Aladdin

Aladdin 1 - Photo by David Munn

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Firm favourites on the calendar all year round thanks to their well-established half term pantos, Regal Entertainments have pulled out all the stops with their 2019 Christmas offering; a sparkling and strictly spectacular production of family favourite, Aladdin.

There are lavish sets, colourful costumes, super soakers, a spectacular scare-tastic 3D section as well as none stop gags and impressive dance numbers in this festive family friendly production.

Aladdin 2 - Photo by David Munn

Strictly star Robin Windsor takes on the role of Aladdin, replacing the previously cast Kelvin Fletcher who waltzed off to the BBC when the glitterball came calling but, do not fear he hasn’t been entirely erased as the ingeniously names ‘Kelvin the carpet’ joins Robin centre stage for a boogie!

Windsor is clearly having lots of fun performing, frequently treating the audience to showcases of his sensational footwork while leading a strong company of senior and juvenile dancers in some magnificent numbers. His warmth and likability matched with his impressive skills make him a huge hit with the audience.

Aladdin 5 - Photo by David Munn

Playing Wishee Washer, brother to Aladdin is the hilarious Scott Gallagher, a talented performer he has the audience roaring with laughter throughout. A natural comedian he takes full advantage of being centre stage at the end of Act 2 when several children are invited up to ‘Boss The Floss’ his interactions and observations have the audience crying with laughter while the children relish their memorable moment in the spotlight.

Timothy Lucas seals himself as an audience favourite in the role of PC Noodle and has a brilliantly inventive musical battle with evil Abanazer (Philip Shaun McGuinness) complete with dance moves that would absolutley get a 10 from Len.

Aladdin 3 - Photo by David Munn

Writer Si Foster who also stars as Widow Twankey has kept true to the real spirit of Panto with lots of slapstick silliness for the kids as well as cheeky gags for the grownups. There’s ample opportunity for many a ‘ITS BEHIND YOU’ while Panto favourite ‘We’ll have to sing it again then won’t we’ makes an appearance within the Monster Mash.

Choreographer Nazene Langfield has created some spectacular numbers which really allow Robin Windsor to show off his dazzling footwork while Olivia Sloyan, Kai Jolley and Jenna Sian O’Hara all make the most of their supporting roles.

Aladdin 6 - Photo by David Munn

Act 1 stutters occasionally and could benefit from a little trim however Act 2 is where this production really finds its feet and absolutely soars from opening number Dancing Fool right through to the glittering and gorgeous finale.

The final transformation scene will ensure audiences have the time of their lives as the cast mambo their way through the Dirty Dancing classic. This is a feel-good family friendly production packed with laughs and lots of them, another Christmas cracker from Regal Entertainments!

Catch Aladdin at St Helens Theatre Royal until Sunday 12th January tickets available here.

 

 

Jack and the Beanstalk

Review by our mini reviewer, Daisy Eagleton, aged 9.

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Christmas showstopper Jack and the Beanstalk, which is one of my favourite pantomimes, is jam-packed with some great actors at the Oldham Coliseum.

Jack was played by Sam Glenn who did an amazing job of making everybody smile with his fun personality.

Chris Lawson directed the show and brought in a different vibe to the usual panto, making this very modern, tackling things like veganism and how we use so much technology!

I loved the young dancers in the show, and they had such beautiful and colourful costumes – I wish I could dance like they did.

A big mention needs to go to everyone behind the scenes as they did a great job with the scenery and set; the huge beanstalk coming out of the ground and going into the air was so magical to watch.

The real laughs in the show come from watching Dame Dotty Trott, played by Richard J Fletcher, who made everyone nearly fall out of their seats with his funny jokes and over the top outfits. His unicorn costume was definitely the best!

My favourite character was Hazy the Hippy Cow, played by Mitesh Soni, who danced to ‘I like to moo-ve it’ and said we should ‘give peas a chance’, which made me smile a lot.

If you like pop music too, there’s so many hits in the show, including ‘Giant’ by Rag n Bone Man, which is really cool and got me and the rest of the kids in the audience singing along to it.

This pantomime was so good, me and my five-year-old brother loved it. It’s on until January 12th 2020 and I would definitely say to go see it!

