Leeds City Varieties – until 7 January 2018. Reviewed by Dawn Smallwood
‘Tis the season for the pantomimes and unsurprisingly City Varieties is hosting another Peter Rowe’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto. Following the success of Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin has begun its run and will run throughout the Christmas season.
Aladdin is a well known story with the production set in Ancient China and the characters’ lives become chaotic with the magic lamp, which the genie (Hannah Price) appears and hilarious consequences follow. The traditional elements which the audience expects in a pantomime is not missed such as the shouting out, the vocal disagreeing, the booing to the villainous Abanazer (Dan Bottomley) and laughing at outrageous scenarios instigated mainly by Widow Twankey (Justin Brett) and Wishee Washee (Kenny Davies). Children are entertained from beginning to end with maximum audience participation and the adults are regularly drawn to its lines, localised references and innuendoes particularly from Widow Twankey (Brett).
The music and singing are performed live with an onstage band in the background to well known pop, rock and soul hits, forming as musical numbers, which people are familiar with such as “I’m a Believer”, “I Will Survive”, “I Feel Good” and the finale’s “Dancing in the Streets”. The musical numbers fit appropriately to the characters’ personalities and the story’s plot. The talented cast, the majority doubling up as musicians, certainly put on a good show and the audience interaction and participation is at a maximum. The highlight must be the fun “boulder” fight in the second act between the audience and the cast. Huge balls are thrown high across the stalls auditorium and many participate.
Courtesy of the creative team, the staging is colourful and bright along with the costumes, particularly the outrageous ones Widow Twankey (Brett) wore, and the along with the lighting and sound including the hazy smoke and strobe lighting complimenting the production.
Like in similar vein to Shakespeare’s comedies, the story ends all well with Aladdin (Alex Wingfield) and the Princess (Grace Lancaster). This is a very good production and Aladdin guarantees an entertaining evening out for all ages and it’s a must see pantomime during this festive season.