Sunday, 11 December 2016

Review 4: Listomania Bath

 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.

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