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What a good start to the Christmas period – a traditional pantomime from Griffins, but with a few modern twists from Director Debbie Cavanagh, using current music from MD Chris Young and his assistant Charlotte Tabert, up to date choreography from Jacki Houghton assisted by Kerry Collins, and a set designed by David Robinson that was much more minimal than usual – which also worked well.

The excellent lighting plot from Dave Houghton served to create some very effective scenes within the production, which enhanced the overall feel of the piece.  The use of Eiffel Tower and statue of Liberty gobos during the flying carpet scene were very imaginative and the whole scene worked really well.

There were a couple of places where mics were slow in being employed, but on the whole sound was good.

There were some fine performances, and it was lovely to see some new faces in a Griffins pantomime, along with the stalwarts who enjoy this production every year.

The opening was very lively, different choreography and well-rehearsed, however, I would have really liked to have seen more smiles from the ensemble, most of them looked a little serious, which spoiled the effect somewhat.

Costumes were first class throughout, they were colourful as befits a pantomime, and everyone looked good – with some excellent make-up effects.

One point that was really noticeable was the number of lengthy blackouts in silence – increasingly productions are seamless, with no blackouts unless absolutely necessary and those that have to be used are underscored with some music, I have long held the opinion that long blackouts only serve to lose audience attention, and when you're dealing with an audience made up of children as well as adults, then this is something that you need to be aware of.  Most modern productions use cast and sometimes stage crew to move scenery, pull cloths across etc, either whilst the previous scene is playing or while the characters start on the next scene.  It holds the attention and keeps the momentum going, without losing the need to be in another place.

It was fine that the music was on a backing track/sequenced through the keyboard, which meant that we got lots of different sounds, which was really good – but we also needed a background to the scene changes, which had not been catered for.  Pantomime is all about keeping the light-hearted or wicked feel going as much as possible.  I wasn’t 100% sure about some of the music choices, but mostly they seemed to work well.

Bethany McLeish was a charming Princess, showing us her lovely voice and all round ability.  Her handmaidens Sweet and Sour were played very nicely by Emma-Jane Thorley and Evie Wright – they created a nice group with varying characters which was good for contrast within what they did.  Emma-Jane was very amusing in her naivety.

Stuart Grey was a very manly Aladdin – he sang and interacted well with the audience, but I needed a bit more swagger and projection from him as befits a Principal Boy, but it was a new departure for Stuart, and in the main he coped well.

Luke Murphy was a very up-front Wishy Washy, I liked what he did with the part and his general happy-go-lucky attitude – and the rapport he built up with the audience.

The children's chorus - Harry and Sam Collins, Alice and Louise Hayden, Freya and Katie Maxen, Allanah and Grace Rogers (team Wishy on the night I attended), were really great – some super small people and also some older ones who gave us lots of smiles and jollity, very well done.

Dee Lovelock as the soothsayer created a super character – who the kids really related to, and who delivered her prophecies with great humour.

Ciara McDermott was a lively Nutz the Monkey, and I enjoyed her relationship with Aladdin in their first meeting.

Life would be very dull without a larger than life Dame.  Widow Twankey was played by Ben Jaggers and he made the most of his part – although I felt his delivery was a little slow at times.  Good costume and super shoes!

I thought Paul Rogers was a suitably evil Abanazar – he had all the requirements of the evil sorcerer, and he also stepped up to the mark with his musical number – a good characterisation, with lots of expression.  

Delightful little Tiana Rogers, as Aba-banana – Abanazer's very youthful apprentice - gave her all to the part, she was very chirpy, lots of expression and used her whole face and body to convey her character – very well done.

It was a change to see a blue Genie of the Lamp – and Josh Thompson always gives his character fun and energy – I don't envy him getting the blue makeup off, but it looked good onstage, and worked well with the other characters.  

Stacey Peck was a very fatherly Sultan, and John O’Leary made a cameo appearance as the Prince, loved the legs!!

The customary sing-along using youngsters from the audience was based on Gangnam style this year, and the youngsters on stage really gave it some welly, which was great.  So often they want to do it, but looked scared to death when they get on stage – but this didn't happen this year, so well thought out.

The finale was lively and also contained some nice Christmas music that we could all sing along to and that created a real feel good ending.  The younger (and some older) members of the audience got really involved with the cast and that made it a great experience for us all.

It’s always a shame that I can only see one set of young people, but I am assured that Team Washy and the principal youngsters in the other team were just as good as the team I saw – so well done to all of you.

I think Debbie Cavanagh had achieved a good looking, mostly pacy and lively production, that we all enjoyed and which she should be proud of.  As always a nice start to the Christmas season.


ALADDIN” review date: 6TH Dec 2012


Director:  Debbie Cavanagh  MD: Chris Young

Choreographer: Jackie Houghton


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