Writer: Alan McHugh, with additional material by Billy Pearce
Musical Director: James McCullagh
Choreographer: Stillie Dee
Director: Ed Curtis
Reviewer: Sue Collier
Bradford Alhambra’s 2018 pantomime is that of Aladdin, set in Peking. As the son of Widow Twanky, a lowly washerwoman, Aladdin falls in love with Princess Jasmine. But there is evil afoot from the wicked Abanazar. Can Aladdin and his brother Wishee Washee save the day? Or will Princess Jasmine fight on alone?
Prior to the start of the actual performance, a range of seasonally charming events are offered. Upon approaching the theatre, snow is falling, fireworks shoot into the sky, children are singing Christmas carols and Santa Claus meets the excited audience. 3D glasses are distributed for use during Act 2.
Widow Twanky is played by the veteran Pantomime Dame, Christopher Biggins who wears a wonderful array of outrageous and visually stunning costumes. Adults and children appear willing to join in anything asked of them and it feels like somewhat of an opportunity lost to not have the Dame build up more of a creative rapport with the audience. And when we initially meet Abanazar, (played by David O’Mahony), the music drowns out his explanation of the evil plan to steal the magic lamp from Aladdin.
Aladdin is played by Simon Webbe, who has a wonderful singing voice but more could be made of this strength. The role of Scheherazade, the Genie of the Ring is played by Emily Beth Harrington whose voice is the best on stage. Her rendition of Defying Gravity during the magic carpet scene is outstanding.
There is a high level of energy on stage and in his 20th consecutive pantomime season at the Alhambra, Billy Pearce is still the star of the show. He gels the production together by engaging with an enthusiastic audience from start to finish. Pearce is an expert pantomime artist. His gentle humour is funny, without overuse of adult innuendo. His jokes are current and make pleasing, witty references to the locality of Bradford. After asking “Will I ever get a Girlfriend?” Pearce is jovially heckled by an audience member. His response is quick, witty and creates much laughter. He is constantly on-the-go in a seemingly physically challenging role.
As always, the famous Bradford children’s troupe The Sunbeams, provide high-quality performances to complement the adult chorus. They offer an audience of children the dream of an exciting life on stage in show business. Though the live orchestra complements the singing, as has happened in previous productions, during some scenes the song lyrics are lost beneath the volume of the orchestra.
The scenery is simply stunning. In particular, the colourful red and gold opening scene of Old Peking makes the audience gasp with delight. The costumes are fresh, colourful and visually appealing.
Act 2 presents the highly anticipated 3D spectacular of visual effects. This takes the audience along the River Nile to The Pyramids, where a range of monsters seemingly spring out towards individuals, causing them to duck and shriek with delight.
This production of Aladdin is recommended and has significant strengths. The Flying Carpet scene is simply stunning. It is impossible to tell how this visual effect is achieved and it appears that Webbe and Pearce fly out over the audience and even turn upside down. The Genie of the Lamp is very amusing with his distinctively strong Yorkshire accent. The Short Sleeve Shirt sketch is very funny and the use of a camera filming the audience creates a very appreciative response.
Runs until 20 January 2019 | Image: Contributed