PANTO season is well and truly upon us, oh yes it is, and back with a vengeance is Bath Theatre Royal’s annual offering of comic capers, furious family fun and a baddie of wonderfully over the top proportions.
2016 brings us Aladdin, the classic tale of the poor soul who falls in love with a princess and will do anything to marry his fair maiden.
Mark Rhodes, of Sam and Mark fame, is our hapless hero and the Brummie presenter is the perfect leading man with energy, enthusiasm and a great voice to boot.
His aid and confidant Wishee Washee, played by Bath legend Jon Monie, carries this packed two-and-a-half-hour show with witty one-liners, hilarious slapstick scenes alongside PC Pong (Tom Whalley) and plenty of audience participation, as you would expect in any panto worth its weight in gold lamps.
Returning for a second year as dame is the very capable Nick Wilton, bringing Widow Twankey to life in all her huge-wigged glory, and between them Jon, Nick, Mark and Tom perform pantomime magic with their perfect balance of tongue-in-cheek humour and camaraderie clearly visible on stage.
Gemma Naylor, from Nickledeon’s Nick Jr Channel, does an admirable job as Princess Jasmine but it is the genie, or Slave of the Ring, played by Loula Geater who really steals the show.
Impressive throughout, Loula takes this action-packed adventure to new levels when she bursts into a no holds barred rendition of Hero.
Whilst Aladdin flies a magic carpet in the background, all eyes are on the blonde bombshell of a genie whose petite figure belies such a powerful voice.
Of course no panto would be complete without an evil sorcerer. Emmerdale and Coronation Street star Bill Ward plays the wicked Abazanar to perfection with both the loud, cackling cries all children want from a baddie and an enjoyable ability to laugh at himself which goes down well with all the parents in the audience.
Young dancers from the Dorothy Coleborn School fill the company and the set, as always in Bath, is a major achievement for a theatre of this size.
Writer and Director: Michael Gattrell Musical Director: Oliver Rew Choreographer: Danielle Drayton Reviewer: Harry Mottram
A sparkling finale from a production that is kind-hearted to the core
and delivers beautifully choreographed dancing and musical set pieces
with the fabulous vocals of Loula Geater as the Slave to the Ring
lighting up the Main House. Michael Gattrell’s Aladdin
is a buoyant, bubbling, good-natured traditional pantomime that never
allows the pace to falter and is filled with all of the ingredients
necessary for a wholesome production.
Jon Monie pulls the story together
as Wishee Washee. He invites children onto the stage to have a chat and
a go at Kung Fu, pours liquid gunge over PC Pong’s (Tom Whalley) head
and fits in birthday greetings to members of the audience while being
the comically useless brother of Aladdin. However, children complain
that he doesn’t throw enough sweets to the audience – so he shows room
for some confectionary improvement despite his commanding presence. The kind-hearted tone of the show extends to the baddie Abanazar
played with relish by Bill Ward who can’t help debunking his evil
persona with self-deprecating asides. No small child will have
nightmares over his dramatic entrances and dastardly plans to steal the
magic lamp. Up against him is the wholesome nice guy Mark Rhodes as
Aladdin who any mum would love as a son since he is so nice and sings
and dances so well. Shame about his mum though; Nick Wilton as matriarch
Widow Twankey is superbly grotesque and is just one innuendo short of
being too smutty. Of course, the shadow of the late Chris Harris still
haunts the dressing rooms of the theatre as the grand dame for many
years, but he would surely approve of Wilton’s take on Peking’s least
politically correct mum. Silk clad Gemma Naylor is suitably beautiful as Princess Naylor if an
unlikely looking Chinese aristocrat as she falls for Aladdin in a waft
of sequined veil of love at first sight. A real star turn is Tom Whalley
who brings some period piece old style music hall acting as the hapless
copper to the fore while another old style acting gem is Glyn Dilley
playing the straight man as emperor. A much-simplified storyline inspired by late 18th Century
notions of where the “East” is (Arabia, Persia, China and Morocco) in a
panto that refreshingly includes local references, current political
quips, topical notes and many a joke at the expense of residents of
nearby towns. Yes, all the ingredients of a traditional show are here
and performed with energy in a show that knows its audience. In a
cracking dance and song production, it is a pity about the dated looking
flats depicting old Peking. They look as if dropped in from a panto of
another era. A small matter perhaps but when the show zips along with
stand-out singing, exquisite dancing from the Dorothy Coleburn School of
Dance, and a cast on fire – sets and design are important.
