So what do you want from Pantomime? Traditional story? Family fun?
Music, laughter, spectacle and sparkle? Well get along to the Grand Opera House because it’s all there!
Grand Opera House, York
Till Jan 1, usually 6.30pm with 1pm or 2pm matinees
Aladdin is one of pantomime’s most glamorous stories: a meteoric rise from poverty to wealth by way of a magic lamp… oh and a ring with its own personal slave.
This production, the first by Three Bears Productions, is packed with everything an audience expects.
The show seamlessly weaves together: music, dancing, slapstick comedy, enchantment, spectacular transformation scenes and the added spice of characters played by stars from popular television.
The opening chorus sets the scene for a fast-moving romp through old Peking. Carl Tracey as Aladdin is a bundle of energy and charisma, his princess played by Suzanne Shaw is a delicious creation, becoming every little girl’s dream heroine; certainly, the little girl next to me in the flashing pink tiara thought so.
Widow Twankey is my favourite dame. Played by Steve Wickenden she is funny, sharp but rather self-contained. It was Stuart Wade’s Wishee Washee whose comedy and energy carried the action forward.
There is more audience interaction and participation created by Wishee than I have seen in a long time. Stuart is also the director and definitely led by example.
The costumes and props are colourful and effective but Aladdin’s magic carpet ride is sensational. I gasped with amazement at its ingenuity and mysterious suspension.
The 3D ghost sequence, glasses provided, is also a novelty, giving a brand new spin to the “he’s behind you” routine. The young audience adored it. The creative team truly excelled.
Obligatory topical references include Brexit, side swipes at X Factor and of course The Chase for which Paul Sinha, who plays Abanazar, is famous. There were Uber rickshaws and Fulford references; all the things to make the locals smile.
There were also innovations, like the killingly funny tongue-twister which volunteer children from the audience had to repeat, before we were asked to sing it. Brilliant, naughty, harmless fun!
The plot has been subtly changed to give Debbie McGee a larger role as a lively slave of the ring and Wishee a part as the unwilling genie of the lamp. These are all clever and effective devices.
My favourite was the idea of a timer ticking as Aladdin tried to find the lamp before the cave opening closed.
The music and dancing is excellent and includes a cute babes chorus. Musical director Dean McDermott is to be congratulated. I particularly liked the love duet sung by the principals: a clever blend of This Is The Nearest Thing To Crazy and I Think I’d Better Leave Right Now.
Youngsters enjoyed the upbeat routines and Copmanthorpe Brownies danced their way out of the theatre.
My only reservation is that Abanazar is a terrific villain to play and Paul Sinha never quite achieves the style and bravura needed. Still there are a few more shows in which he can ‘chase’ this performance.
I love panto. Where else is there entertainment for the whole family? This production ticks all the boxes.