Aladdin, Harrogate Theatre - Review by Katie Oxtoby
There’s nothing that heralds the start of the festive season quite like a magical, sparkly, fun-filled pantomime, and that’s exactly what Harrogate Theatre delivers with its production of Aladdin.
The annual Harrogate panto has, deservingly, grown so much in popularity that ticket sales this year look set to beat all previous records, and what a treat awaits those lucky people who have managed to bag themselves a seat and share in the fun.
And what fun it is. There’s never a dull moment as the classic story of Aladdin is told through the usual mix of mayhem, witty one-liners, slapstick, song and dance, outrageous costumes, local references and glittering sets. Last year’s troll even makes a reappearance to provide the classic ‘It’s behind you!’ moment.
Co-writers David Bown and Phil Lowe, in their seventh Christmas collaboration, really have honed the art of panto storytelling to perfection, using the same successful formula of previous years. It makes for a lovely, warm, familiar feeling, and the audience wouldn’t want it any other way.
But that’s not to say it’s formulaic in any sense; it still feels fresh and new, aided by the inclusion of some amazing special effects and puppetry elements we haven’t seen before.
There’s the spellbinding – and highly amusing - ping pong competition between Wishee Washee and Abanazer, inspired by the film Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I doubt anyone has seen a table tennis game quite like this before.
And when the magic carpet takes Aladdin on an enchanting flight, my six-year-old daughter turned to me and asked if it really was flying. I’m still not sure exactly how they made it look so realistic.
There are some proper laugh-out-loud moments too, like the scene where Wishee Washee (Tim Stedman) gets stuck in Widow Twankey’s huge new washing machine, and ends up being soaped, dried and folded.
After returning to the show for the 16th time, Tim Stedman has, I think, earned the right to be called a Harrogate panto legend. But his is not the only familiar face in this year’s production.
Philip Stewart returns for a fourth consecutive time, in his role as Widow Twankey, while also appearing again are Katy Dean as The Genie of the Lamp, Colin Kiyani as Aladdin, and Tom Peters as The Emperor of China / Abanazer. It all adds to the familiar, welcoming feel of the show.
I’ve been coming to the Harrogate panto with my daughters for the last four years. Perhaps it’s the special effects and amazing puppetry, or maybe it’s just that it has, for my family like lots of others, become such a favourite in our festive calendar, but this year’s production is the best one I’ve seen.
As Wishee Washee would say, it’s ‘hashtag amazeballs’!
Tickets are still available but selling quickly throughout the festive season.
Call Harrogate Theatre box office on 01423 502116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk