Writer / Director: Paul Hendy
Musical Director: Rob Eckland
Choreographer: Sarah Langley
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
The pantomime season is here again and this year’s production at Sheffield’s Lyceum does not disappoint. Aladdin has glamour and glitter, sparkle and splendour, singalongs, shouting and, of course, the customary baddie alongside a man in a dress. How much more magic could anyone ask for onstage in the festive season?
From the off the audience is involved, with members of the ensemble in the auditorium leading the singing and clapping to start the show. The oriental theme is strong, with beautiful dragons adorning each side of the stage, and tunic costumes reminiscent of traditional old Peking. Abanazar is soon introduced as a force to be reckoned with, and Chris Gascoyne of Coronation Street fame playing the rôle makes a very convincing comic baddie. If only he was allowed to pursue his ambition of becoming a Shakespearian actor, and shake off the Peter Barlow label, but no one’s about to let him forget that one. Aladdin (local lad Jonathan Halliwell) and Princess Jasmine (Elizabeth Carter) make a perfect, innocent couple in love and everyone knows they will win through in the end. But it’s all the fun and silliness along the way that makes this pantomime so special.
Damien Williams is an experienced dame, and Widow Twankey from the Chinese laundry this year is gloriously brash, outrageously dressed, and refreshingly politically incorrect. Who else could get away with regularly abusing poor James sitting in the stalls; wearing a whole array of washing products as a hat; leering at Mr Tumble in the Gay Times; and parading dubious assets in a tight stripy number? Oh, and is it really true that Tesco was developed to keep the riff-raff out of Waitrose?
Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee (aka CBeebies’ Alex Winters) make a great double act, and the scene where they tell a story accompanied by a cart of magazines is hilarious. The comic trio is completed by PC Pongo (James Mitchell), and the rendition of their version of The Twelve Days of Christmas is truly refreshing – never mind the 12 gallons of water that they gleefully spray over the poor unfortunate folks in the stalls. Is that Sum Ting Wong? No, it’s just PC Pong reeling at one of the 2745 custard pies he’ll take on the chin during this run of Aladdin. There’s the infamous bench scene, with mummies standing in for ghostly ghoulies, and Old Macdonald’s Farm complete with a trout … it’s all quite mad really.
Glamour is provided by Hilary O’Neil and Eddie Elliott as the glittering Spirit of the Ring and Genie of the Lamp respectively. The Spirit demonstrates her wide experience in entertainment, and does amazing impressions of diverse individuals from reality shows such as Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celebrity; while the Genie wows all the female members of the audience with his hunky physique. Every member of the ensemble does a wonderful job; the smiles and singing infectious.
The special effects are amazing as always at the Lyceum: the magic lamp floats across the stage; a couple of the characters get to ride a flying carpet (no mean feat in such a large theatre); there’s a stilt-walker; the dancers eat fire; and elephants that just have to be seen.
Come along to see this show. It’s one for all the family with the adults enjoying it as much as the kids. It is guaranteed to give everyone that warm glow, and the “audience patronisation” will get even Mr Grumpy into the festive spirit. Oh yes, it will!
Runs until Sunday 3 January 2016 | Image: Robert Day