BWW Review: ALADDIN, Bristol Hippodrome
As the sole pantomime in Bristol, Aladdin (from pantomime giants Qdos Entertainment) has a lot resting on its shoulders for families this festive season. For some, christmas means panto and those people won't feel short changed by this big budget bonanza.
What Qdos seem to have recognised is that while they can't compete with the local heart and spirit baked into shows created in the city, they can outstrip their rivals for pure spectacle. And boy do they do spectacle well.
There's a magic carpet that will leave youngsters wondering for nights to come how it really flew, there's impressive 3D video and it's punctuated by enough bangs and fizzes to make you think it must be November 5th again. As one line goes 'you're getting your moneys worth with this show'.
Thankfully, it's not all left to special effects and the undoubted star of the show is Joe Pasquale who brings natural warmth to Wishee Washee. As something of a panto veteran, he gamely throws himself into all the sketches and mishaps that befall him. His stand-up career has well prepared him for the heckles and audience participation that any good panto has.
David Robbins as Widow Twankey is a little short changed in the first half but like much of this show comes to life with some cannily crafted routines in the second. Robbins alongside Pasquale are the beating heart of the best song of the show as they imagine what other professions they might like to try. Even panto-sceptics are laughing.
Alexis Gerred is an energetic Aladdin who keeps what plot there is moving along. Hayley Tamaddon is a sweet natured Jasmine though in 2017 it would be nice for Jasmine to have a little more to her than just wanting to marry someone.
And then there's Marti Pellow as Abanazar. The role of villain in panto is one to be cherished. It's a pure gift- a chance to embellish, over act and scare a few children along the way. Sadly, Pellow lacks any real menace. His accent wobbles all over until he gives up and just goes for his natural Scottish twang. It's an underwhelming performance in a role that could be so much more.
While I have my reservations about commercial pantomime (this Aladdin will be in Glasgow next year, I assume they'll just change the Swindon jokes for Edinburgh ones) it's hard to be too curmudgeonly when it's done this well and the squeals of delights from young families are still ringing in your ears.