Cambridge Arts Theatre
Reviewed – 7th December 2021
“a super night’s entertainment to be enjoyed by all”
The Producer before the start of this show asks the audience to ‘go ballastic’ and the packed house duly obliges, knowing just when the right times are to boo and cheer, and gives the show a worthy ovation at the end of the evening.
And I am not surprised, for this is a wonderful family show, directed by Michael Gattrell, and performed by a very strong cast. The singing is powerful, the dancing is energetic. There isn’t a great deal of plot or tension, but this is panto! The show programme offers just a ten-sentence plot synopsis but there is so much more going on here and for those expecting a show within the tradition of Christmas pantomime, this production ticks all the boxes.
Matt Crosby as Widow Twankey sets the standard for the show. Batting his over-large eye lashes in a rendition of “Hanky-Panky” (it rhymes with Twankey!), he sings in confident gravelly bass tones, and we know we are going to be in safe hands.
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Aladdin (Carl Au) is a wide-eyed dreamer with a Scouse accent. Both Au and Isaac Stanmore as Wishy-Washy, in a delightfully over-the-top performance, show cheeky charm and play well together. A messy laundry slapstick scene involving Twankey and Wishy-Washy is a highlight of the evening for many.
Rolan Bell as Abanazar devilishly milks his inner villain, declaiming rhyming couplets in velvety tones. Flashes and smoke bombs welcome his every entry.
Princess Poppy (Megan-Hollie Robertson) is the necessary love interest but she and Aladdin need to work a little more on their spark if we are to believe in their secret love.
The all-important Genie is played by Jak Allen-Anderson as a very tall, acrobatic game show host whilst Aiesha Pease is The Spirit of the Ring who helps move along the plot and enjoys some powerful soul numbers.
All the principals get their own moment in the spotlight in this show and all sing brilliantly. Au excels in his ballad as he flies on the magic carpet to rescue the Princess. There is some nice stage craft here too though Aladdin needs to relax more into it. The most surprising turn of the evening is Abanazar’s rock inspired solo “I Want it All” but the standout song of the show, amongst several contenders, is Poppy’s poignant solo as she looks to find the confidence to start living her life, beautifully performed by Robertson.
The stage comes alive in each of the full ensemble numbers. With music from a live four-piece pit band (Musical Director Dean McDermott) and singing reinforced by a six-strong ensemble led by the ever-smiling Dance Captain Hettie Pearson, the dance choreography by Kevan Allen is effective and performed with high energy throughout.
Writer Al Lockhart-Morley provides an engaging script with strong and funny repartee. There is a small amount of innuendo for the older ones in the audience to knowingly chuckle at, but this show isn’t smutty. And there are no politics either. Otherwise, with just a few references to lockdown, there is an endless flow of the corniest cracker jokes, puns and amusing word play. Gently mocking references to local Cambridge amenities draw appreciative laughs.
This production is a super night’s entertainment to be enjoyed by all. Princess Poppy says at one point, “it is incredible, but it isn’t true” and that could apply to this whole idea of pantomime. But this is the season for it, and that is just fine. Oh yes, it is.
Reviewed by Phillip Money
Photography by Richard Hubert Smith
Cambridge Arts Theatre
Previously reviewed at this venue:
Absurd Person Singular | ★★★ | September 2021
Copenhagen | ★★★★ | July 2021
Dial M For Murder | ★★★ | October 2021
Tell me on a Sunday | ★★★ | September 2021
The Good Life | ★★ | December 2021
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