Pantomine is such a great tradition, a colourful show for all the family to launch the festive season.
It doesn’t matter what the panto’s called, you know exactly what you’re going to get; outrageous costumes, daft characters, slapstick, a bit of song and dance … and lots of booing and hissing.
Just how the production team delivers those important ingredients is key to an entertaining evening – and a satisfied audience.
But this year, The Grand have done us proud – even though they’d have been forgiven if distracted by their celebrations, as the theatre was 122 years old this week.
There’s good acting and a great sense of fun from the cast, including: Joe McElderry (Aladdin), Lisa Riley (Slave of the Ring), Ben Faulks (Pc Ping Pong), Ian Adams (Widow Twankey), Adam C Booth (Wishee Washee) and Abanazar (Stefan Pejic).
However, the star of the show was definitely our very own Doreen Tipton as The Lazy Empress. This Youtube star had the funniest lines (“No photos for security reasons – social security”, “These specs are bi-polar”) and an excellent singing voice.
And while some of her ‘benefits’ humour would have been a bit beyond the younger members of the audience, it was much appreciated by us older ones – with a thankful lack of smut (which had been an off-key aspect of my last panto experience at the Hippo).
Even the typical panto antics were more entertaining than usual, especially the shrinking of Twanky and Wishee. The twosome’s knee-high versions of themselves had the crowd in stitches.
This year’s slapstick interlude was also one of the best I’ve seen. “If I were not in old Peking, something else I’d like to be…” was sung by Slave, Ping Pong, Twanky and Wishee.
Their props included a truncheon, frying pan, feather duster, boxing gloves, and of course, water, and although they were wielded in hilarious fashion, it looked just a little bit dangerous.
The special effects were limited, but that didn’t affect the story-telling, thanks to the delivery and the fluency of the cast. Although Aladdin’s superb magic carpet ride must have been a bit scary for Mr McElderry, as he was turned full circle above the stalls.
Credit must go to the sound engineers – the clarity of the speeches was superb, we didn’t miss a word, and there was genuine laughter from the young, who were able to understand most of the jokes … albeit ones that the script-writer has been using since Christmas Past.
Admittedly, I would have liked to hear X-Factor’s golden-voiced Joe McElderry sing more than one solo. He started the show with Jess Glynne’s Hold My Hand, then had a couple of duets, but only came in at the end of Defying Gravity.
However, it’s a reflection of the panto’s quality that such a thought is the nearest I came to criticism.
Aladdin continues its run until January 22, but demand for tickets is sure to be high, so if the box office is engaged (01902-429212), then do book online at http://www.grandtheatre.co.uk