Melissa Blease reviews this year’s pantomime at Theatre Royal Bath – Aladdin – which is on until Sunday 8 January
Like many naughty little girls, I have to admit that I do love a really good bad boy. And in Aladdin, this year’s Theatre Royal pantomime, Bill Ward (Coronation Street, Emmerdale) as Abanazar is exactly that: a really, really good baddie, subtly camp (if indeed one can describe a man wearing an emerald green-sequinned ceremonial collar, a donut hat decorated with velvet and feathers, a swooshy cape and several bling-rings worn on top of heavily embroidered gloves as ‘subtle’) and relying more on quick-witted sarcasm to get his point (world domination, in case you wondering) across rather than roaring his intentions and threats. Yes indeed, Bill is perfectly bad enough for me.
Having said all that, I’m partial to a really good goodie too, and Mark Rhodes’ Aladdin is a good little girl’s dream come true: kind, cheeky and super-sweet – the perfect Pop Idol prince. As for Princess Jasmine (Gemma Naylor), she’s, like, just tooooo pretty, while Loula Geater (as the Slave of the Ring, no less) is one part TOWIE, one part blonde version of Jordan and all parts gorgeous musical theatre diva.
But if I sound as though I’ve suddenly turned the clock back on feminist attitudes, gender stereotyping and the narrowing of the pink vs blue debate by at least five decades, then I offer you a resounding “Oh No I Haven’t” – I’m merely immersing myself in traditional pantomime territory, hanging my serious critical faculties at the door and allowing the Theatre Royal’s annual festive fest to work its time-honoured magic, abiding by a strict set of long-established pantomime rules that can never be seriously challenged.
Originally a Middle Eastern folk tale laden with allegories based around the abuse of power, the misuse of supernatural forces and the enduring effects of love (yes, really!), the story of Aladdin was dramatised for the British stage in 1788 by Irish actor John O’Keefe, and has topped the UK panto charts for well over 200 years, with the fable’s popularity being further boosted by the success of the 1992 Disney film version.
To summarise the plot, a poor boy (Aladdin) – son of laundrywoman Widow Twankey – sets his sights on a beautiful princess and goes all-out to get his gal, only to be tripped up along the way by an evil sorcerer, his magic lamp and the genie within that lamp.
Aladdin has a daft brother called Wishee Washee, and in this version there’s a policeman in the mix too. Oh, and it’s all set in downtown Peking, in an unspecified century (presumably fairly recent, as mobile phones, references to the Great British Bake Off, jokes about Donald Trump and Justin Timberlake’s hit feel-good anthem Can’t Stop the Feeling are highlight moments as the action rolls along).
Nick Wilton is, as ever, a fabulous Dame (Widow Twankey): hilarious, ridiculous, a little bit Les Dawson-esque and dressed, in all scenes, in outfits of the worst possible taste (we particularly loved the washing line fascinator and the permanently askew aprons). Jon (Wishee Washee) Monie, meanwhile, does the thing Jon Monie does best throughout the whole shebang – he’s a master of the art of comedy timing, corny and contemporary in equal measure, and always totally loveable. As for Tom Whalley’s PC Pong, well this chap’s talents are set to go stellar – he’s a permanently-sparkling, super-vivacious firecracker, fizzing with high-voltage energy.
High-tech special effects are kept to a minimum, while sets, sparkle and fabulous costumes are pushed to the fore – the flying carpet scene in particular is pretty awesome, kids, accompanied as it is by Loula Geater’s soaring vocals.
The band in the pit play a big role too, as do the dancers from the Dorothy Coleborn School and the super-glam, high-energy dancers in the Citizens of Peking chorus. All in all, this big jolly Christmas outing comes to us courtesy of one big energetic ensemble, put together with the best intentions, lashings of good-natured good fun, dollops of wit and generous sprinkles of party season magic; it’s just all good, even (and especially) that bad guy…
Stars from the Theatre Royal Bath's pantomime Aladdin have been busy about Bath, spreading Christmas joy to people of all ages. On
Thursday, December 15, principle cast members visited the Children's
Ward at the Royal United Hospital where they met young patients and
children had the chance to meet Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, Abanazar and
Dame Widow Twankey all in their colourful stage costumes.
