Director Alan Rimmer has created a lively production, written in very traditional mode by RAODS’s own Bon Heather, full of the usual panto devices to surge forward the increasingly outrageous plot. He has created a lovely place in which to chase away winter chills and blues.
Choreography is in the very safe hands of Diane Phippen, light and frothy in execution and design, and perfectly matching the mixed ages and talent on stage. Diane also gets to perform her own spooky demonised number complete with fire effects. Combined with the very talented band under musical direction of Alex ‘Teddy’ Clements and led by Chris Bull, numbers such as ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Life’s a happy song’ brought a nice touch to proceedings.
‘Price tag’ was particularly enjoyable as the opening to act 2 and brought much hilarity from Matt Ellison’s forthrightly resolute Widow Twanky. His performance was spot on throughout, the lipstick and hair perfectly capturing character and panache, easily establishing audience warmth and camaraderie, adults comfortable enough to interject when appropriate or not, adding much to overall stage presence. Matching him with suitable baddiness and world domination frustration was Georgette Ellison as Abanazar, sporting a marvellous moustache and beard and an Alexis Carrington swagger, clearly relishing all her booing and hissing. Jane and Colin Russell, being the cause of much aggravation for the Wicked Uncle, were suitably dim throughout, providing much good humour along the way. Their ‘new lamps for old scene’ was particularly well done.
Aladdin was played with charm and with much principal boy leg-slapping by Ellie Powell, and proving her equal was Lily Holmes as So-Shy. Both sang well, So-Shy proving a sparky match and getting her own laughs with well thought-out phrasing and facial expressions.
Wishy-Washy (no longer Aladdin’s brother but friend) was played with great style by Kathryn Thomas, her corny one-liners being well received by young and old in the audience. Her natural enthusiasm and energy were a delight. Diana Thomas as Slave of the Ring gave a very good performance, adding emotional depth to a role that can often be one-dimensional. Jack West brought his usual enthusiasm and stage presence as Slave of the Lamp. Confident performances throughout by the likes of Ellie Luffman, Peter Cleaver and Bryan Bolton with a well-disciplined chorus added much to the proceedings.
Lighting and special effects are always a RAODS speciality, with beautiful gauze work and well-timed flashes and bangs; the team, including Chris Moses, Nigel Roach and Craig Cotton, continue the excellent standard. Set design was suitably oriental: the red and blue static flats containing Chinese symbols were well thought-out and the numerous scene changes were expertly handled by Helen Ford and her stage crew.
Perhaps a tad too wordy and not enough use of the excellent band, but on the whole, spirited entertainment.