It’s December and thus panto season has officially begun. Theatres across Britain are filled with sequins, pyrotechnics and men squeezing into sparkly dresses, all for the delight of children and adults alike.
The Churchill Theatre, Bromley is this year presenting Aladdin featuring a cast of TV favourites including Scott Maslen (Jack Branning, Eastenders), Jen Pringle (Presenter, Milkshake!) and Bobby Crush (Panto Legend and Opportunity Knocks Winner) means you’re greeted by a host of familiar faces when the curtain goes up.
I normally see the pantomime in its final few performances, after Christmas, when everything seems a little more debauched and the Over 18 audience is a little more rowdy, so seeing the show with 200 school children the other day was an innocent delight, where policemen knocking into things and Aladdin clambering through the audience was the most hysterical thing.
Panto always attempts to straddle comedy that both adults and children will find entertaining and occasionally you can be left with an uncomfortable silence if the jokes don’t land quite as you hoped. An audience of children will react entirely differently to a late night audience of mostly adults, and it’s up to the cast on stage to keep the show moving and up beat no matter what reaction they get from the audience. The cast of Aladdin appear, mere days into their run at The Churchill Theatre, to be experts at understanding their audience, and making the show work for them.
Scott Maslen as the wicked Abanazar is absolutely genius and a complete surprise star of the show. His energy is unmatched by anyone else on stage, and his sinister pronunciation of “Aliddin and the Limp” had me in stitches by the interval, and he maintained his sinister character and enthusiasm right up to the curtain call. Bobby Crush takes the stage as Widow Twanky and provides the adults in the audience with a few laughs, which go sweeping over the heads of the younger audience members!
Aladdin (Luke Roberts) and Jasmine (Jen Pringle) are suitably charming and the ideal panto couple, and Luke Roberts’ voice was a delight, particularly when striding on stage singing the opening number from Catch Me If You Can, Live in Living Colour! The show uses a mixture of pop tunes from the year, alongside musical numbers from shows like The Book of Mormon (edited for young ears!) and Wicked! The cast threw their all into the performance, and as soon as it became clear the audience were almost all under 11, they catered the show perfectly to that age group.
A show filled with fun tunes, hilarious jokes and star performances from the entire cast, get yourselves along to The Churchill Theatre, Bromley for Aladdin this festive season!