Sunday, 6 December 2015

Nottingham Theatre Royal.

Starring the Grand Dame of panto, Christopher Biggins and ex Blue member Simon Webbe and Ben Nickless this show is big, bright reflects every penny that has been spent on producing this year's Theatre Royal panto in Nottingham.

There's a giant snake which hovers menacingly over the audience, flying carpets which zoom over our heads bearing Simon Webbe as Aladdin, who makes his entrance in a rather clever and magical way, which I won't tell you how, but I was impressed by that part of the show.

There are sumptious sets which bring the feel of the Orient to life and some flashy costumes, especially for Christopher Biggins and Aladdin. The music tracks and orchestra, for me , was just a tad loud as it sometimes covered up the singing, and there were some good singers here.

Simon Webbe (Aladdin) actually carried off the role quite well, and I say that because, with not being an actor and known for his vocal abilities with the band Blue and his solo work, he brought the cheeky and fun element of Aladdin out. His voice suited the soul songs and he looked comfortable with the choreography.

Christopher Biggins (Widow Twankey) showed why he is one of the best dames in panto at the moment. What I found just slightly off putting though was laughing at the delivered jokes by those telling them. I'm sorry it didn't come across as naturally funny if you laugh at the jokes you're telling. Maybe I've seen too many pantos, I don't know, but taking nothing away from Chris's ability to perform a great panto role. Where Chris did excel over everything else was the section where the kids are brought up on stage as he has years of this sort of ad-libbing experience and was naturally funny.

Ben Nickless (Wishee Washee), was again as funny as ever with his clever impressions of TV celebrities like Alan Carr, Keith Lemon and a slightly dated Louis Spence, but again some of the "ad-libbed" and "off the cuff" sections just seemed a little too rehearsed. Maybe not though to a first time audience.

Abanazar was a class act and relished the "boos" and "hisses" from the enthusiastic audience. James Barron, who played the evil Abanazar, was in fact one of my favourites in this panto. He also has a really strong voice shown to great effect on the opening number of Act Two.

Princess Jasmine was played by Emile Du Leslay and a lovely bit of eye-candy for us to blokes to look at. She also has a pretty good voice herself.

Paul Gabriel played Emporer Ming. No stranger to the Theatre Royal panto stage as he has appeared here several times in the past.

Seheherazade, the spirit of the magical ring, is played by another gorgeous lady, Kimberley Blake and once more a lovely easy on the ear singing voice.

An ensemble of very capable dancers and singers beef up the background to the main characters well and compliment the young performers (The Theatre Royal Babes).

There are many more plusses than negatives here with some good choreography by Paul Robinson and lighting design by Matt Clutterham, creating an exciting visual atmosphere to the show. Directed by Ken Alexander, who in fact can almost be classed as a local lad, being brought up in Leicester, albeit being born in Glasgow.

An enjoyable show that will bring the money rolling in with the big names headlining, but are big names a guarantee for a great panto? For me this was above standard panto fare. Enjoyable, definitely, and I didn't leave the theatre without being entertained but maybe I was expecting just a wee bit more. Either way it's another success to help celebrate the theatre's 150th Birthday.

"Aladdin" is on at the Nottingham Theatre Royal until Sunday 10 January 2016.

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