and Coronation Street actor, Bill Ward, who plays the role of Abanazar,
said: "We feel privileged to have met some truly fantastic young people
and families today. We also chatted with some of the team who do a
wonderful job on the Children's Ward supporting the patients on the road
to recovery. "Christmas
is such a special time for youngsters and it's especially hard being
unwell at this time of year, so we were keen to transport some pantomime
magic from the Theatre Royal to the children at the Royal United
Hospital and wish them well." After
being introduced to all the patients on the Children's Ward, the
pantomime stars delivered goodie bags supplied by Moore Stephens. Lyn
Gardiner, play specialist at the RUH, said: "We were thrilled to meet
the cast today and delighted that they could take some time out of their
busy schedule to come and visit us. "They
brought fun and enjoyment to our patients and their families and it was
so lovely to see their faces when they met their favourite TV stars. We
would once again like to thank them for coming to the RUH."
It is not just children who received joy from a panto visit. On
Tuesday, December 13, actor Nick Wilton who stars as Dame Widow
Twankey, visited the weekly Age UK B&NES Lunch Club at St Michael's
Day Centre to meet diners and show his support for the charity's
Christmas fundraising appeal.
UK B&NES is currently working to raise £5,000 through its Christmas
Appeal to ensure it can help provide support for older people
throughout B&NES during the coldest months of the year.
raised will be used to assist older people in many ways, including
collecting food shopping when it is icy outside, helping them to claim
the benefits they are eligible for, as well as distributing winter
warmth packs and arranging home visits.
Wilton said: "Age UK B&NES are doing a fantastic job supporting
older people in Bath and the surrounding area through their day centres
and work in the community.
donations to their wonderful Christmas Appeal will help to provide
comfort, spread happiness and give a welcome boost to older people in
need of extra support when outside temperatures drop."
To offer help, services or to donate to Age UK B&NES, call 01225 466135.
domination is a big theme at the moment, so what more apt pantomime
than Aladdin, whose villain is a manipulative megalomaniac with global
difference between those on the real international stage and the one at
Bath’s Theatre Royal is that Bill Ward’s Abanazar is funny and
fun and excitement are what this production is all about and in the
hands of Bath favourites Jon Monie and Nick Wilton, with some stars from
children’s TV and a group of talented local youngsters, it’s the
perfect family show for the holiday season.
Ryan’s script tells the familiar story and the old favourite routines
(how could Bath panto continue without the bench and the ghost?) are
augmented by some inventive new scenes, specially the one in the
laundry. Nick Wilton’s Widow Twankey, a buxom and boisterous wench, has
an eye for the boys and costume changes to equal the Kardashian
ever loveable and rubber-faced Jon Monie is the ultimate Wishee Washee,
and Tom Whalley makes a memorable debut as PC Pong, a copper whose
vocal range could shatter glass.
Geater is an impressive Slave of the Ring, belting out her songs with
rare power. Mark Rhodes in the title role and Gemma Naylor as Princess
Jasmine make a lovely couple.
But for real appeal, look no further than the devastatingly handsome Bill Ward, a familiar TV baddie and a pantomime natural.
pretty theatre lends itself to the essential audience participation,
and as always the children are filled with glee as dragons and
launderers, princesses and flying carpets, genies and heroes dive on and
off the stage until the wedding finale. The running time is just right
to suit young families, but there are enough grown-up jokes to satisfy
Aladdin continues at Bath until Sunday 8th January.
Aladdin at Bath's Theatre Royal: A parenting guide to this year's panto and what the kids thought
Nancy ConnollyDecember 12, 2016
The pantomime season kicked
off with a bang at the Theatre Royal on Friday night, with more children
than ever in the audience booing, hissing but most of all thoroughly
enjoying this year's offering, Aladdin.
There was a great buzz outside the theatre as the show which kicks off Christmas for many families was about to open. Queues
of people with young children, some in fancy dress, gathered for what
was a very lively performance by this year's colourful cast.
