Writer: Liam Mellor
Director: Chantelle Nolan
Reviewer: John Roberts
At just under two hours, this year’s festive offering of Aladdin at St Helens Theatre Royal is a surprisingly slick affair. It’s bold, vibrant and keeps itself firmly on track, bringing all the traditional elements of the genre together and never out staying its welcome.
Chantelle Nolan has arguably produced and directed the tightest and strongest pantomime in the region, her cast gives it everything and are clearly having a ball. With its stunningly vibrant set design and costumes that exude colour and glitter at every opportunity, you would be forgiven if you wanted to don a pair of sunglasses. It’s a shame that Darren Paine’s lighting design doesn’t reach the same standards and is more mediocre than magical. The songs come thick and fast combining modern hits and golden oldies and even an interesting melody of Disney numbers all of which sound rich and fill the auditorium with ease.
Headlining the cast are The Only Way Is Essex’s Amy Childs as The Slave of the Ring and Harry Derbidge as PC Noodle. Childs looks great on stage and seems to be enjoying her time on the stage, is she the best performer? No, but that doesn’t stop her really getting stuck in. Derbidge, however, is hilariously camp and really comes into his own during Act Two’s brilliant lip-sync battle, here is a personality not afraid to make himself look silly and it pays off in dividends. In the titular role, David Heath as Aladdin has bags of charm, as does Josh Bennet as the Genie of the Lamp.
Olivia Sloyan as Princess Jasmine looks and sounds every inch the panto princess. Ben Engelen delights both young and old as he whizzes across the stage giving us his very best as Wishee Washee but it’s Simon Foster as Widow Twankey and Warren Donnelly as Abanazar who really steal the show. Foster is on fine form as the down-on-her-luck washer widow, each year his dame comes on leaps and bounds and this year is his best yet. His jokes are on target and his dresses out of this world – especially his noodle dress. Donnelly brings the evil to the stage and gains plenty of boos from the audience throughout proceedings.
For a fast-paced, fun-filled rollercoaster of a pantomime, then put Aladdin in St Helens at the top of your list. This is the finest and best-looking pantomime this venue has produced in years and now sets an incredibly high benchmark for future productions – this reviewer looks forward to seeing the results.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: David Munn