Date 9th January 2020
Society All Souls Dramatic Club
Venue The Atkinson Theatre, Lord Street, Southport
Type of Production Pantomime
Director Jacqui Lewis
Musical Director Adam Dutch
Choreographer Philippa Sandiford + Katie Palfrey (Assistant)


Author: Jim Briscoe

The story of Aladdin revolves around his rags to riches life as the son of a washerwoman who, despite not being allowed to gaze at Princess Jasmine, spies on her and eventually falls in love with her. The evil Abanazar seeks wealth and power and attempts to use Aladdin to fulfil this dream whilst the Spirit of the Ring and the Genie of the Lamp help unravel the story further. This modern adaptation was written by the ever so talented Cliff Gillies. 

‘Opening Night’ an ‘almost full theatre’, an ‘amazing cast list’ and as an ‘atmosphere of excitement and anticipation’... as instructed, I sat back, relaxed and waited for things to unfold!

It was evident from the start and throughout the production that everyone on stage was enjoying being part of this pantomime.  It’s always difficult with such a large cast (fourteen named principle cast members and around 25 chorus members and dancers) to start highlighting individuals without possibly doing injustice to others, but, having said that, I do feel it would be remiss of me not to stick my neck out and highlight some of MY personal favourite performances and at least give mention to all those involved ….

The ‘Star of the Show’ for me was Jhanaica Mook – who took on the role of Princess Jasmine, a role which she so easily made her own!  Shod in ‘Dr Marten Boots’, which were laced up and ready, she just oozed stage presence. Confident, believable and blessed with a superb singing voice; Jhanaica’s rendition of ‘Flashlight’, which started with a slight wobble which she covered and recovered from superbly well - was amazing - a highlight of the show for me... well done young lady be ever so proud!

Following close on Jhanaica’s heels was the ever so talented Hayley Murray who took on the lead role of ‘Aladdin’. Hayley looked totally comfortable in this role and formed a great partnership with Jhanaica. Confident, stage presence aplenty, great diction and another blessed with a superb singing voice which she used to great effect in ‘So am I’ and ‘Beggin’...  well done Hayley, be proud!

Neil Woods was despicably evil and made a terrific ‘Abanazar’.  Neil is a great character actor and is more than capable of ‘working the audience’ really well. Confident, another with great stage presence, again made this part his own... well done sir!

From ‘baddie’ to ‘goodie’ or should I say ‘goodies’ – Hayleigh Griffin played the first of our two ‘helpful magical spirits’ the ‘Spirit of the Ring’; her opening number with the Company... ‘Raise your Glass’ got the production off to a great start.  Craig Billington replacing Ian Lawson as the ‘Genie of the Lamp’ did a great job. Again confident, good stage presence and his song ‘For Forever’ sung with Aladdin and the cast was first-rate.  Both worked well alongside Aladdin and Jasmine...well done you two!

I was ‘over the moon’ when I saw we had two ‘comedy duo’s’ in the form of Joanne Wasilew and Tracey Holmes- Smith who were playing ‘Abanazar Sidekicks’ Whoo and Wen’ respectively and Christine Swash and Jenny Roby playing the ‘Policemen’ ‘Hanki Panki’ and ‘Jiggeri Pokeri’ (all four have comedy running through their veins)... I thought this was going to be hilarious and their initial entrances were just that and more... but, the hilarity thereafter was became only ‘fleeting’ and I know this had nothing to do with the actors –  but I just felt both duo’s got slightly ‘swallowed up’ somehow and we never really saw the best of either... gutted! 

Sophie Parkes made a good ‘Wishee Washee’ and Mark Walsh did a great job playing ‘Widow Twankey’... loved the costumes!  Chris Gerring played ‘Sultan Watt’, John Hardiker - ‘Waterfield’ and Ana Woodward - ‘The Vicar’.  The ‘Boy Band’ was played by Hannah Grunshaw, Melissa Bennett, Gabbi Haddock and Rachel Merrill. Making up the rest of the cast was - Paula Sumner, Margarita Haddock, Vicky Snape, Carole Birch, Sue Hardiker, Katie Palfrey, Hayleigh Griffin, Ella Moss, Alishia Pantellerisco,  Sammy Knowles, Laura Kearns, Chleo Judd, Sian Fletcher and Louise Webster and finally the Junior Dancers from the ‘So Talented Academy’ - Summer Long, Amelia Moran, Lauren Brown, Kai-enna Mook, Laila Bates, Fleur Wigmore, Lexie Bates and Olivia Halsall .

The ‘staging’ was minimal with just the band set behind a ‘gauze’ to the rear of the stage.  Scenes were depicted by ‘projected images’ to a screen set above the band. I did feel that the addition of a ‘cloth or two’ for the ‘big scenes’ – such as in ‘the cave’... would have enhanced the production and allowed the ‘Technical Wizards’ to create some more imaginative effects ... personal opinion I suppose!   Lighting/Sound was superb as always and really did enhance the production; but we did have an issue with the ‘haze/smoke’!  I totally understand how helpful and important ‘haze’ can be, especially to the lighting and in creating an atmosphere... but, as in this case, it can and did cause some major issues!   Congrats to Matt Hughes (Production Manager) and his Technical Team and to Andrea Claire (Stage Manager) and all her ‘Pushers and Pullers’ backstage on a job well done!

I’ve already mentioned the superb sound...but the sound from the band was equally impressive... congrats to Adam Dutch (Musical Director) and his amazing band members...  superb!

The costumes, as always, were amazing!  Individual costumes; chorus costumes; colour schemes outstanding... congrats to Mary Hall, Mandy Eglinton, Chris Watkinson, Barbara Mitchell, Pauline Barker, Hilda Blomley and Kim Keggin on a job well done....keep sewing ladies!

Congrats to Jacqui Lewis (Director) directing her first All Souls Pantomime and her Production Team of Philippa Sandiford (Choreographer) and Katie Palfrey (Assistant Choreographer) who devised some clever choreography which played to the dancers strengths... well done ladies!

Having mentioned the ‘Comedy Duo’s’ I don’t feel I can finish without offering a small piece of ‘constructive criticism’ as part of an explanation. This is totally my opinion and obviously I can only comment on the production that I saw that was ‘Opening Night’!  I am aware, that like me, ‘someone’ thought that ‘Opening Night’ was a little too long which resulted in a number of songs being cut from the show!  They always say ‘play to your strengths’ but with All Souls being blessed with so many talented people... singers, actors, dancers, comedians, technical wizards etc...  to try and play to everyone’s strength can sometimes cause problems!  For me... the balance on ‘opening night’ was slightly out, with ‘music and dance’ overwhelming the ‘script and the comedy’ and the ‘comedy duo’s’!  Twenty plus songs sung in their entirety was, for me, too much!  Unlike musicals were songs ‘have’ to be sung in full... panto songs, because they are usually ‘personal choices’, can be just sung in ‘part’ or as you did - removed.  I do feel that less music would have created a better balance and may well have allowed for the comedy to be more prevalent ....again just MY opinion.  I do hope I haven’t caused offence by mentioning this, I apologise if I have, that was never my intention... these are just MY personal thoughts and opinions!

Thanks for inviting my wife and I, we really did enjoy the production and hope to see you all again next year!