THE Floral Pavilion Christmas show is always a highlight of the local panto season, pretty much guaranteed to deliver both star quality and rich storytelling. This year they have again assembled a particularly fine cast, but somehow there’s something slightly Wishee Washee about their rendering of Aladdin.
In fact, you could almost rename the show Wishee Washee, because it’s dominated throughout by Aladdin’s dippy brother, played by CBeebies Balamory star Andrew Agnew. He also directs the show and is given maximum stage time by writer Andrew Ryan. Certainly Agnew’s celebrity holds the attention of the children, but rather to the expense of the remaining cast all of whom, along with the story, are relegated to second fiddles.
Which is a great shame, as many of them are highly accomplished musical theatre performers. Bradley Judge is perfect casting in the title role, Kelsey-Rae Marshall is a charming Princess Jasmine and Andrew Gallo has all the qualities of a splendid Emperor, if not the lines to go with it. Michael McGinn and Jennifer Harding are also great choices for the Genie of the Lamp and the Slave of the Ring, while Michael Chance plays the Widow Twankey with considerable relish. Former Corrie and Emmerdale star Bill Ward is a very malevolent Abanazer, but again is short changed in the script. Several of the cast clearly struggle vocally, with many of the songs played in the wrong key for them.
Most of the usual party games involving the audience and water pistols is despatched early on so as to leave the field open for the storytelling but, for reasons that it’s hard to put a finger on, the text appears simultaneously under written and over long. Fortunately the panto format allows the players to point out to the audience where they’re supposed to laugh, clap and cheer – and even when to give a standing ovation. Without this it would be a long night. Many of the topical jokes feel shoehorned in, and when TJ Lloyd’s PC Pong and Widow Twankey exchange a wisecrack about GDPR compliance and accepting cookies you can almost hear the tumbleweed.
Notwithstanding all the above, the show looks great and benefits from some splendid choreography, with an excellent supporting adult cast and a group of outstanding young dancers from Hoylake School of Dance. It is certain that the children in the audience are having a great time, and are happy enough adding their own extra action sequences, with light sabre fights up and down the aisles using their sparkly wands.
This Aladdin has all the makings of a very fine show, and some pruning to bring it down to under 2 hours 30 minutes would really benefit it, as its present almost 3 hour run time stretches the material, and the audience, too far.
Aladdin plays at the Floral Pavilion until 6th January.