THIS year’s pantomime at the Playhouse Whitley Bay, Aladdin, offers a slick and enjoyable magic carpet ride through all the time-honoured traditions that audiences expect at this time of year.
Aladdin, staged by Blue Genie Entertainment, has got the lot – a middle-aged man dressed as a woman, lots of running around culminating in a bit of falling over and opportunities to shout ‘look behind you’ and ‘oh yes, we did’.
Children’s television presenter Jassa Ahluwalia takes the title role, ably supported by Wallsend comedian Steve Walls as his brother Wishee Washee, Kirsty Swain as Princess Jasmine and Jimmy Burton-Iles as the genie.
Walls’s billing as the north east’s No 1 comic might seem an overambitious claim – and one that fans of the likes of expatriate northerners Ross Noble or Sarah Millican might well dispute – but he is certainly an accomplished showman and makes a cracking job of his role.
The same goes for Paul Harris as Widow Twankey.
Being the author of a pantomime guidebook and with half a century’s worth of experience of the stage to his name, you’d expect the 68-year-old to have it all down to a tee – and he does.
That’s more than could be said for the producer of the programme accompanying the show, however – a T being exactly what it didn’t have its job down to and that being a letter it missed off the beginning of Harris’s character’s name (see panel).
That prompted the panto veteran to introduce himself as “Widow Twankey with a T”, earning him one of the biggest laughs of the night.
Most of the other laughs, for both children and adults, were yielded by Walls’s slickly-delivered patter.
The staging and lighting were equally slick, making for an enjoyable evening – or afternoon – out .
The only dud notes – literally – were hit by a couple of the musical numbers.
The songs featured – including Queen’s I Want it All, Starship’s We Built This City and Bob Dylan’s Make You Feel My Love and Take That’s Rule the World – offered something for pretty much everyone and were often rousing but not always as easy on the ear as they might have been.
n Aladdin is on until Monday, January 2. Tickets cost from £7 to £14.50. For details, call 0844 277 2771 or go to www.playhousewhitleybay.co.uk