wishee and slave

Strictly Panto: Adam C Booth as Wishee Washee and Lisa Riley as the Slave of the Ring

Aladdin

Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton

*****

IT’S that time of year again Oh no it isn’t! Oh yes it is! and all the festive ingredients have been added to the mix and then some for a Black Country Christmas treat.

Star of the show is Adam C Booth as Wishee Washee who has the audience on side from the moment he careers across the stage on a skateboard.

It is no surprise when four children plucked from the audience are ushered on stage at the end for an I am the music man routine and each one declares he is their favourite character, and how nice he lets the kids be the stars of their own little section.

It was touch and go whether he was going to get that far, mind ydoreen tiptonou, after he took a real  battering in a variation on If I were not upon the stage as he is hit by a truncheon, frying pan, cricket bat and boxing gloves in a routine with Ian Adams as Widow Twankey, Lisa Riley as Slave of the Ring and Ben Faulks as Peking’s finest, PC Ping Pong (if Pong is the finest the rest of the police force must be a concern, to be honest).

Wishee is also involved in a very funny variation of the Abbott and Costello Who’s on first sketch with Widow Twankey in her laundry. This is Adam’s 15th year as a dame, incidentally, and freed from the performing as dame, as well as writing and directing duties for Lichfield Garrick's panto for the past nine years, he is clearly enjoying his freedom in this most British of theatrical characters as a superb dame.

Lisa Riley is best known from Strictly but she has an impressive acting CV behind her and is just an infectious bundle of fun whenever she appears; she might not be as large as life as she once was, but her personality is still as big as ever, lighting up the stage. Meanwhile Faulks, who is, Mr Bloom on Cbeebies, is given his chance to shine in the routine after patrolling Peking as a one man Keystone cop.

Doreen Tipton, battling Lazy Cow Syndrome as the Empress

Making her debut, reluctantly and only because the Job Centre said he had to take the job or lose her benefits, is self-unemployed Doreen Tipton whose life is a constant battle against her medical condition of lazy cow syndrome.

A YouTube sensation Doreen struggles her way through day after day as the Lazy Empress with her very funny observations on life and the benefits system. It is her first panto and no one will give you odds that it is going to be her last. Created by David Tristram, she is a comedy gem.

And speaking of gems, back at the panto, we have the main contenders for fabulous wealth; in the green corner, all lasers and manic laughs we have Stefan Pejic as Abanazar, who chucks in a few simple magic tricks among his evil ways, which, sadly, seemed to go unnoticed.

While in the blue corner, all silks and sparkle, eventually, we have Aladdin played by Joe McElderry who has carved out quite a career for himself since winning the 2009 X-Factor. For those wondering about the accent, it is a little known fact that South Shields is one of the northern districts of Peking, at least as far as Wolverhampton is concerned. Joe is an instantly likeable lad with a good voice – which is what you want in your panto hero.

And heroes all need someone to rescue, in Aladdin’s case, Princess Jasmine, daughter (only in the script she will be glad  to know) of the Lazy Empress, and played by Lucy Kay.

Lucy was The Narrator to Joe’s Joseph in the recent tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat  and the pair sing well together here, their voices blending nicely.

Stars talk about the panto

A trained opera singer she has a fabulous voice and it is a pity we didn’t really get to hear it in full flow.

And then if you rub a lamp out pops genie Neal Wright, a West End regular, adding a little streetwise soul to proceedings.

And they are all backed up by a fine ensemble of boys and girls as well as one of two teams of youngsters from The Classic Acadamy of Dance while music comes from a five man orchestra under musical director Kelvin Towse, who sound much bigger than their number suggests.

Producers, panto experts Qdos, with more than 20 pantos on the go this year, have been in the business long enough to know what they are doing and from the opening scene there class on show for anyone to see from the fabulous, colourful costumes and sets to some very nifty flying carpet sequences – seeing is believing – from Qdos regular trickery experts, The Twins FX, who give us a new twist, literally, on an old trick.

This is everything you expect from a panto. It’s fun, fast paced, full of laughs for young and old with nothing to shock maiden aunts or frighten horses.  Directed by Bob Tomson, it is all you could ask for in a panto, running at the Grade II listed Grand, 122 years old last Saturday, to 22-01-17.

Roger Clarke

13-12-16

 

 And behind you

*****

 WORRA bostin debut! This is Doreen Tipton’s first-ever pantomime, and the queen oIan Adamsf Black Country comedy delighted the packed media night audience with a cracking performance as the Lazy Empress of China.

Even with an international singing star like Joe McElderry leading a sparkling cast, it was the ‘Lazy Cow’ who made the running with her own brand of humour which has made her a YouTube hit.

Dozy Doreen even claimed she landed the posh panto post as a wealthy Empress after a job centre interview, and she made one of her many appearances on stage riding a mobility scooter, thanks to her raids on the benefits system, no doubt. And the Yam Yams loved it.

Ian Adams as Widow Twankey

But this is no one woman or one man show. The cast work as a well-drilled team, and there is a hilarous If I Were Not Upon the Stage routine in which Adam C. Booth (Wishee Washee) takes quite a beating from Lisa Riley (Slave of the Ring), Ian Adams (Widow Twankey) and Ben Faulks (Pc Ping Png)

McElderry, rated one of the finest singers in the UK, underlines that reputation with his performance as Aladdin, and his courage is also put to the test in the remarkable magic carpet scene.

Adams excels as Aladdin’s bizarrely-dressed mum Widow Twankey, and Booth works the audience superbly as Wishee Washee, with excellent contributions too, from Stefan Pejic (the evil Abanazar) and Lucy Kay (Princess Jasmine).

Stunning costumes and ideal music from the orchestra directed by Kelvin Towse help make this panto an unmissable experience. Oh yes it does.

Paul Marston 

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