Is it any good? Yes,
it is really, really good. It looks really polished and professional,
with wonderful sets, lighting and music. The dancing by the young
members of the Dorothy Coleborn School of dance is better than ever,
especially the little dancers. All the great elements of
panto are there, the handsome young Aladdin (played by children's TV
star Mark Rhodes), the dark and devilish Abanazar (Bill Ward) and the
beautiful Princess Jasmine (Gemma Naylor). But best of all is Wishee Washee played by Bath's own Jon Monie, his 15th panto at the Theatre Royal. He loves the role and is completely at home on stage, the kids loved him. Nick Wilton as the Widow Twankey is also hilarious, and they loved his ridiculous dress changes and dirty jokes.
It's really entertaining and there's so much interaction with the audience.
What the kids thought… Kristian
and Isabella Goldaniga from Camden, Bath, who both attend St Stephen's
Primary School in Lansdown, thoroughly enjoyed the panto. Kristian, 9, said:
"It was brilliant, really funny, it wasn't boring at all. My favourite
character was Wishee Washee (Jon Monie), he was so funny, I loved all
his jokes and when he was doing the fighting and saying 'Hi Ya!'. I
loved the colourful costumes as well, but I didn't like the policeman
because he was creepy. I think it was even better than last year. I like
the panto 'cos you don't have to sit quiet and listen, you can shout
and laugh out loud and nobody tells you off, it's great fun. I think
they should throw more sweets though, they only threw a few and it's not
fair on all the children who don't get any."
Isabella, 5, said: "My favourite
bit was the princess bit when Princess Jasmine was in the beautiful
sparkly dress, and all the dancers were all dressed up and they were all
sparkly and their makeup was lovely. I liked the princess because she
had long hair. I was a bit scared before it started, sometimes I don't
like the bad guys, but it was okay 'cos there were lots of other
children there and I just screamed when it was loud so I was okay. I
loved the music and lights. I think they should throw out more sweets as
well, that would be really good."
Which characters will my kids love? Both Kristian and Isabella absolutely loved Wishee Washee (Jon Monie). He has a great rapport with the kids in the audience.
Isabella really loved Princess Jasmine (Gemma Naylor) because of her beautiful, sparkly dress and because she had long hair.
Are there any jokes for the parents? There
are lots of references to current issues like Brexit, Donald Trump and
UKIP which tend to go over the children's heads but the adults enjoyed
them, and there are also some naughty, lewd jokes aimed the adults in
the audience, and they all got a laugh. How long does it last? Quite
long at two and a half hours (including an all important interval and
wee break). Evening performances can be a bit late for little ones,
starting at 7pm and ending around 9.30pm.
Will small children be able to sit through the whole show? Yes,
Kristian and his five year old sister Isabella were not bored for a
single minute, and they are a lively pair. They were completely
entertained throughout, with no dull bits and they cheered and screamed
at the stage when asked to, completely interacting with the characters.
There's great freedom in panto for kids, they don't feel restricted at
all. It was noisy though!
Can I take my own snacks? Yes.
Most of the children brought their own drinks and snacks, which can
save a few pounds. The kids loved the fact they were allowed eat during
the performance, and there is ice cream, drinks and snacks available at
the theatre. Kristian and Isabella brought jelly sweets and a drink,
they were not hungry as we went for a pizza beforehand.
So how much is it going to cost me and is it worth the cash? It's
not a cheap night out, but then again it is just once a year and it is a
live, professional performance and a great way to introduce the kids to
theatre. Kristian and Isabella loved the fact they didn't have to sit
quiet in their seats, and could laugh, joke, eat and scream at the
actors on stage without being told off. Tickets cost £9 -
£34.50 (Family & group discounts available on selected
performances) (Booking fee applies: £2.50 for transactions of £15 or
Are there any tickets left? Yes,
but some performances are very busy so you are advised to book as soon
as possible, especially if you are a family and want to sit together. To
book ring the box office on 01225 448844 or visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk.
Our family rating The
panto is a great night out for all the family, it is light hearted,
good fun for all ages and is worth the money if you can afford it.
Aladdin is a really colourful, enjoyable and entertaining show with
great music, dancing, jokes, costumes, sets and comic characters,
everything you expect in a panto. It's a great Christmas tradition in
Bath and elsewhere and it's good to support it if possible.
It has to be seen to be believed.
Aladdin as the spawn of a cross-dressing man-eating launderette boss,
chased around pagodas by a satin-clad bobby on the streets of ancient
Peking: the mind boggles.
More than any other, Aladdin takes the biscuit for barmiest, most
outlandish panto ever dreamt up. It takes one brave/crackers crew and
cast to pick up the gauntlet and lay on the madness.
