03:56PM, Wednesday 11 December 2019
Theatre Royal Windsor Aladdin Panto Stars.Theatre Royal Windsor, 32 Thames Street, Windsor
It had been about 16 years since my annual trips to the Theatre Royal pantomime came to an end when I found myself sitting in the stalls waiting for this year’s production of Aladdin to begin.
Paul Nicholas was the first to emerge from the wings clutching a device reminiscent of Amazon’s Alexa in his hand, only to be greeted with tremendous boos – he must be the baddie.
Nicholas clearly revelled in displaying contempt for the audience as the ominous villain Abanazar, saying how much he hates ‘stinky children’ and heckling the crowd for booing him.
The audience are then transported to ancient China – the setting for this production of the classic tale – as Aladdin (Joe Thompson-Oubari) erupts onto the stage belting out the classic song Make Your Own Kind of Music accompanied by talented backing-dancers.
All the stars excel in their roles but there can be no denying, this show belongs to Kevin Cruise (Wishee-Washee) and Steven Blakeley (Widow Twankey and also the scriptwriter).
This is the pair’s 10th pantomime together at the Theatre Royal and at one point Steven Blakeley walks onto the stage carrying a large cake, which was met with a knowing laugh from the audience.
Their interactions throughout the show reveal a close friendship and their ability to masterfully involve the audience in all of their in-jokes makes you feel like part of the gang.
A particular highlight comes when Widow Twankey demonstrates her ingenious idea of washing customer’s clothes while they’re still dressed on a poor Wishee-Washee.
A strong burst of water caused Kevin Cruise to fall from his step-ladder, prompting him to say ‘we should have rehashed this’ and they both struggled to contain giggles while the audience laughed along with them.
Pantomime wouldn’t be pantomime without audience participation and there is no greater example of this than when Aladdin, Wishee-Washee and Widow Twankey engage the audience in their own rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas with items being thrown back and fourth between the stage and the audience throughout the number.
At one point Kevin Cruise stepped off stage and into the stalls spraying a water pistol and a little boy sat behind me could hardly contain his excitement.
I would have loved to have seen more of Duane Gooden who did a fantastic performance as the Genie.
Emerging from the lamp at the end of the first act, he then appears infrequently in a role which felt too small for an actor of his charisma.
For the adult members of the audience, there are numerous moments which nod to the pitfalls of modern society as Abanazar consults his electronic device – renamed ‘Alegra’– and the genie, trapped in the lamp for 1,000 years, asks ‘Are they still talking about Brexit?’
Speaking of Brexit, if you want to take a break from the chaotic political climate, spending a few hours in the wacky company of the Theatre Royal pantomime is the perfect escape
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