Aladdin

Date 22nd November 2019
Society South Manchester AOS
Venue Z Arts, Manchester
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Stephanie Niland
Musical Director Tom Guest
Choreographer Beth Abram
Producer Kevin Proctor

Report

Author: Martin Craig

We all know the story of Aladdin or at least the general gist of it. A moral tale of good triumphing over evil and love conquering all – without even a hint of swiping left or right! Aladdin falls in love with Princess Jasmine and vice versa, but there is a catch - the Princess is only allowed to marry a prince and Aladdin is no such thing - he`s just a poor boy from a poor family who works with his mother (Widow Twankey) and brother (Wishee Washee) in the launderette. Cue “Uncle” Abanazer and his well worn ring - from here we travel to far flung places meeting Ring Slaves, Genies, incompetent coppers, Emperors, a handmaiden, a mummy and so much more - with singing and dancing ensuing throughout!

Abanazer, the supposed Uncle of Aladdin was played with dramatic effect by Kenny Logue - evil and devious to a point, it wasn`t long before the audience were booing and hissing his every entrance - you could tell that Kenny was relishing the role and loved playing the baddie calling on Vikki Bullar`s Slave of the Ring to do his bidding. The Slave is instrumental in the story telling, and Vikki played the role with aplomb.

Mike Miller and Annie Davies as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine worked really well together, with plenty of interaction between all other characters, the audience and each other. Both characters were a lot more spirited than many others I`ve seen, and the Panto was all the better for it.

The role of Wishee Washee was played by a very energetic and exuberant Andrew Ryder zooming around the stage and getting into all kinds of mischief. Andrew had the audience in the palm of his hand - his child like innocence with a naughty streak shining through. The scenes with Wishee and Widow Twankey were great as both bounced so well off each other.

Kevin Proctor`s Dame (the for-mentioned Widow) has to be one of the best Dames I`ve seen. The dryness of wit and delivery were absolutely spot on. It was an absolute pleasure to see somebody who knows their craft presenting us a well-honed and polished performance with wigs and costumes to match.

The two incompetent policemen, PC Chop and Sargeant Suey (Kallum Edwards and Sarah Phillips) kept the audience amused throughout with their physical comic antics and Chop`s outbursts of singing, only to be chastised at every step by Suey - their rapport with each other was, at times, inspired.

The other two members of the Palace we met were Sho-Shy (Laura Aremia) - Princess Jasmine`s handmaiden and the Emperor, Princess Jasmine’s father played by Matthew James. You could really imagine Laura`s So-Shy not just being Jasmine`s best mate, but also her wing-woman on a night out if ever it were needed.
On occasion, I have seen the role of the Emperor being played as though the performer were playing Hamlet, so seriously dour- not so with Matthew he had a total understanding of the absurdity of the character and in doing so gave the character more depth and humour. Both he and Laura added so much more to their characters than the walk-on roles they could have been.

Then, of course, we had the Genie played by Tom Farnworth. Think Julian Clary and you can`t go far wrong. As camp as a Mexican tablecloth with every line delivered with a cheeky innuendous grin and comic timing to boot.

As with all Pantomimes there were other roles, too many to mention for fear of forgetting somebody, but be assured you played your parts well. Chorus numbers were lively, energetic and executed extremely well. Every chorus member was totally attentive to everything that was going on around them, each with their own characterisation.  I haven`t even mentioned the singing as yet, but suffice to say the sound created (working with backing tracks), whether as a chorus or principal was excellent - not one weak link throughout.

Staging was quite simple with flats, cloths and props with larger props when necessary for set pieces. Lighting and sound were really good with a careful ear attuned to what was happening onstage so all tracks happened exactly when they were supposed to.

There`s nothing like a good pantomime to warm your cockles and set off the festive season and this was nothing like a good Pantomime….. this was a blimming great pantomime! It was so well written - hats off to Kevin Proctor, not only as the dame, but having the humility to share stage-time and jokes equally amongst the cast.

If I had one criticism at all it may have been that the show may have been a little long for the kids, but hey, I didn`t bring any and could quite happily have sat there for another two hours being entertained by this lot!

Choreography by Beth Abram - what can I say? It really was excellent - every number was slick, polished, relevant and each piece so different to it’s preceding number - Well done.

Musical Director Tom Guest and Director Stephanie Niland must have had a ball with this one and although neither job is never easy, working with a cast like this must have felt that it was.

Thank you so much, South Manchester AOS for your invite and your hospitality.