Jack and the Beanstalk, Oldham Coliseum 16th Nov-11th Jan 2020 tickets available here.

Sleeping Beauty

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Theatre Royal in St Helens and Regal Entertainments continues with its welcome tradition of producing pantomines outside of the festive season with Sleeping Beauty for the October Half Term.

A much-loved tale of beautiful princess Aurora cursed to prick her finger on a spinning wheel by evil fairy Carabosse and sleep for a hundred years is brought to life by a hard-working cast – with all the requisite panto elements like glitter, songs and bags of audience participation.

Familiar faces in the cast include St Helens resident dame Si Foster. With a ‘You Hoo’ he is a good humoured figure who the audience clearly has real affection for.

As always Foster has great rapport with comic Lewis Devine (Chester the Jester) – a now familiar face in Theatre Royal pantos a clear audience favourite. His scene with the children from the audience on stage was as funny as you’d hope.

Samantha Palin is an impressive baddie Carabosse – striding about the stage and delivering some one-liners as wicked as her character. Clearly having bags of fun being the baddie, she almost made you root for Team Carabosse!

Mia Molloy and James Lacey play it straight as Love’s Young Dream Aurora and The Prince, both bringing like ability and great vocals to the stage.

Making up the principle cast is Warren Donnelly as The King and Abigail Middleton as Fairy Sparkle, who got to enjoy the spotlight at the end of of Act 1 with a powerhouse rendition of When You Believe.

A good panto in my eyes is one where I spend quite a bit of the show watching my little boy’s reaction to the on-stage action! And he was fully immersed in this show – booing, cheering, singing and laughing. His favourite bit? The “rude” nursery rhymes had him and the other young audience members in hysterics.

It’s a cheerful, crowd pleasing affair performed and received with warmth. And as ever the ticket prices are commendably affordable – starting at just £13.

Up next for Christmas at the Theatre Royal is Aladdin starring Strictly professional dancer Robin Windsor – we are looking forward to it already.

Just one cautionary note for parents of younger children – you can no longer borrow free booster seats at the theatre – instead having to purchase an inflatable one (which you get to take away with you) for £5 – a cost which could add up for larger groups. Just something to perhaps consider when deciding where to sit if you are with younger children and don’t want to shell out for a seat.

Sleeping Beauty is on at the St Helens Theatre Royal until Saturday 29th October. Tickets available here.

 

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz Image 4 - Credit David Munn Photography

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Continuing their run of half term pantos Regal Entertainment bring The Wizard of Oz to St Helens Theatre Royal this Easter.

Their reimagined panto version of the much-loved family favourite sees an all new script as well as some star billing including a very glamorous Wicked Witch in the form of Linda Lusardi who is joined on stage by her daughter Lucy Kane, most recently seen on ITV’s The Voice.

The Wizard of Oz Image 1 - Credit David Munn Photography

Directed by Chantelle Nolan and written by panto legend Si Foster The Wizard of Oz tells the magical tale of Dorothy Gale who finds herself accidentally killing the Wicked Witch of the East by dropping a house on her. When the Wicked Witch of the West finds out about her sisters untimely death she makes it her mission to seek revenge but will have to get past the power of Dorothy’s newly acquired ruby slippers to do so.

While The Wizard of Oz isn’t traditionally a pantomime Si Foster’s script cleverly reworks the story to ensure there are plenty of opportunities for the traditional boos, cheers and shouts of ‘its behind you’.

The Wizard of Oz Image 3 - Credit David Munn Photography

Foster’s writing allows for Reece Sibbald’s Scarecrow to take on a ‘Buttons-esque’ comedy role which he laps up. A natural entertainer, both his comedic timing as well as physical comedy are exceptional as he gets into some hilarious scrapes and showers the audience with more than just the usual water pistols. My little reviewers absolutely loved the part where he shrinks in size & giggled about it all the way home.

Mia Molloy gives a great performance as Dorothy, she is in fine voice and more than does justice to Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Her dancing and acting abilities also impress proving she is indeed a worthy wearer of the ruby slippers.

