It is pantomime season and where better to get in the festive mood than at Manchester Opera House. This year the crowds are regaled by the tale of Aladdin in all its raucous, garish wonder.
The experience begins as soon as you find your seats in the beautiful theatre. A screen descends on the stage and the camera is turned on the unsuspecting audience. Captions such as ‘ I am wearing George at Asda’ accompany live shots of audience members as they gawk in surprise at their image on the big screen. In a theatre packed with children the laughs are loud and contagious – it certainly generates a buzz.
The panto begins with the audience primed for more laughter. Abanazer, played by John Thomson, is the evil sorcerer who quickly receives a deafening ‘boo’ from the excited crowd. He plays the bad character well and his rendition of ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ is darkly impressive. Ben Adams of A1 fame is the young hero of the piece. His obvious charm and good looks make him the ideal man for the role of Aladdin. His vocals are lively and he jollies the panto through the Peking streets and to the laundry of Widow Twankey where Eric Potts steals the show.
Widow Twankey is the anchor who keeps the audience in various states of hysteria during the whole production. The dames washing antics, costume changes and innuendo peppered lines are hilarious and manage to amuse both youngsters and adults. He is as much of an in-your-face spectacle as the vibrantly coloured, sparkling sets.
The second half sees much more from the Benidorm star Sherrie Hewson as the genie of the ring. Her comedy timing is spot on and perhaps she should have appeared more in the first half. Princess Jasmine whilst played beautifully by Claire-Marie Hall isn’t a memorable character – a little too saccharine Disney for a slap-stick pantomime.
Wishie Washy played by Neil Henry provides humorous narration to keep the audience up to speed with plot developments. He also conducts a tongue twister of a song in the second half for which audience participation is a must.
The ballet dance starring Eric Potts in a pink tutu is comedy gold and his catchphrase during this performance will stay with you long after the panto has finished – ‘thank you‘.
The performance is excellent value for money and a cracker-joketastic way to start the holidays or bring them to a close with the family.
Aladdin is at the Opera House until Sunday, January 8 2017