The tag line on the front page to this years panto programme at the Royal & Derngate is ‘Everything you could wish for in a panto’, on the most part this show delivered on it’s promise.
Stunning sets – tick, beautiful costumes – tick, celebrity names to cater for all the family – tick, jokes we’ve all heard before – tick (sadly), audience participation and ad libbing …. Unfortunately for me – not enough!
Don’t get me wrong, this is a show that you can take all the family along to and they will each enjoy it, but for me at times this felt a bit like a ‘straight out of the box’ panto.
Press night started with a technical glitch as Paul Nicholas’ intro as the evil Abanazar was blighted by a microphone failure, but Shiela Ferguson (Scheherazade) was quickly on hand to take full opportunity of his plight with some clever ad-libbing. As we raced through the introductions to each character, Kev Orkian (Wishee Washee) was also quick to step out of the script where he could as he interacted with the front of house manager who was re-seating the audience. It was this sort of humour that the show lacked on the whole, but rest assured with the accomplished panto trio of Orkian, Ferguson and Nicholas at the helm, this will soon come when the cast settle into the groove.
Union J’s teen heartthrob Jamie Hensley was well worth his billing in the title role. His infectious enthusiasm lit up the stage and his vocals were on point throughout and if Strictly producers were looking for next year’s dancers, they would be hard placed to find someone with slicker moves than Hensley who was a natural.
The show races through at quite a pace, with suspense and humour sacrificed somewhat. Thankfully Orkian, who looks at total ease in his role, interjects where he can with some fun routines and Darren Machin as Widow Twankey brings us the obligatory one liners and outrageous dresses. There is magic too as Aladdin climbs aboard a flying carpet to rescue Princess Jasmine who has been captured by the evil Abanazar, the latter is quickly slayed and banished to living in the magic lamp as good triumphs evil.
It’s glitzy, its got celebrity glamour and the kids will enjoy it – oh yes they will! For now, just like the rusty old lamp that leads Aladdin to his riches, it just needs a little more shine which undoubtedly such an assured cast will deliver – it’s just a matter of time.
Aladdin runs until Sunday 31st December. Tickets are available online on www.royalandderngate.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01604 624811.