Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
It's no secret that I have a bit of a soft spot for the pantomimes at the Nottingham Arts Theatre,and anyone watching this pantomime will be quick to see why that is. This is a traditional pantomime that appeals to all ages, thanks to the clever script and mix of music. Written by Amanda Hall, who also directed and co-produced "Aladdin" as well as co-designed the set, and may I say looks amazing also, This is going to be another box office breaking year I feel for the cast, crew and theatre. Matthew John is on hand to co-script the show and share the credits. Mike Pearson produced the show for the Arts Theatre and Cris Brawn co-designed the set.
As I said, the story is traditional, but with injections of topical humour which keeps the story fresh and packed with fun.And can I say, the jokes are suitably groan worthy, which I have made notes of and will be wheeling out sometime in the future, as long as there is no copyright issues.
Every year the cast has been brilliant; this year is no different,and with some new cast members in various roles, it could well be the best one to date. With past casts though, it's difficult to gauge levels of excellence.
The cast are so well seasoned in the art of panto, they really know their way around a panto stage and what they need to do to make a panto a wopping hit.
Matthew Wesson really is one of the best dames around, and this year he plays Widow Twankey. There are some brilliant costumes for Matt to wear, thanks to Jules Sheppard, and he knows how to work this matinee audience, who by the end of Act One, were eating out of his hand and completely in his power. Not only a very talented person to have involved in theatre, he's also one of the nicest and funniest men away from the stage.
Danielle Hall makes this show her panto hat trick, but also debuts as the choreographer for the show and stars as "Aladdin". She looks every inch the principal boy, and looks like she is enjoying every second as Aladdin.
Patrick McChrystal plays Wishee Washee, and that role brings plenty of chances to interact with the audience, which he did every time he came on stage. A lovely fun character and this trio work so well together.
Cliff Hart smashes the evil Abanazar and very quickly gets the audience booing him on every entrance. This is the second panto I've seen this year to date, and both baddies are excellent. Pitched just right so as not to make the young kids cry, but to get them booing. Not an easy job but Cliff delivered it just right. He also has a very easy to listen to set of vocals on him.
Mike Pearson played the Genie Of The Lamp, and I loved the accent and the modern attitude of Genie. Another fun character.
Mike Newbold is another actor that I have a lot of time for,and his laid back attitude to Emporer Mei was once more pitched perfectly.
Stacey Ireson played So Shi, Princess Jasmine's right hand woman and wingman - or is that wingwoman - or maybe wing person, whose character also wins in the love stakes by the end of the panto.
Talking of Princess Jasmine, Lauren Stephenson gets to show off her wonderful voice with this role; perfectly cast.
Providing a chunk of the comedy word play are Joseph Jk Smith and Laura Ellis as the comedy police Ying and Yang. Kimberley Allsopp also shares the role of Yang in some performances.
Lizzie Fenner follows up last year's Nottingham stage panto debut with the part of the Spirit Of The Ring. Packed with attitude and Lizzie has a gorgeous voice which is well showcased. I've seen Lizzie several times throughout the year in various productions, and this show tops her theatrical year perfectly.
Both adult and younger ensemble groups worked brilliantly and smoothly together, and show the hard work that has gone into this show.
There are plenty of chances for audience participation with booing the baddie, welcoming Wishee Washee on every entrance or finding out what Widow Twankey's swanky washeteria don't do! All great fun.
Musically Directed by Sam Griffiths, who has such a history of working in musical theatre, he is one of the top Musical Directors in the area, so it's guaranteed that this show is going to be a hit music wise.
I absolutely loved the choice of music in this panto, well I would, there were plenty of musical theatre songs as well as some brilliant pop tunes to get everyone clapping along.
The acoustics in the Arts Theatre are wonderful and Sound Design by Rob Kettridge makes the most of the natural sound, ensuring that you can hear every spoken word, every note of music and every sound effect perfectly..
Visually, this show is stunning and part of that stunningness is the Lighting Design and operation by Oliver Read. A colourful and bright experience.
It would be very difficult to pick any particular scene over the next here, but if I was forced to choose, I would have to choose the closing of Act One. It was absolutely stunning, and quite literally magical. I'll say no more, but the song was gorgeous, impeccably performed and visually jaw dropping.
Everyone involved in this production have pulled out all the stops for this production, whether it be on stage, behind the scenes or front of house.
"Aladdin" is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 15 December, but make sure you get your tickets pretty sharpish, I'd hate for you to miss this Christmas treat.
Christmas has truly begun.
Photos by Cassie Hall.
Photos by Cassie Hall.