aladdin head

aladintop

Julian Clary, Lee Mead and Matt Slack

Aladdin

Birmingham Hippodrome

*****

WHAT a Christmas cracker from Birmingham Hippodrome, raising the bar again with their most spectacular panto yet.

It is big, bright, brash and glorious fun with pyrotechnics and amazing special effects including an animated giant great ape, Kong; a huge king cobra raring up and rearing out over the audience as well as a flying carpet, which not only flies out over the audience but turns upside down – and an inverted Julian Clary’s face is a picture.

Clary is the Slave of the Ring, which gives endless jokes in itself, and is wonderfully funny with asides and double entendres as the current master of camp comedy.

He is the force of good, as the force is with us all again this Christmas, while Marti Pellow is the force of evil showing a nice touch of tongue in cheek sinister baddy as Abanazar, and, as you might expect, a fine singing voice.

Abanazar is actually not as scary as the Empress of China, played by Landi Oshinowo, who has a big voice and a short fuse, sending anyone who displeases her to their death on the Marti Pellowblades of doom, a sort of Heath Robinson DIY execution chamber with a double circular saw.

Abanazar is the real evil one though and is after the lamp and Princess Jasmine, played by Emily Shaw, and for a moment, through that old new lamps for old trickery, has both in his grasp along with the lamp’s giant Brummie genie.

But rescue is at hand through Aladdin played by Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead, another in fine voice.

Aladdin and the Princess have a very funny sitting on a wall singing a song routine with the comedy star of the show Matt Slack who played Wishee Washee . . . this year, as he told us, returning to the Hippodrome panto for the third consecutive year.  

Baddy in black Marti Pellow as Abanazar

The routine is a panto standard but still has to be done well and the trio are faultless. Slack is made for panto, he has everything from funny walks and faces, delightful daftness and immediate rapport with the audience from the moment he walks on stage. Every time he appears there is collective smile and a ripple of anticipation.

Andrew Ryan returns as the dame, in this case Widow Twankey, and is one of the best around, traditional and funny with a different outfit for every scene – although Clary beat him . . . her . . . in the spectacular costume stakes.

Ryan is involved in another very funny episode, this time with Pellow and Slack in a routine regarding word play on a stolen short sleeved shirt. Daft, simple and like all the traditional panto routines, hilarious when well done.

There were plenty of up to date and local references and a touch of Star Wars crept in but among the new there was the old and we even had a throwback to vaudeville days with The Acromaniacs, an acrobatic troupe, with acrobats seemingly making a comeback in this year’s round of pantos – Malvern have another troupe.

Not only did you have a host of SFX but there was even a spectacular CGI 3D sequence which took us through lava pools and monsters to Egypt and Abanazar’s lair.

Ian Westbrook’s sets are sumptuous, the costumes wonderfully opulent or stupidly funny while Karen Bruce’s choreography gives the lively ensemble a chance to shine, all to the big sounding six-piece band under Robert Willis.

Directed by Michael Harrison this is brilliant festive entertainment with two hours of laugh out loud fun with smiles on every face as the audience left. It will be making them laugh to 31 January next year. Matt Slack is already booked for next year’s panto, Dick Whittington, and after this . . . well, let's say, it has a lot to live up to.

Roger Clarke

22-11-15 

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