If you’re thinking of taking a magic carpet ride to the Alban Arena this pantomime season then let this year’s cast make your wish for festive fun come true.
The top names on the St Albans bill are Mr Maker/Phil Gallagher (Wishee Washee) and Karl Howman (Abanazer), with Phil doing an expert job of whipping the crowd into a frenzy, and devious Karl getting more than his fair share of boos as he plotted to grab the genie’s lamp.
Throw in superb Arena panto regulars Bob Golding (Widow Twankey) and Ian Kirkby (Pc Pongo) and you have a recipe for success.
As good as they were however, this year some of the lesser-known names stood out for me.
The performance of Sam Hallion (Aladdin) was fantastic and really took off when he took to his magic carpet to soar above the matinee audience of gasping children.
Then there was Hilary O’Neil who make a real impression as the Spirit of the Ring and seemed to have benefited from her overacting classes as she temporarily slipped into characters such as Sybil from Fawlty Towers, Catherine Tate, and Dot Cotton.
Eddie Elliott as Mr G, the Genie of the Lamp, was another who excelled in portraying a wonderfully exaggerated character, while Lucy Kane as Princess Jasmine also impressed.
The panto jokes did feel slightly predictable at times, and I often found myself finishing off the gags in my head way, way, way before the punchline was delivered - but who doesn’t love an awful pun even if you do see it coming a mile off!
Some of the regular set-pieces of recent Arena pantos by Evolution Productions were also there, but that’s no bad thing as they’re obviously real crowdpleasers.
Wishee Washee, Widow Twankey, and Pc Pongo did the honours with the barrowful of shop signs puns that were literally wheeled out to hilarious effect by some crippled character bent over double and with a gammy leg.
Then there was the ghost (or in this case mummy) bench, and the highlight of the entire show... a performance of The 12 Days Of Christmas.
This was slapstick at its very best, with Pc Pongo taking his tally of custard pies in the face to 711 (and counting).
The show was packed with tongue twisters and ridiculous names for people and places (who could resist a trip to Wun Long Poo, even if it is a bit of a dump?).
And the gents in the audience should definitely get more than a little nervous when Window Twankey, with the help of Wishee Washee, starts searching for a man to satisfy her desires. Be warned, it’s a totally different approach this year than the usual ‘just quickly pick a poor chap from the front row’ approach.
Aladdin runs until Sunday, January 7. To book see https://www.alban-arena.co.uk/events/aladdin or call the Box Office 01727 844 488.