Sunderland Empire’s Panto, Aladdin, is wickedly funny and funnily wicked all wrapped up in fabulous story telling.
UK Productions’ pantomime is triumph of tradition packed full of today with some very up to date music, brilliant gags and great dance routines.
The story remains true to the usual Aladdin; broke boy finds lamp, becomes rich to try and win the hand of the princess, loses it all and realises there’s more to life than riches. Now that’s the story done with, lets focus on the fun.
Opening the show is the Spirit of the Ring – Millie Gabriel who leads us through the story with charm, grace and no shortage of wit. The Spirit is initially controlled by the evil Abanazar, Hollyoaks’ megastar Gary Lucy, playing the quintessential panto villain; eliciting boos, threatening the hero and being downright dastardly. Drawing on his long pedigree of TV shows, Gary is a brilliant baddie and had everyone in the audience wishing for his downfall.
Our hero’s family is made up of Aladdin (Mikko Juan – a recent addition to these shores from Seattle and already forging a great record of brilliant performances) his brother, the madcap Wishee Washee (Tom Whalley – one of our best local actor/writers) who is a non-stop set of silliness aimed squarely at the kids but with still a knowing nod to the adults, and la pièce de resistance, their mum Widow Twankey, played by the irrepressible and irresistible Miss Rory. Miss Rory is 7 feet (top of her hair to the bottom of her heels) of sex, sass, sauce and seduction and looks glamorous in anything and everything she wears. (My first time of seeing her and I think I may have lost my heart).
As the story progresses, we find ourselves at the Royal Palace of the Emperor Richard Anthony-Lloyd (Coronation Street, Doctors, Emmerdale) and his beautiful daughter, Princess Jasmine (Aisha Numah), the object of Aladdin’s affections. Insistent that his daughter will marry into money, the Emperor forbids her to continue to see the poor Aladdin and so our hero finds himself desperate to find some way to prove he is worthy.
Open Sesame, rubbing the lamp, and plenty of double crossing follows with Genie Liam Morris granting the wishes to firstly give Aladdin a way out of the cave and subsequently the riches he feels will allow him to win Jasmine’s heart. Of course, twists continue, good wins through and the happy ending leaves everyone smiling.
Special mention to the children dancers, Kathleen Davis Stage School and The Worx who were wonderful throughout and very accomplished in all the routines.
This is a brilliant production, rivalling Newcastle Theatre Royal for top dog in the region and proving that the North East has some exceptional panto talent. As we head towards the Christmas break, I am so pleased we braved the minus 6 temperatures, the memories of this show will definitely keep us warm for days to come.
And so, our Pantomime season reaches its end
We’ve laughed and cried and made new friends
It’s time to look towards next year
And hope your Christmas is filled with good cheer.