To have then turned the whole shtick into an undeniable triumph is testament to the plucky team at the Theatre Royal Bath.
They are aided in no small part by the production values, which are on display throughout.
From the roll of intricate sets, to Widow Twankey’s dozen or so
costume changes, no expense is spared. Clearly every scrap of garish
polyester in Bath has gone into her harlequin hoop skirts and oversized
This would have been nothing without the cavalcade of gags and capers
that propels the performance through. Bath stalwart Jon Monie is a force
to be reckoned with as the largely hapless (always hilarious) Wishee
Washee. His off-the-cuff banter with children handpicked to karate kick
during a rendition of Kung Fu Fighting was simply priceless and one of
the standout moments of the night.
The hugely charismatic Bill Ward is clearly in his element as the
villain Abanazar. His steely glare and Machiavellian guffaw alone were
enough to reduce a baying crowd of bairns to momentary silence. He fed
off every boo and hiss, egging his riled up audience on to such a point
that he was nearly smacked square in the forehead by a particularly
aghast child leaning over from one of the boxes. His hefty turban was
his saving grace
Nick Wilton delivers a rambunctious turn as the irrepressible Widow
Twankey, and special mention must be made to Tom Whalley, aka
baton-wielding PC Pong, whose slapstick flair and powerful windpipe know
no bounds. His has to be the screechiest caterwaul in panto history.
The audience relished every last gambit, not least the grown-ups who
more than held their own, one-upping their brood on the jeering stakes.
As silly, chaotic and topsy-turvy as can be, this is Aladdin in all its
Aladdin runs at the Theatre Royal Bath until January 8.
FROM the minute ex-Coronation Street and Emmerdale actor Bill Ward
stepped on stage declaring ‘I am Abanazar’, in this this year’s
all-singing, all-dancing panto offering, it was clear that he had put
his own stamp on the role.
Not a fearsome, quaking-in-your-boots kind of baddie, more quietly sarcastic with a nonchalant air.
He brushed aside the boos and hisses and completely won the audience over.
Mark Rhodes was an assured Aladdin, belting out Justin Timberlake’s
feel-good ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ with ease and an easy smile, leaving
us in no doubt as to why he secured that Pop Idol runner-up spot a few
years ago Nick Wilton is resplendent as Widow Twankey, with bubble hair which
later became a washing line. The dame’s costumes were inspired; the
furry, animal-print coat was particularly fetching. Expect plenty of
one-liners and a ‘Christmas rapping’ special, Twankey T-style.
Gemma Naylor was a convincing Princess Jasmine, feisty and
independent, suitably outspoken against her father, the Emperor (Glyn
Theatre Royal regular Jon Monie as Wishee Washee brought the show
together, evidently at home. The jokes just kept coming and the
interlude with local children on stage was simply hilarious.
A standout star-in-the-making was Tom Whalley as PC Pong, whose high-pitched, manic antics were a joy.
Loula Geater as the Slave of the Ring reminded me slightly of
Catherine Tate and her superb voice lifted the musical numbers into the
stratosphere, particularly in the flying carpet scene, which was greeted
with riotous applause.
The girls from the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance were faultless, complementing the main characters well.
There is no let-up in the pace, which gallops along until the final wedding scene.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without panto and this year’s Aladdin does not disappoint.
The show runs until January 8.
The genie is out of the lamp in this year's panto at the Theatre Royal Bath – or perhaps that should be the genius – for this production of Aladdin is a truly magical mix of spell-binding storytelling, traditional entertainment and knock-em-dead comedy. A starry cast includes TV soap actor Bill Ward (Coronation Street and Emmerdale) as the evil magician Abanazar, and children's television presenters Mark Rhodes (half of Sam & Mark) as Aladdin, and Gemma Naylor (Go!Go!Go!) as the beautiful Princess Jasmine. From the start it's a high-energy razzle-dazzle show with the action spilling thrillingly over into the auditorium as performers and Chinese dragon dancers snake down the side aisles and on to the stage. Even more thrilling for two children (on Friday night) was Widow Twankey stopping as she passed their father – always a precarious position, an end-of-aisle seat – to stroke the gleaming dome of his head and say loudly “Hallo Gorgeous!” He'll never live that down. Oh, no he won't.
