This was, quite simply, a magical evening of traditional family entertainment, delivered with wonderful panache by an incredibly hard working cast, band and technical crew. The script was sharp and full of laughs and was delivered the ensemble cast with astonishing pace and confidence considering the early point in the run; costumes and set were eye-catchingly excellent,
From the opening appearance of the suitably sinister Abanazar (Stefan Pejic, a real commanding presence, but would love to have seen a bit more of his magical talents used) and the effervescent Slave of the Ring (T.V. favourite Lisa Riley in sparkling form) we knew we were in safe hands. The junior reviewers with me were booing and cheering from the word go, and didn’t stop until we dragged them out of the theatre 2 ½ hours later.
And what a lot QDOS Entertainment have crammed into that playing time. I know the cast were exhausted by several routines in the show, and we were getting exhausted just from clapping and cheering so much. Panto veteran Ian Adams sings and dances up a storm as Widow Twankey, with a better pair of pins than most of the dancers; Ben Faulks (CBeebies Mr Bloom) hits just the right note as the comic policeman PC Pong; and Adam C Booth (Wishee Washee) engages effortlessly and energetically with the audience throughout the evening. The old panto favourite If I Was Not Up On This Stage sent the audience into hysterics, with Adams, Riley, Faulks and Booth showing great comic timing, excellent stamina, and admirable concentration dealing with misbehaving props, which made the whole routine even funnier.
As our leading couple Joe McElderry (Aladdin) was effortlessly charming and in great voice, and was joined in a couple of excellent duets by Lucy Kay’s Princess Jasmine.
But none of this was enough to steal the show. That accolade undoubtedly belonged to the Lazy Empress (Doreen Tipton). All credit to the Grand's Chief Executive, Adrian Jackson, for bringing real local colour to the show by including Gill Jordan’s inspired comic creation. The self-proclaimed new Queen of the Black Country is a benefit scrounger, who will no doubt take her award, wrap it up in old newspaper, stick it on the back of her mobility scooter, take it home and hide it from the Social Security inspectors next time they come to call.
The music was excellent throughout the show (a big shout out for MD Kelvin Towse and his 5 piece band), and the dance routines sparkled.
Choreographed by Matt Flint, the Money Medley that opened Act Two was a particular highlight.
Last words to the junior reviewers: Robyn (aged 10): Absolutely amazing. All the effects were very good. It was very traditional, the Dame (Ian Adams) was fantastic, and everyone really engaged in their roles. Alice (aged 8): One word; three letters; F A B!
Aladdin runs at the Grand Theatre until Sunday 22 January. Highly recommended.
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