout, which by the end leave you breathless from laughing and shouting!

Comic timing

Phil Gallagher is practically God in our house, due to his Mister Maker show on CBeebies, and so having him there in the flesh meant that he was on to a winner from the start as far as the kids were concerned.

As Aladdin he blends aimiability, excellent comic timing and the ability to form a real rapport with his audience, which makes the need for the usual Wishee Washee character redundant. Instead, his comic foil is Chinese Policeman PC Pongo played by Bob Golding who again is superbly funny and together they make a great double act.

Their enthusiasm and the fact they both seemed to clearly be having fun carries the audience along on the same wave of enjoyment.

Making up a great comic threesome is the hugely talented Sam Rabone as Widow Twankey, who, despite still being in his 20s, has mastered the dame’s pantomime patter and pulls it off better than those I have seen who have been daming for decades.

His vast array of spectacular costumes, different in every scene, are impressive and wondering what on earth he will put on next adds to the fun.

The threesome’s 12 Days of Christmas routine provides great slapstick with more custard pies that you can shake a stick at – and the number of times they fall over, scripted or not, provides some of the biggest laughs of the whole show.

Frustrated performer

All the characters have their comedy elements, with Nathaniel Morrison brilliantly portraying a funky disco dancing 70s style Genie of the Lamp, complete with platforms and gold-lame, and thinking he was God’s gift to the ladies.

Meanwhile, Kelly Chinery was an Essex-based Spirit of the Ring who could have walked straight out of TOWIE.

Jemma Carlisle was a charming Princess Jasmine with impressive vocals and Stuart Nurse an eccentric, yet authoritative, Emperor.

Shaun Williamson is a simply superb Abanazar. The villainous character in this panto is a little more comic than scary and was simply billed my my toddler as “the naughty one”.

I loved the idea that he was a frustrated performer, determined to be the finest actor of his generation, all of which made him more camp than frightening, while still attracting a wealth of boos. You literally loved to hate him and Williamson plays it to perfection.

The premise also allows for copious Shakespearean quotes liberally sprinkled throughout the script which more than satisfied the English literature student in me!

His continual pleas not to call him Barry, a nod to the role he played in EastEnders, were not only funny but also added to the crossover of the Shaun/Barry/Abanazar characters and helping highlight the idea that the character may not have fulfilled his acting potential!

Other highlights worthy of mention are the flying carpet effect, which looked rather dangerous, and digs at neighbouring towns. My personal favourite was when Aladdin was trapped inside the cave and warned, “You’ll be locked up until Luton Town win the cup.” He shouts in despair, “But that will never happen!”

This Aladdin story is still traditional but Evolution Productions have made it fresh and together with charismatic performances, its confidence and energy make this show as polished as the lamp!

V’s verdict

I loved the flying carpet. It was an old carpet but Mr Maker stood on it and it flew and the stars came out and he rescued the princess from the naughty one and they all lived happily ever after in new dresses.

Running time

2.5 hours including a 20 minute interval but certainly didn’t feel like it. It flew by!

Age range

A complete family show. The latest performance is 5.00pm and finishes at 7.30pm so not too far past bedtime for the really little ones.

Other stuff

Reasonable merchandise – programmes £3 – and various flashy things between about £3 and £6. We got a flashing wand for £3.50.

Runs until 6 January 2013


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