Theatre Review – Aladdin Birmingham Hippodrome
Aladdin at Birmingham Hippodrome is a cry-laughing delight of non-stop antics
Other than the big day itself, Panto is possibly the biggest part of our family Christmas. It’s not about seeing the biggest venue, or even the biggest stars, we do big, small and in-between venues and love them all for different reasons; smaller theatres can often produce a wonderful up close and personal home-made experience, whereas the larger productions who attract the bigger names can provide a much grander evening out.
This year, Aladdin at the Hippodrome took Panto to a whole new level.
I am sincerely envious of anyone who hasn’t yet been so I won’t give away the details away for fear of ruining it for anyone planning a trip and for those who have been already, you’ll know what I mean!
The opening scene scared the bejeebers out of us, what with the baddie Abanazar played by Marti Pellow, lead singer of the 80’s band Wet Wet Wet, supported by darkness, spooky lighting and thundering sound effects, oh and the humongous gorilla! He was truly frightening as he introduced the plot, and when a group of gorillas came pounding onto the stage and down the steps, let me tell you being sat on the end of the 4th row was terrifying! Loved every minute!
Don’t worry though, Wishy Washy, Aladdin’s hilarious brother soon appeared on stage, and normality resumed with the Panto antics we love in all its glory. Matt Slack, the Birmingham Panto regular played a marvellous Wishy Washy and when joined on stage by his Mother, the Widow Twanky played by Andrew Ryan the scenes became so hilarious even other cast members on stage break their composure, seeing even the glaring Abanazar break into giggles is fantastic, and a relief too because I was quite frightened of him.
Julian Clary was his usual and camp self, with fantastic costumes and a series of his double-entendres, he just about kept it respectable although a few less quips might help parents navigate the ‘I don’t get it, what’s everyone laughing at?’ questions from the kids.
Lee Mead (Lofty in Casualty) is wonderful, belting out a number of solo’s – it’s clear to see why he won the Any Dream Will Do competition in 2007 and it was great to see him live. After asking my 10 year old which was his favourite scene, the duet with Princess Jasmine came out on top – mainly because the romantic love song was is interrupted by Wishy Washy and quickly turned into the best slapstick scene since Benny Hill. My son had trouble catching his breath from laughing so hard.
And the hilarity didn’t stop, mainly thanks to Matt Slack’s Wishy Washy; from impressive and long tongue twisters, to a quick rendition of the ‘epic’ so money supermarket advert.
Princess Jasmine was joined by the Acromaniacs who performed impressive stunts on stage and the kids from the Birmingham Stage school were just as impressive.
The special effects were like nothing we’ve seen before in one show, a number of scenes involved spectacular mechanical elements, from King Kong in the opening scene, a giant snake later on, the fabulous Brummie Genie and the flying carpet which stunned the audience by flying out over the first few rows. Amazing effects.
But not only that, after the interval, through the magic of 3D we joined Aladdin and his pals as we all flew off to rescue Princess Jasmine! With the aid of 3D glasses the journey was full of danger with carious creatures coming for us, it was utterly breathtaking, with the audience gasping, whooping and yelling out at various times too.
In all the Panto’s we’ve been to, I have never seen my son so animated, crying with laughter a number of times and we spent the car ride home reliving it all. A thoroughly awesome production from all involved.
Aladdin at the Birmingham Hippodrome runs until Sunday the 31st January 2016.