Alban Arena, St Albans
5pm, 12 December 2017
If you look at a poster for Aladdin at the Alban Arena, underneath the name of Bob Golding, in a place normally reserved for the words, EastEnders or CBeebies, or whichever popular TV programme the performer has been whisked from, it simply says “Legend”.
It’s a term banded around all too freely these days but in Goldings’ case I’ll stick my neck out and say it’s true. This is his seventh consecutive year in panto in the city and I know of people who go simply because he’s in it. And when he announces that he’s Widow Twankey “this year”, knowing laughter and applause from the audience shows that people recognise his enormous contribution to festive fun in St Albans.
His superb comic timing, knowing looks, general banter and ability to work with mistakes both real and rehearsed (I can never tell which) make every scene he is in a highlight. But in all fairness, his work with another stalwart Ian Kirkby as Pongo and the always amiable Phil Gallagher (aka CBeebies Mr Maker as Wishee Washee) who himself has played the St Albans panto a few times – move everything up a notch even further. The trio work together effortlessly, are totally at ease with each other and their scenes together are just a joy.
There’s a clever routine using popular shop signs, a fun laundry scene and a hilarious 12 days of Christmas routine with the slips on the custard pies – whether real or faux – had the audience in hysterics. Even the usual pantomime bench scene acknowledges that it’s not a new concept, which all adds to the fun.
But while these three hold the audience in the palms of their hands, it’s not all about them.
Impressionist Hilary O’Neil as the Spirit of the Ring provides even more fun and Genie Eddie Elliot is possibly the coolest Genie I’ve ever seen with some enviable moves.
Former EastEnder Karl Howman plays Abanazaar as a frustrated actor who would rather be on a Shakespearean stage and as such, the humour he brings makes him more of a lovable rogue than an out and out villain.
Then the lovely Lucy Kane as Jasmine, Sam Hallion as Aladdin and George Telfer as the Emperor complete the team admirably.
Aladdin flying across the auditorium on his magic carpet amazed the youngsters and Widow Twankey doing the same for an unsual and deservedly unique curtain call amazed us all.
As always, this is a top notch show with something for all generations of the family, packed with songs, dancing, colour, glitter, topical jokes and groanworthy ones – which leave you going out into a cold night with a warm Christmassy glow.