PLYMOUTH – THEATRE ROYAL
ALADDIN until 15 January 2022
Theatre Royal Plymouth – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 21 DECEMBER 2021
The front cover of the programme for Plymouth’s pantomime this year announces the title of the show and underneath the words ‘Everything You Could Wish For in a Panto’. A bold claim that. In these strange times as theatres struggle to ward off losing shows through outbreaks of Covid, it is this positivity that the audience is looking for – something to ward off the gloomier goings on.
So, after the curtailed, but bravely staged pantomime last year at Plymouth, it is back with Aladdin to bring a smile to our faces and some laughter in our ears.
I last saw Joe Pasquale in the same theatre in the stage version of ‘Some Mother’s Do Have ‘Em’ – he made the character of Frank Spencer his own and it was hilarious. Topping the bill in pantomime is nothing unusual for the famously squeaky-voiced comedian. As with many professional pantomimes, they are built around the ‘star’ who often has a writing credit too. Thus we are offered plenty of Pasquale’s routines – the motorised toilet seat, the weeing dog….but it doesn’t matter to those who know them or those who don’t. These bits of business fit around a very loose version of the Arabian Nights story which is credited to Alan McHugh – it’s not a bad script but feels a little out of date sometimes – gags about licking stamps are a tad old really. However, there is enough material to please the audience and when the cast is good at delivering them, you can get away with almost anything.
Crossroads Pantomimes offer very eye-catching sets which are complimented by some wonderful costumes. The lighting is fun and inventive in the main, though with a little ingenuity it would be good not to see the Spirit of the Ring (Scherezade) actually go on and off stage; lighting and the SFX flash could sort this; it takes away some of the magic.
The band is first rate and bang out the numbers with gusto under the direction of Duncan Waugh – helped by excellent sound design from Richard Brooker – whoever was operating the sound effects will get a mention later.
Joe Pasquale takes on the role of Aladdin’s silly brother Wishee Washee – he is brilliant. Breathless in delivery, he reels off gags and asides with the deft touch of a comic genius – he works the audience so well and they love him! Alistair So is a heroic and likeable leading man who is blessed with a strong voice musically and otherwise. David Robbins is a super dame – decked in the most wonderful frocks and wigs I have seen for a long time – they are all his own work. Fabulous darling!
Natalie Chua is an effective Princess Jasmine and Danielle Steers are wonderfully intimidating Supreme Leader. Pete Gallagher is a splendidly evil Abanazar – another excellent voice; he belts out Bond song, ‘You Know My Name’ with panache. Scherezade is portrayed by another fine singer, Sarah Earnshaw. The hard-working ensemble are complimented by the gymnastic feats of The Acromaniacs whose routine has nothing to do with the story, but is energetic, fun and enjoyable – if a little too long.
Along the way we are offered stage illusions, an elephant, a troupe of dancing pandas, an excellent magic carpet and some pink gorillas – what more do you need? Well, yes, we see some panto staples, the revolving stool one and a rendition of ‘If I Were Not Upon the Stage’ – if I have seen that performed once, I have seen it….but hang on a minute, has it ever had me crying with laughter and not just me? No, this was brilliantly done – the sound operator was faultless throughout which added to the laughter – it is worth the admission price alone. Genius!
This is a super panto – plenty of fun for everyone – if you are not fond of jokes scatological, then you might be a bit browned off by the amount of them, but they are humorous enough and the younger audience members love ‘em!
So, does this production live up to its promise? It certainly does – a few very minor gripes – but I would highly recommend this as a real boost to everyone, giving us the injection of fun and laughter we all need.
CAST & CREATIVES
WISHEE WASHEE – JOE PASQUALE
WIDOW TWANKEY – DAVID ROBBINS
SCHEREZADE – SARAH EARNSHAW
PRINCESS JASMINE – NATALIE CHUA
ALADDIN – ALISTAIR SO
ABANAZAR – PETE GALLAGHER
THE SUPREME LEADER – DANIELLE STEERS
THE ACROMANIACS – RICHARD CADLE, CAMERON JONES, ZAC MIDDLETON, JACK WALL
ENSEMBLE – CHARLOTTE ALLOWAY, KITTY HART, LILY LAIGHT, LEWIS HERRING, AARON RAHN, HELEN ROSE, ANTHONY STARR, CHARLIE WALLIS
DIRECTORS – ED CURTIS & JOE PASQUALE
WRITERS – ALAN MCHUGH & JOE PASQUALE
MUSICAL DIRECTOR – DUNCAN WAUGH
CHOREOGRAPHER – ASHLEY NOTTINGHAM
SPECIALITY COSTUMES – MIKE COLTMAN
LIGHTING DESIGN – MATT CLUTTERHAM
SOUND DESIGN – RICHARD BROOKER
IMAGES – STEVE HAYWOOD