St Helens Theatre Royal
7 December 2019 - 12 January 2020; 2hr 25min
St Helens Theatre Royal and Regal Entertainments put on good value and entertaining family pantomimes throughout the year. but they always seem to save some extra sparkle for the Christmas show.
This year is no different, with a brilliantly funny and ultra-local take on Aladdin proving to be a corker.
A terrific cast brings to life the popular tale of a boy and his magic lamp, here set in the area of Old Peking called Won Long Pu – try saying it quickly.
From flossing to fancy footwork, this is a crowd-pleasing panto that sees cast members enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
Likeable former Strictly Come Dancing pro Robin Windsor plays the title role - the star name replacement for Kelvin Fletcher who, as Strictly lovers now know, had somewhere else to be - though at least the magic carpet is named after him.
Windsor's lightning-fast moves are as good as you’d expect, and having a principal character this good at dancing really elevated the show to a higher level of slickness.
Bringing the laughs to another level beside him was the comedy quartet of Si Foster (Widow Twankey), Scott Gallagher (Wishee Washee), Phillip McGuinness (baddie Abanazar) and Timothy Lucas (PC Noodle).
Resident dame Foster - who also writes the show - is as familiar on stage here as his trademark call of "yoo hoo", and his Twankey, complete with some witty and OTT costumes, is a down and dirty, rough and ready kind of dame.
Scott Gallagher is new to panto at the Theatre Royal, but he's a gem. Combining easy charm with killer comic timing, Gallagher commands the stage and his interaction with the children taken up on stage at the end was a joy.
Regal Entertainments regular Phillip McGuinness served up a fabulously over-the-top Abanazar, who with his dramatic "dahlinks" and swirls of his cape, was a boo-able hit with the younger members of the audience, prompting some nice off-the-cuff interactions.
A clear favourite with the audience, Lucas’s scouse PC Noodle is a clever and highly original creation. The policeman is often a very minor role in Aladdin, but Lucas grabs his chance to shine and commits to it 100%. His musical battle with Abanazar is probably the highlight of the show - his I'm Telling You from Dreamgirls brought the house down.)
Olivia Sloyan reveal clear vocals and precise dance moves as Princess Jasmine, and Jenna O’Hara brings down-to-earth Northern humour as the Slave of the Ring. Kai Jolley clearly enjoys his role as a commanding Genie of the Lamp.
There’s a neat magic carpet 3D sequence (get glasses at the interval), glitter, pyrotechnics, great songs, beautiful costumes and sets in bright paintbox primary colours, as well as admirable supporting work by the ensemble and juvenile dancers.
It's a good fun show, and just when you think it's all over, proceedings close with a mambo-tastic version of The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing.
Having said that, my soon-to-be-five year old’s favourite bit was... “when the cow wouldn’t stop trumping”.