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Saturday, 17 December 2016

Review: Aladdin at Hartlepool Town Hall



Hartlepool Panto is a Explosive Success

Aladdin
Hartlepool Town Hall
Until Wednesday 28th December 2016

It may be the Hartlepool’s first venture into professional pantomime for many years but  Elite Pantomimes have served a wonderful slice of entertainment. Great chemistry between the cast is reflected by the regular warm interactions with the audience. This is a funny panto that deserves to succeed.

The show opens with Terence Maynard as the evil Abanazar nicely winding up the audience who return the favour with a chorus of boos. The former-Coronation Street star has a number of opportunities to name check his previous role however there is much more than TV fame at his disposal. He is not just some simple reality TV star put on the stage to sell tickets and we left saying he was possibly the best Abanazar that we’ve seen. 

Next on stage is the eponymous Aladdin. This is the first song and dance number and Denis Grindel shares the stage with an ensemble of 4 great dancers and tonight we also had the pleasure  of the young dancers called ‘Team Wishee’. Regular readers will know that we have enjoyed the dancers at this year’s pantos around our region but, dare we say it, these were the most committed group we’ve seen so far this year. They threw their heart and soul into each number – they were a pleasure to watch. Credit goes to director/choreographer Sallie Warrington and dance captain Katie Lowe and dancers Josie Harbertson, Sian Husband, Sophie O’Connor. The fabulous Team Wishee are Millie Barrass, Claudia Bennett, Mollie-Mae Jukes, Thalia Morfitt, Angela Wood and Sienna Varney.

A venue like the Town Hall has the ability to make panto a much more intimate and personal experience.  The entry of David Martin as Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee was the first example of this as he immediately shoots off the stage into the audience which his mobile phone hunting for Pokemons. Later on, during the 12 days of Christmas, Paul Tate, as Widow Twankey, would hurl the ‘5 toilet rolls’ into the audience and then chase after them whist interacting with the audience along the way. Add this to the opportunities to scream “Oh no you’re not” or “it’s behind you” and the kids in the audience get plenty of chances to get excited. It was great to see this with some of the kids getting on their feet and yelling at the appropriate moments, such was the engagement with David and Paul.

Last to appear are Sultan Mustafa-Biscuit (Paul Lavers) and his daughter Princess Jasmine (Charlotte Maclachlan). In some versions of Aladdin these characters can be merely window dressing to be wheeled on occasionally whilst the dame changes their costume but in this Paul Tate penned show both characters enjoy full roles and their own opportunities to join in the fun.

The show has an appropriate number of past & present chart songs. Sat at the front we could appreciate the multi instrumental skills of musical director Ashley MA Walsh and the work put in by drummer Daniel Molina.


So, did Aladdin put a foot wrong? Not really. Apart from an over enthusiastic smoke machine blocking our view at one point (which in itself was quite funny), we had a great time. After all we had jokes, songs and a good story, with lots of local references, in a well-paced show. No scene was on too long and the show runs just under 2 hours making it ideal for younger children. No joke was over used or unsuitable for a young audience. The venue is really reasonably priced. Not only are the tickets not much more expensive than seeing a 3D movie at your local multiplex, it has £1.50 ice creams and possibly the cheapest bar we’ve seen this year.  This is an experience that doesn’t require a second overdraft.   

This is very much Hartlepool’s panto and it is something special. We are looking forward to Cinderella next year already.

There will be a special relaxed performance aimed specifically at people with an autistic spectrum condition, sensory and communication disorders or learning disabilities on Monday December 19 at 2.30pm.

Review by Stephen Oliver(Follow on Twitter @panic_c_button)

Read the North East Theatre Guide preview: Review LINK



Tickets:
Tickets are priced at £14 for adults, £12 for children or £47 for a family (2 adults and 2 children.)

To book tickets or to obtain a full list of performance times go to https://www.destinationhartlepool.com/events/aladdin.html



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