St Albans Arena panto is a genie-us production
AS polished as a golden lamp and as sparkly as a glitter ball, Aladdin is a jewel of a pantomime and we are very lucky to have such a terrific show at our local Alban Arena.
From the moment the lights went up, the talented, energetic cast had the audience, from toddlers to grandparents and “all modern family combinations” in between, laughing, singing, and throroughly enjoying themselves.
Every single member of the cast performs their part perfectly, and you can tell how much the cast enjoy working together. The lovely Phil Gallagher, aka Mr Maker from CBeebies, explained to me that he enjoyed being in St Albans so much last year that he was delighted to be asked back again.
His Aladdin was warm, funny, and had huge appeal for the young schoolchildren and Brownies in the audience, who gave him a hearty hello every time he walked on to the stage.
Polly aged six told me her favourite part was (spoiler alert!) when Aladdin flew on the magic carpet to Defying Gravity from the show Wicked. It looked a little hair-raising but he managed it with a stunning smile!
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Returning also for a second year, Jemma Carlisle is a charming leading lady, who navigates the madness with serenity and a terrific singing voice.
In a part written specially for him, Shaun Williamson, known for his roles in EastEnders, Extras, and The Invention of Lying, was an excellent frustrated thespian Abanazar.
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I can see why Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, the writers and producers of the show, consider him the best pantomime baddie in the country. With a cheeky twinkle in his eye, and a booming voice worthy of Brian Blessed,
Shaun was very funny, rather than hugely scary, and Izzie, aged 10, thought he was the best part of the show saying: “the baddies are always the best bit”.
Shaun worked his role brillantly, throwing in lines from Shakespeare plays (well, this is St Albans...), and having fun with stage craft and lighting.
But the most fun was his double act with the very talented Kelly Chinery, the Spirit of the Ring, who played her role with a subtle nod to Tulisa and TOWIE.
It shows the depth of talent in the cast that two smaller parts, the Spirit of the Ring and Genie of the Lamp (Nathaniel Morrison) almost steal the show. I don’t want to give too much away, but the mums in the audience particularly enjoyed Genie, whether for his catsuit or winning smile, I cannot possibly say.
Last year’s Alban Arena show was very musical, and rightly so when you have Toyah in the cast, but the emphasis this year is very much on comedy. We were spoilt for choice with the comedy leads. Sam Rabone, as Widow Twanky, who hails from a “small fishing village” called Birmingham is a terrific talent, and commands a presence on the stage, despite being only 26!
Stuart Nurse as the Emperor of China is well-known locally and has appeared in the pantos in Radlett too. He brings bags of personality to his role here, and clearly loves performing. Look out for Stuart’s sons Oliver and Henry who are in The Witches at The Abbey Theatre – talent obviously runs in the family!
And last, but of course, not least, I must congratulate St Albans’ very own Bob Goulding, who was such a star last year too. Bob won an Olivier award and performed at the Royal Variety show for his one-man play Morecambe, so is a real talent in our midst.
Bob plays PC Pongo, and also directed Aladdin, and he is an assured, charismatic presence throughout the show. Younger audience members might recognise his voice from Fleabag Monkeyface!
A confident, creative show, that combines the very best of the old, with lots of new, modern songs and references, making sure that the Alban Arena remains the show to go to.
It is pretty much booked up until after Christmas, but if you want to brighten up the New Year with a fab, family trip to the theatre get in quick. They have already sold 3000 tickets for next year...