'They don't make them like they used to do'.........oh yes they do! It's that time of the year when mature level headed adults take a visit to the theatre and join in the fun much to the amazement of their kids...... can that really be granny standing and booing at the stage characters? Mum shouting out 'it’s behind you?' Dad well, Dad dancing? Yes, kids this is the one time you don't have to sit still in your seats and keep quiet, get along to the wonderful Grand Theatre, Blackpool and make as much noise as you can, the louder the better!
Tonight, on the opening night of Aladdin, this mature and sensible reviewer is now feeling very croaky after shouting along with the rest of the almost capacity audience at the antics taking place on stage. (I didn't even have the excuse of a child with me!) Aladdin is this year's festive season offering and in true form, as in all the best panto's, there is love and romance blossoming with a Princess and the leading man (yuk the boys are thinking, 'oooh a Princess' the girls are sighing!) comedy and slapstick by a whole host of characters, fabulous dancers, bright and colourful imaginative costumes and fantastic sets with special effects including a magic carpet. Of course, no panto would be complete without a 'stunningly beautiful dame' (I may have been bribed to add that) and the one everyone loves to hate, the evil baddie and this is the one occasion being booed at is testimony to how good they actually are! Throw in songs old and new and a fabulous band and you are guaranteed a show with it all.
Star of childrens TV is much loved favourite, Barney Harwood, performing as Aladdin who is madly in love with the beautiful Princess Jasmine (Lacy Jordinson) but as the son of a poor washerwoman, the widow Twankey (accomplished panto dame, Philip Meeks) he despairs of being rich enough to marry the Emperors (Ronnie Leek) daughter. Learning from a newly acquainted 'Uncle' Abanazar (Mark Moraghan) about an oil lamp which houses a magical Genie able to grant wishes but is located in the Cave of Wonders, Aladdin is tricked into retrieving it for him but becomes trapped in the cave. There are boos aplenty every time Abanazar makes an appearance and deservedly so.
The widow Twankey's fashion sense is brash and bizarre as expected and the innuendo is abundant rising above children's heads but bringing laughter to the adults. Star performer of the evening is BBC Radio Lancashire presenter Steve Royle as Wishee Washee, Aladdin's brother. His interaction with the audience and ad-libbing is brilliant, although it has to be said he was upstaged by the three children, in particular 'Haydn' plucked from the audience to play in his band! Royle is making his fourteenth performance in panto at the Grand and has an easy and relaxed manner but brings mayhem to the stage with his antics. Trying to keep it all under control is Mark James as PC Pong who fails miserably and serves only to add to the chaos.
Radio Wave presenter Hayley Kay is making her fourth appearance at the Grand and tonight she is performing as the Slave of The Ring. Along with Lewis Kelly as the Genie of The Lamp will they ever be set free from their duties? Making numerous appearances are the children of The Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre who all perform beautifully with enthusiasm and well rehearsed choreography.
So will it all end 'Happy Ever After'? Will Aladdin escape? Will the Princess marry her true love? Will Widow Twankey be all of a lather?
There is only one way to find out and that's to whisk yourself off on a journey of fantasy and fun and book tickets at: https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/event/aladdin/ which continues until 8th January 2017 with matinee performances available too on selected dates.
Reviewer: Lorna Weekes
Reviewed: 9th December 2016
North West End Rating: ★★★★