Aladdin ~ Malvern Theatres

Star rating: *****

Pantomime season is in full swing and there’s no denying that Malvern have the right recipe for family entertainment in UK Productions’ Aladdin. It was a Boxing Day treat indeed with a cast de force and a superb mixture of toe-tapping music too.

The show stars the inimitable Mark James, who has become a regular for Malvern Theatres (he’s already cast for next year’s production of Peter Pan!), with Jamie Steen as the most resplendent Widow Twankey and John Challis (Boycie!) as Abanazar. Audience participation was encouraged and embraced, the story was told articulately and it was traditional in the extreme which is just what I like.

There was not one weak link in the talented cast and the vocal ability of all who performed the cornucopia of well-chosen songs, was extraordinary. At times I felt as though I was watching a west end musical cast for all the right reasons.

Aaron Jenson was wonderfully engaging in the title role, he had notable chemistry with Joely Barbour as Princess Jasmine. Jacob Morris entertained as Genie of the Lamp and Loula Geater wowed as the Spirit of the Ring, comedic as well as a sparkling presence. I enjoyed Danny Rogers’ performance as the hilarious PC Pong and Gary Davis made the role of the Emperor his own, little nuances here and there transformed the part. Jamie Steen is by far one of the best Dames I’ve seen and he suited the role of Widow Twankey wonderfully. John Challis was pretty fearsome as Abanazar while Mark James as Wishee Washee had the audience on side with every appearance ‘where’s me mates?’ Brilliant!

There is still plenty of time to book your seats and I promise you won’t regret it. Oh no you won’t!

Aladdin tickets

Photo credits: Lisa Roberts photography

Dear Santa Live!

Star writing: *****

One of Rod Campbell’s classic tales is brought magically to life in festive style and you simply must catch it on tour this Christmas.

The story which undoubtedly captivated the imagination of children of all ages (even big kids!) centres around a very moralistic little girl called Sarah. Whilst decorating her Christmas tree she decides that she should write a letter to Santa. Does she ask for lots of toys? Surprisingly, no she doesn’t. Instead, in an unusual move, she asks for nothing and would prefer Santa to give her share of toys to children less fortunate than her.

There’s plenty of fun to be had with Santa’s Elf who gets the audience in an excitable mood ready for the arrival of Santa Claus. It’s packed with audience participation opportunities and lots of Christmas songs to be joined in with too.

The overall message is quite touching and Santa’s choice to give Sarah a very special present bears its own meaning too. It’s the perfect way to start Christmas and the kids can meet Santa and get a present too!

Book now: Dear Santa Live!

Dick Whittington ~ Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Star rating: ****

Panto season has well and truly started in the midlands, oh yes it has! What better way to kick off the festivities than with a trip to the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre on the theatre’s 125th birthday?

Starting Coronation Street’s Ryan Thomas in the title role, the show is jam-packed with all the old favourite pantomime traditions. It’s a fast-paced cornucopia of jokes for all ages, engaging choreography and songs that haven’t been plucked directly from the top 40, which we all appreciated in our little party.

Ian Adams (writer, director and Dame) should be glowing with pride at such a spectacular triumph. He’s a seasoned pantomime performer which shines through, however the talent he clearly possesses as far as writing and direction is concerned was not lost on me. Aaron James was on top comedy form as Jack, his impersonations alone were outstanding. Jeffrey Holland was a perfect choice for Alderman Fitzwarren, bringing his usual exceptional stage presence to the role. His energy is incredible and did cause me to wonder if he might still be able to play the Dame, a character I know he has played wonderfully many times in the past. It’s undeniable that the effervescent and incomparable Su Pollard stole the show as Queen Rat. What vocal ability! I loved her comedic take on the villainous character, she remains a force to be reckoned with for all the right reasons. As a Hi De Hi! fan myself, the reference to the show (which was fitting given both Pollard and Holland’s presence in the cast) made my night.

The special guest appearance made by Jimmy Tarbuck delighted the audience. What a superb treat! Due to the Grand Theatre’s big birthday, Tarbuck played the role of the Sultan. There were a few puzzled youngsters who wondered why there were two Sultans, as Tom Roberts actually plays the role and came on after him to carry on with the show after the special interlude. The adults in the packed auditorium were all in raptures though.

At this time of year it’s inevitable that the dreaded ‘lurgy’ will do the rounds and it does seem to be making itself known. However, this is a fabulously strong cast who gave their all, oh yes they did!

Book your tickets now: Dick Whittington

Images: Tim Thursfield – Express & Star

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