Ward is terrific as Abanazar, bringing an irresistible blend of comedy and ramped-up stage villainy to his every appearance that has the kids out of their seats booing and hissing loudly. Possibly the award-winning actor's long stints as rogue builder Charlie Stubbs in Corrie, and hapless farmer James Barton in Emmerdale, both of whom came to sticky ends, were good preparation for the role of a wicked wizard with an even worse fate in store.
Rhodes' Aladdin shows just the right qualities of handsome boy and sexy songster. The opening number Sunshine in My Pocket in which he's joined by young dancers from the Dorothy Coleborn School of Dance, cute in their Oriental costumes, gets the show off to a lively hand-clapping start.
Humour visual and verbal comes thick and fast with the usual groan-worthy jokes for the grown-ups that encompass local geography and topical politics. Tom Whalley's over-acted, over the top, alliterative PC Pong is a hoot, as is the homage to silent movie long ladder gags in Twankey's Twin Tub Laundry.
Panto veterans Jon Monie as Wishee Washee and Nick Wilton as Widow Twankey lead audience participation in trad style, no one doing that old panto chestnut of a ghost on the bench better than them. Wilton does traditional dame with wit and possible sartorial reference to cross-dressing artist Grayson Perry.
There are plenty of colourful song and dance routines – the romantic Echoes of Love sung by Aladdin, Money, Money, Money and Abanazar's Step Into the Bad Side among them. Loula Geater, who plays glamorous Slave of the Ring with attitude, innit, can also belt out a powerful tune.Storybook scenery depicts exotic, eastern promise, whether we're in Twankey's Laundry, lush royal palaces or the mysterious Cave of Wonders, and the costumes – glittering, sequinned, bejewelled – (and that's just Abanazar) fulfil every child's dream of a fairytale come true. An amazing special effects magic carpet ride, billowing smoke, sparkling lights and golden streamers descending from the ceiling add yet more to a very magical experience.
At the start of the show, Abanazar boasts of his evil powers that they are uber, dooper, super. Well, oh no they're not. Not for him anyway as he comes to a bad end. But for the panto? Yes, it is indeed uber, dooper, super, every moment of it. Oh, yes it is.
Christmas has well and truly arrived with Aladdin at Bath Theatre Royal marking the return of Pantomime season and their latest offering will have the whole family laughing, booing and cheering, and groaning at the jokes.
We love a good traditional panto and there’s everything here in this version of Aladdin that you could possibly want – all the boxes are ticked with a truly evil Abanazar thanks to soap actor Bill Ward. top notch singing from our romantic leads Aladdin and Princess Jasmine and some songs absolutely beautifully belted out by the Slave of the Ring Loula Geater bringing a real touch of polish to the musical offerings, hilarious pairing of serial-panto comedian Jon Monie as Wishee Washee and the completely over-the-top PC Pong, with a series of highly dubious one liners, but the star of the show is the brilliant Widow Twankee Nick Wilton who is rarely off the stage, with a series of increasingly outrageous outfits and some hilarious scenes with Abanazar and Wishee Washee.
My children laughed and laughed throughout and my youngest (aged 5) was totally blown away by the magic carpet segment which saw Aladdin – Mark Rhodes from Children TV’s Sam & Mark – flying out of old Peking.
The whole show rattles with gags coming fast and furious and of course lots of audience interaction, and when the action drags temporarily it isn’t long before it finds its feet again.
It’s not Christmas without a great pantomime, and Aladdin at Bath Theatre Royal provides everything you could hope for – fun, laughter, dancing and music all delivered by an enthusiastic cast. It is the perfect tonic for 2016, a laugh out loud performance which will delight young and old.
Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Bath review Ian Waller and his family enjoy a wonderful evening out at Aladdin at The Theatre Royal Bath
10th December 2016
What a treat! Christmas time means the Theatre Royal Bath pantomime
and this year’s production of Aladdin has to be one of the best ever.
With a wonderful cast, hilarious script and just the right amount of
traditional combined with modern touches, Aladdin is, without doubt, a
surefire hit for all of the family.
