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REVIEW: Aladdin at Newcastle Tyne Theatre

Newcastle Tyne Theatre & Opera House
Until Sunday 5th January 2020

Newcastle’s theatre on Westgate Road has been building a strong reputation for delivering a traditional, family friendly and entertaining pantomime.  Aladdin opened today and builds upon these values.

Breaking down the barriers and quickly getting the audience on side is the Tyne’s regular comic Charlie Richmond. Tonight he wasn’t just the source of much of the comedy, he was also doing a brilliant job tidying up a number of loose ends on opening day.  His Wishee Washee character doesn’t need to do panto tongue-in-cheek and by not making references to previous year’s shows he makes the show more welcoming for anyone who has not seen it before. Other pantos can feel like a closed club.  He lets the kids shine too when they go on stage at the end.

For Aladdin is a good traditional pantomime with many of classic elements such as the best scary take off scene which had the young kids screaming “it’s behind you!” with real gusto. There were some unique features too: fire juggling and aerial work thanks to Emma Dearden and Rachael Alexander. This helped add a nice wow factor that the bigger pantos should have.

Not that everything was going well though. It was only the second show of the run and it showed. Actors fluffing their lines will quickly fix themselves and the show will soon be running on gas. Then there is the sound. Despite working in a venue with the best acoustics in Newcastle somehow the sound wasn’t at its best. Sometimes it was the microphones not being switched on before an actor speaks or the sound levels distorting what is being said. Perhaps turning the overall volume down would help everyone hear the audience too for this was the loudest panto of the five we’ve seen so far this year. You always get teething troubles at the start of the run so let’s look past those.

In case you wondered what it
looks like under the stage - here is what
we saw during the theatre tour.
The show begins with X-Factor runner up Marcus Collins as the Genie flying through the traps of the stage to introduce the story. Marcus is a charismatic performer, who is a good singer too, and this results in a very likeable Genie. Next to fly through the floor was the bad guy Abanazar. David Easter worked hard to encourage the kids to boo at him and he was able to be a baddie without being scary. It has to be said that this panto took advantage of the venue’s Victorian heritage and used the various traps and lifts throughout. [Dear reader, the venue runs regular tours at the weekends and you also get to see the wooden equipment under the stage that propels the stars to the stage, which is unique in the area – well worth checking out! To book see]  

This may be Australian actor Nic Westaway’s first pantomime but, as Aladdin, he has taken to the format like a duck to water and he seems very comfortable with the three ring circus that is often a part of these shows. He had his moment on the magic carpet which seemed to go well with the kids.

Widow Twankey is performed by experienced dame Chris Casserly, who appears in a new outfit in each scene. This includes one that looks like a tin of beans that his Mum made. 

Local lad Lewis Denny returns for the fifth time to the Tyne Panto – this year he is PC Pong. The comic talents that he was able to entertain us with in previous years seem criminally underused in this show and it would have been fun to see more of his comedy.

Another local talent that was given plenty of time to shine was Hannah Wales who was a fabulous Princess Jasmine. Her singing scene on the wall with Charlie Richmond and Nic Westaway was a highlight of the show. She is one to watch for the future.

A good panto has the big dance scenes with that mixture of professional dancers and young “babes”. The Tyne show has seven teams of young dancers and tonight’s bunch did a wonderful job. It isn’t just the choreographer Kerry Blaskett who has worked hard here – mention should also go to the unsung heroes of panto – the 25 chaperones who have to look after them between scenes. It must be a hard job, but the final effect was worth it.

My 16 year old companion was singing the shows praises as we headed home. He said I was nit picking for suggesting that a panto shouldn’t kick a local rival town more than twice in a show. I feel that they should spread it around more! He felt the jokes were frequent and funny. The trouble is, as someone who watches very little TV, a number of them flew over my head. The show had the right number of songs and they seem to selected from a “Panto’s favourite hits of the last 5 years” list with Happy, Uptown Funk and others rubbing shoulders with the pyrotechnics of the classic Disco Inferno. It was great to see the kids getting up and dancing in the Circle to a number of the music routines. There is also a live band under musical director Ben Wiles which worked well under pressure for the flying balls and light fittings that headed their way.

2019 has been a good year for our panto travels. This is show number 5 and we haven’t seen a bad one yet. The Tyne Panto is a canny feel-good show.

Review by Stephen Oliver

Tickets are available from the theatre box office and online from Eventim UK: #Ad

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