The Wizard of Oz Image 2 - Credit David Munn Photography

The talented cast work well together and keep the story moving at a pace. There’s a sprinkling of cheeky jokes for the adults as well as lots of laughs for the little ones. One moment of corpsing from Lusardi & Sibbald absolutely bringing the house down.

Music of course plays a huge part in panto and its great to hear in addition to some of the traditional songs from The Wizard of Oz there are some recent favourites including Baby Shark as well as a roarsome song from The Greatest Showman.

The Wizard of Oz Image 6 - Credit David Munn Photography

With impressive sets, lavish costumes and strong support from both the senior and juvenile dancers The Wizard of Oz impresses visually as well as musically.

While the story doesn’t allow for a traditional love story element writer Si Foster has added just the right amount of comedic adjustments to give the show a panto feel while still remaining true to the story.

The Wizard of Oz is a hugely entertaining family friendly version of a much-loved classic with ticket prices starting at just £13 this Wizard of Oz is wonderful indeed.

Catch The Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal until 22nd April tickets available here.

 

Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood

The decorations may have come down and the tree has been packed away but there’s one festive treat still on offer as Robin Hood & The Babes in the Wood plays at Warrington’s Parr Hall until Sunday 13th January.

This traditional production is packed full of the usual pantomime favourites, cream pies in the face, water guns as well as being grabbed by the ghosties, or was it the ghoulies? There’s also a sprinkling of topical modern references including the floss, a certain Baby Shark song and even an appearance from the one and only Donald Trump as this fun, family show offers laughs a-plenty for all ages.

The Tony Peers Production written by Phil Beck (who also stars as Nurse Nellie) keeps things very panto traditional with Louise Willoughby playing Robin Hood to Charlotte Buxton’s Maid Marion. Willoughby makes for a strong and sassy lead with both ladies giving note perfect performances despite some hilariously difficult conditions brought about by comedy duo Nurse Nellie and Silly Billy (Phil Beck and Mike Carnell) whose comedy capers are greeted with shrieks of laughter from the audience.

As a double act both Beck and Carnell are fabulous fun, quick witted and enormously entertaining with impeccable comedy timing the duo ensure the action moves at a perfect pace as they gently guide us through the story throwing in plenty of laughs along the way. Ian Moore’s lecherous Sheriff of Nottingham revels in the boos while the Sheriff’s reluctant henchman Snarly played by Edward Leigh shows there’s more to him than meets the eye.

Robin Hood is a great fun production which offers the perfect introduction to festive theatre at a family friendly price. The small cast work brilliantly together, clearly having a lot of fun on stage they succeed in taking the audience along for this traditional and cheeky ride. While there aren’t the big show stopping numbers or dazzling choreography of bigger budget productions the laughs come thick and fast ensuring this panto covers all bases in terms of appeal, from toe-curling close to the bone jokes for the adults to slap-stick silliness for the kids.

My fellow mini-reviewer remarked on the way back to the car “My cheeks hurt from laughing so much” a true testament to the enduring appeal of panto; cheeky, charming and chock-full of fun.

Catch Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood at Warrington’s Parr Hall until Sunday 13th January. Tickets available here.

 

 

 

Peter Pan

Reviewed by Kate Goerner

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Following on from last Christmas’s terrific Snow White, Regal Entertainments 2018 festive pantomime is a high-flying production of the classic children’s tale Peter Pan, directed by Chantelle Nolan.

From the colourful costumes and sets to special effects including a lovely flying sequence complete with impressive projections and a scream-inducing underwater 3D section (word of warning, younger children may find the shark a bit too scary!), it felt like this was St Helen’s most lavish panto to date.

The theatre’s resident comic Lewis Devine takes on the role of Peter Pan, a slight departure from his usual comedy sidekick role, although he does bring in plenty of comic touches regular audiences will recognise.

