By Sally Casey
DYNAMIC, ultra-professional, engaging, warm, funny, great value for money and something for everyone. That’s the verdict of this years pantomime at the Thameside Theatre.
This is the first time, Polka Dot Productions have put a show on at the Thameside and Aladdin does not disappoint.
The first thing I noticed was how the producers had used the whole auditorium; decorating the sides of the theatre.
For the first time, special effects play a very important part of the Thameside pantomime. The opening backdrop and image are very effective as well as a show stopping scene in which Aladdin and the princess duet.
One of the highlights of the show is the singing of Slave of the Ring, Shona Damms. Shona is not only affable as a TOWIE-alike slave but can really belt out a number.
But the real glue that sticks the panto together is former EastEnders star, Dean Gaffney. One thought he would be a little detached but he really really warms into the role of Wishee Washee and is the star of the second half.
Dean just keeps the tempo going, interacts with the audience, judges the pace and basically brings the whole show home.
As for winner of Big Brother, 2007, Brian Belo. It is a while before you see him as the Genie of the Ring and the first song is a little confusing but he soon relaxes and is at his best as part of the ensemble where he works really well.
He is really engaging personality and that comes over on the stage.
And the key is that this is a real team who drive the panto forward. Princess Jasmine played by Performers College student, Madeleine Stephens radiates from the stage, is a fine singer and has an indefinable presence.
Aladdin played by Gareth Mitchell is similar in that he has a charismatic presence to the role, that has the audience rooting for him.
Wain Douglas as Widow Twankey has real Frankie Howard “Titter Ye Not” sense of humour as well as some outstanding outfits. Indeed, there are a lot of costume changes and they all work seamlessly.
Ababazar played by Darren Tough is a wonderfully sinister character as he creeps and plots across the stage, giving the children every opportunity to boo and hiss.
The audience loved it. There were all ages at the evening show and they felt thoroughly entertained.
And this was the third show of the day for the cast but they were bursting with energy and such vigour was really appreciated by the crowd.
This is a pantomime where you can see that it has been a real team effort and that means backstage, in the box office and all the management.