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Review: Aladdin at Sunderland Empire

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A Magical Panto
Sunderland Empire
Until Sunday 3rd January 2016.

Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire is a very sparkly affair. The children have lots of opportunities to get excited and shout. So what better way to celebrate Panto Day than with a classic show?

Terence Maynard (Abanazar)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
Terence Maynard may have finished playing Tony Stewart on Coronation Street but he was very much at home as the evil magician Abanazar. He managed to get the young kids booing with vigour early on as stated his quest for world domination. In fact he is a very good bad guy!  It was great to see the bad guy get a reasonable role rather than just appearing at the side whilst the scenery is changed as sometimes happens in panto. The trouble for old Abanazar is that he needs a lad called Aladdin to go into a cave to dig out the lamp with which he will gain the powers that he so desires.

Derek Moran (Wishee Washee)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
Over in Peking Aladdin’s brother, Wishee Washee, has just finished a shift at his Mother’s laundry. Playing the role is Milkshake’sDerek Moran who seems very comfortable pulling the audience on side. Derek gives the audience the usual demands to be greeted whenever he appears or if anyone goes near his pet dog Tiddles. The youngsters in the crowd take an immediate shine to him.

Matthew Dale (Aladdin) and Leanne Kyte (Princess Jasmine)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
No panto is complete with a number of cruel references to neighbouring parts of the region and a few jokes headed in the direction of Aladdin actor Matthew Dale’s hometown of Middlesbrough. The singing in Aladdin was definitely a feature of the show. Along with the love interest Princess Jasmine, played by Leanne Kaye, Aladdin had a number of songs to perform in.  It is great to see a live band, under musical director Steve Allen, rather than a tape being used. The live band came into it’s own during the 12 Days of Christmas. The music chosen reminded us that in fact, 2015 has had some rather good pop hits.

Ian Good (Widow Twankey)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
In his 28th pantomime, Ian Good was full of the quick jokes as the panto dame Widow Twankey. Ian is also the director of the show and he gave a very sound performance.

Local lad Tom Whalley was very funny as PC Pong in a real stand out performance. He had a genuine energy in his performance.

Alison Hammond (Slave of the Ring) and
 Alex Green (Genie of the Lamp)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
The show needs some magic and helping Aladdin is the Slave of the Ring performed by This Morning’s Alison Hammond whose entrance was noted by the Strictly Come Dancing theme each time. Her sharp wit came across regularly in the show.  The Genie of the Lamp was played by Alex Green and he probably deserved a bigger role as the deliverer of wishes.

Tom Whalley (PC Pong)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
Panto is challenging to produce and special mention should go to the ensemble known as the “People of Peking”. They  danced the night away and, along with the young girls from the local dance schools,  didn’t put a foot wrong.

In a bright, colourful production, the audience had plenty to get excited about.  The show has a youthful energy and a real positive buzz about it.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for the North East Theatre Guide from Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Read the original North East Theatre Guide preview of Aladdin here:

Terence Maynard (Abanazar) and Matthew Dale (Aladdin)
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue

Tickets are on sale now from the Box Office on High Street West, Sunderland, the Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022* and online at

Alison Hammond (Slave of the Ring
Photo: Dirk Van Der Werff / Eggshell Blue
Families will also have the chance to take part in themed Arabian Adventure Tours hosted by our Creative Learning Department on certain dates over the festive period. To find out more and book call 0844 8713022 or book in person at the Box Office on High Street West.
BSL Signed performance, Wednesday 30 December (2pm) and the Relaxed Performance will be held on Saturday 2 January 2015 (2pm).

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