Clearly relishing the chance to play the leading man, a relaxed Devine enjoys easy rapport with the cast and audience alike. And as always he is great with the kids who come up on stage at the end of the show.
One thing Peter Pan does have is a brilliant baddie in the nefarious Captain James Hook – here played by Brookside favourite and theatre regular Louis Emerick.
Emerick is probably too likeable and charming to ever be a really bad baddie – but that’s ok. The audience loved his easy manner on stage and his Scouse gags got plenty of laughs.
He shows great chemistry with the Theatre Royal’s popular resident dame Si Foster who plays a warm and witty Mrs Smee (as well as writing the show).
It’s a delight watching them together on stage and if you thought you saw the year’s best version of ABBA’s Fernando in Mamma Mia 2 – think again!
In fact all the songs hit the mark, with musicals fans in particular sure to be delighted with some lovely company numbers including Revolting Children from Matilda, and Wicked’s Dancing Through Life. And the reworking of Nativity’s Nazareth into Neverland to open the show was inspired!
2018’s cult hit Baby Shark is included and the only disappointment on the music front was the absence of a number from The Greatest Showman, which seems to a staple of many pantos this year.
Strictly Come Dancing’s Kristina Rihanoff has lots of fun as a stubborn and sulky Tinkerbell – and it was a treat getting to see her show off some ballroom moves – while Georgina Parkinson (Wendy) and Abigail Middleton (Tiger Lily) made the most of their supporting roles and both showed off fine voices. A large juvenile cast ably supported the principles, as did the ensemble.
The only real criticism is possibly one of Peter Pan as a panto as a whole, rather than particularly in relation to this production. With no real love story, or an out and out comic ‘Buttons-esque’ character, the show did lack romance, and laughs – while plenty (the running Peter’s Camp gag was a real winner!) – were not as constant compared to previous pantos here, particularly the sort of slapstick humour that has kids in hysterics!
But that aside, this is a highly-enjoyable, warm, family friendly version of a much-loved story brought to life by a cast clearly enjoying every minute.And as usual, tickets are commendably good value and affordable for families – starting at just £11.
Until Sunday 13th January 2019 tickets available here.

Cinderella | Opera House

Reviewed by Nikki Cotter

Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

First staged in 2016 at the London Palladium then last year at Birmingham’s legendary Hippodrome Qdos Entertainment’s Cinderella has been brought bang up to date by writer Alan McHugh with Corrie jokes a plenty and hilarious local references a go-go. Both Ben Nickles who plays Buttons and Ugly Sister Les Dennis adding material to the laugh a minute script ensuring a riotous night out is guaranteed.

All the stops have been pulled out in this spectacular production; lavish sets, colourful costumes, catchy songs and a superb cast ensuring the Opera House panto remains at the top of theatre goers agenda for another festive season.

Our Ugly Sisters Phelina (Connor McIntyre) and Michaela (Les Dennis) are mad for it as they blend the silly with the slapstick and throw in some cheeky charm for good measure, the pairing is genius as panto pro Les leads the way, reminding us all just why he’s one of the best in the business.

Rochdale comedian Ben Nickless quickly becomes an audience favourite as Buttons; he laps up the applause and delights with outrageously funny comedy capers and hilarious impressions, a born entertainer who comes very close to stealing the show.

Gareth Gates and Shannon Flynn make for a perfect pairing as the dashing Prince Charming and the down on her luck Cinderella proving that they’re not afraid of getting stuck in with the slapstick when their romantic meeting turns into a hilarious battle of wills with lovesick Buttons.

Hayley-Ria Christian makes for a super sassy Fairy Godmother while Jack Wilcox is a commanding and charismatic Dandini.

The ensemble cast and young company, always a favourite of mine in panto add vibrancy with slick delivery of Fabian Aloise’s choreography adding additional charm to this feel-good family show.

Qdos Entertainment has got Cinderella just right in terms of pitch, the script is jam-packed with hilarious gags and witty one–liners while the innuendo we all expect from panto never tips into crudeness, its good old cheeky fun and plenty of it.

The transformation scene at the end of Act I really has to be seen to be believed and is worth the ticket price alone as the gasps of delight from the audience both young and old are heard loud and clear. While panto may one of theatre’s oldest traditions this production feels fresh and vibrant.

Cinderella really is the perfect package; it’s lavish, sparkly, sequined fun suitable for all the family. This extravagant production is everything panto should be and more.

Guaranteed to entertain from start to finish leaving you feeling suitably festive and full of Christmas cheer. Big, bold and brilliant!

Cinderella is on until Sunday 30th December tickets available here.