There’s a wonderful,
homely atmosphere to the Theatre Royal that makes it such a perfect
venue for something as traditional as a good old pantomime, allowing the
audience to feel close up and engaged with the fun. This year’s
production adds to the event with a great cast including star of
Emmerdale and Coronation Street Bill Ward as the evil Abanazaar, CBBC’s
Mark Rhodes as Aladdin, the ever-popular Jon Monie as Wishee Washee and
returning for his second year, the hilarious Nick Wilton as Widow
Each of these name stars appears to embrace the fun and frivolity of
the show, helping to bring the most of a superb and very funny script.
All of the old favourites are – of course they are – from the ‘oh no he
didn’ts’ to the singalongs, slapstick, songs and audience participation.
And that’s the wonderful thing about pantos – you know what’s going to
happen and that’s all part of the fun of it. My three children loved
jokes about pants and farts, while the audience could giggle at the more
grown-up references to Donald Trump, Nigel Farage and the awful threat
of being banished to Melksham! Asked for their favourite scenes, my
three all chose the slapstick silliness in the launderette, the hilarity
of a bucket of water over the head showing its timeless qualities.
Bill Ward makes a wonderful villain, smiling malevolently at the audience as he milks their boos and welcomes the hisses. Mark Rhodes,
meanwhile, is the perfect leading man, handsome and charming, with a
great singing voice and cheeky grin. But best of all though has to be
the double act of Jon Monie as Wishee Washee and Nick Wilton as Widow
Twankee. Jon Monie has developed into a first-rate panto star,
exhibiting superb comic timing and knowing exactly how the jokes – old
and older – should be told for best effect. Meanwhile panto dame supreme
Nick Wilton raps, dances, sings and sashays with superb comic effect,
channeling an inner Les Dawson to great effect and with a wardrobe that
would make the average mardi gras queen blush. Saying that, it would be a sin not to laud the wonderful supporting
cast. Tom Whalley as a PC Pong is hilarious with a performance that
takes over the top to new heights, while Loula Geater as the Slave of
Ring brings a TOWIE style and a great voice front and centre. We really can’t recommend this production of Aladdin enough – it’s
the best panto we’ve seen in years and an absolutely perfect way to
welcome in the Christmas season. Aladdin runs until 8 January 2017
ALADDIN at the Theatre Royal, Bath ★★★★ Graham Wyles 10th December 2016
Jon Monie and Nick Wilton are entertaining us at the Theatre Royal
Bath – so it must be Christmas! Mr Monie has become the consummate
panto comic lead. His is the kind of performance that allows you to sink
comfortably into your seat knowing you are in good hands. His Wishee
Washee is that artful blend of standup comic and likeable character that
reaches out to the younger members of the audience whilst keeping up a
flow of knowing one-liners that whizz over their heads to the mums and
dads, keeping them chuckling all the way through the show. It’s a
particular kind of role, native to panto, which Mr Monie has thoroughly
mastered and clearly enjoys. Similarly Nick Wilton is firmly in touch with his inner ‘dame’; a
role he in turn can rightly claim to have mastered. His Widow Twankey
is, like Mr Monie, a lesson in timing. Moreover he has understood that
as the dame it is not necessary to indulge in a great blancmange of
overacting (Elizabeth Dennis’s gloriously colourful and witty costumes
do that for him), but to play it as a (nearly) straight, if somewhat
desperate (thex thtarved) lady of a certain age. The two stalwarts
working together are a joy. Providing the plot for all the jolly nonsense, Bill Ward, as
Abanazar, gives the right sized dollop of melodrama to get the audience
firmly on anybody else’s side but his with wails of boos at his every
move. Loula Geater as the Slave of the Ring provides magic and glamour
in equal measure with a performance of manicured precision. As if that
weren’t enough, her singing is powerful, clear and adds a touch of class
to the production. The other standout voice is that of Gemma Naylor as Princess Jasmine.
With Mark Rhodes as a bright and likeable Aladdin, they bring
necessary sentimental goo to the proceedings as the unlikely lovers of
Old Peking. Tom Whalley gave us an energetic P C Pong whilst Glyn
Dilley was the amiable Emperor. The whole concoction is nicely tied up with music from a tight
sounding trio under Oliver Rew, and some crisp dancing. The little ones
from the Dorothy Coleborne School were particularly charming, but with
all the chorus line being as slick as you like. The set and lighting
brought colour and atmosphere with the added bonus of a clever magic
carpet ride. Aladdin is everything a panto should be: a colourful family
show firmly anchored in a warm-hearted festive tradition with a simple
story and entertaining performances all round.