Aladdin at the Lichfield Garrick – Giant Genies and Giant Laughs!

Aladdin the Panto at the Lichfield Garrick – Review – Tuesday December 5 2017

This Lichfield Aladdin of the Lamp is filled with laughter, life, loons and love! Where else could you see a 20ft tall Egyptian mummy, a flying panto Dame, a genie as high as an elephant’s eye…oh…and a giant elephant too!  

I think I saw my first pantomime aged 5 and must have seen well over forty through the years, from school productions right through to the massive, TV and film star-filled affairs of the 1980s – but the best pantos I’ve ever seen have been right here in Lichfield at the Garrick!

Last year’s production of Sleeping Beauty hit all the right notes – and Aladdin hits them all over again – but this time with an even more assured striking of the chords! It has everything you’d ever want in a panto – laughs, slapstick, slick dance routines, sing-a-long songs, groan-a-long gags and gizmos galore!

The key to the success of this panto is, undoubtedly, the experienced actors, production team and backstage theatre group many of whom worked on last year’s Sleeping Beauty and so ‘know the ropes’, know exactly what works – and know what a Lichfield theatre family audience wants.

The fabulous Sam Rabone, as Widow Twankey, and livewire Ben Thornton as Wishee Washee both return after their amazing performances last year and throw the same enthusiasm on (and rolling around!) the stage again, they clearly enjoy working together and the laughter levels always increase when they’re on stage. The quick-fire record (vinyl!) switching scene is fast paced and very clever and this, and the slippy-slidey water routine which results in everyone getting covered in gunge, water and foam (if you’re going to the performances I’d watch out if you’re in the front three rows – wear a hat!), provide two of the biggest cheers of the evening. There are also some ‘mistakes’ in timing, words and scene changes when Sam and Ben laugh at each other’s foul-ups – but you know what, I just can’t work out if they are for real or staged – so if you go to one of the shows let me know what you think!!!

The (very) strong supporting cast includes the lovely Cat Sandion from the children’s TV programme Cbeebies, Adrian Bevan as Aladdin, Robin Johnson as the baddie Abanazar, Ian Billings as the Emperor of China and James Mitchell as the knock-a-bout PC Pongo who rides a number of unlikely looking bikes, juggles and joins in the Dame’s and Wishee’s slip-sliding around stage act. Local Lichfield actress Lizzie Wofford is the Spirt of the Ring and Cameron Johnson is the Genie of the Lamp. I last saw Lizzie playing Emma, a troubled teenager, haunted by the spirit of Lichfield poet Anna Seward in the dramatic, spooky ‘Letters to Emma’ – but her Spirit in Aladdin is entirely different – a funny, lively, action packed yam-yam of a role played with a Black Country accent! Cameron Johnson as the Genie is a real hit of the show – he’s 6ft 7in tall and has a lovely strong, soulful voice as well as some body-popping dance movies – so I think a real hit with the ladies in the audience too!

The script, written by Paul Hendy, is fast, snappy and full of local references (local councils’ budget cuts and the Lichfield ice rink get mentions!), the production (Evolution Productions) value is very high and the direction is in the very capable, experienced hands of the Garrick’s Artistic Director Tim Ford. There are some great songs, with popular hits and original ones too, with musical arrangement by Dave Culling (the ukulele sketch in particular is cute and funny) the choreography by Ashley Nottingham is spot on (watch out for some of the young dancers in the ensemble pieces – I just love their enthusiasm, they love every second) and the lighting and special effects, including the flying magic carpet, and giant action figures are all really well done and have the audience gasping as well as laughing.

A great night’s entertainment, there is something for everyone and all good, clean family fun. The three year old sitting next to me was bouncing up and down on his chair, eyes as wide as saucers and laughing along with the slapstick – and I think that is what a good panto is all about.
It was a full house last night and I’m sure that they will have full houses for the whole of the run so I have two Garrick Genie Gems of advice for you:
1/ See if you can book In to the limited seats available for the rest of the run

2/ Whether you can or can’t get in to see Aladdin – book in for the winter 2018 production of Dick Whittington now – you’ll be able to get the best seats in the house for the best Panto in the Midlands!

Aladdin at the Lichfield Garrick runs until 6 January 2018 you can book online at their website: ring 01543 412121 or call into the Box Office (during normal opening hours) on Castle Dyke, Lichfield.

Dick Whittington runs from 30 November 2018 to 31 December 2018 – and 2017 prices are held if you book by 31 December 2017.