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Wednesday, 11 January 2023

REVIEW: Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Bath

Aladdin is one of the best Pantomime titles, it's full of great opportunities for magical and comical business such as the Laundry scene, the attempts of The Emperor to stop his daughter being seen by Aladdin, the meeting of Widow Twankey and her long-lost brother-in-law Abanazar, the cave transformation and genie’s appearance, the magic carpet ride and of course Abanazar’ s final defeat. It has however become caught up in the debate about inclusivity and diversity in casting as it is based in China and because some past productions have included some racial stereotypes. The UK Production’s latest version with a script by Jon Monie which played at the Theatre Royal Bath until 8th January does its best to steer through this minefield with a diverse cast and set in Humdrum Heights while sticking with the traditional storyline and names. 

Tom Lister as Abanazar drives the show with a delightfully strong energetic performance, revelling in his evil persona and the audience’s reaction to him and geeing them up to react more. He interacted brilliantly with the stage right box having caught a young audience member out once and played on it beautifully thereafter. Indeed, his sortie into the audience armed with a water pistol was so distracting that the audience completely ignored the song being sung on stage! The character takes charge right from the start with a very good prologue setting out the story in a three-way rhyming couplet opening with the spirit of the ring (Amy Perry) and the Genie (Maddison Tyson) and then a well-judged comical romantic first meeting with Widow Twankey (Nick Wilton) in “You are the one that I want”.

Sunday, 26 December 2021

REVIEW: Aladdin at the Manchester Opera House

The production at Manchester Opera House of Aladdin shows what can be achieved if you have a strongly committed cast giving it their all to deliver a perfect Christmas Entertainment as they take a standard Alan McHugh script and inject it with passion, comedy, and energy. It must be tempting for the cast to think they need to pace themselves over fifty shows, but the audience needs to believe that in this show the cast are throwing everything at it and are loving the result. This cast led by Alexandra Burke, who is becoming an accomplished musical theatre performer and the irrepressible cheeky chappie, Ben Nickless, with fab-u-Lous support from Ceri Dupree and a powerful controlled performance by John McLarnon as Abanazar gave that impression on a Monday night that they were having as much fun on stage as we were having watching them. It was a practically perfect execution of pantomime.

Ben Nickless packs a great deal of comedy routines into the two-hour 10-minute running time including interval but there is still plenty of time for the others to shine. His impressions are good (Alan Carr, John Bishop, Michael McIntyre, Keith Lemon, Harry Redknapp, and The Simpsons), his political digs are witty rather than bitter, his covid gags seem appropriate and his reactions and engagement with the cast and audience is superb throughout. It is a hilarious gag when he explains he learned to be a Ventriloquist during lockdown, but the dummy requires him to wear a mask as he is within two metres. He also breathes fresh life into the Producer’s Crossroads standard routines of the trunk of truth, one shirt short tongue twister, and if I was not upon the stage working well with the other cast members. His execution of the DVD titles story with Dupree is fun and silly and his dance-off with Burke is wonderful showing they can both move well and have funny bones.

Monday, 13 December 2021

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Theatre, Cardiff

The Chuckle Brothers were one of the very best Pantomime acts and children's entertainers and following the death of Barry Chuckle in 2018, Paul has since kept the legacy of their act alive in Pantomime with different partners in the same routines. Here in Cardiff he plays Wishee Washee and opens with his traditional song “I have got some ..” on his own, does a bog-standard Mastermind Sketch and follows with the Cucumber cutting routine with the Genie and then the singing lesson with the Dame and a member of Ensemble, all the elements are there but the comedy magic of the brother's relationship is missing and the routines feel like they need a refresh. A new routine with a music player alongside the Dame falls flat despite their best efforts. He remains a wonderful old school variety Entertainer but is no longer in charge of the Pantomime.

Unusually for modern Pantomime, the drive of the show falls to the Principal Boy and Principal Girl who rise to the challenge magnificently in their songs and dances together. Denquar Chupak is excellent as Princess Jasmine and makes a good impression from her opening song where she is joined by Gareth Gates as Aladdin and later together in “Hung Up” and “Nights get colder”. She also takes on the key fight scene to defeat Abanazar to give the story a modernised feel. Gates gets his show highlight when he flies on the Twins FX flying carpet over the audience to end Act 1.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

The Best Onstage Quick Changes in Musical Theatre!

I am an absolute sucker for a quick change and an onstage quick change, I am all for! The little theatre kid in me absolutely LIVES for these in musicals because that's what I used to pretend to do in my bedroom (just me...?). The designers on these shows are incredible and do not get enough credit in general but certainly don't get the credit they deserve for these cool and innovative changes on stage! Take a look at our list and tweet us ones we've missed! 

Mean Girls | Cady Hearon in Revenge Party

Heathers | Heather Duke in Never Shut up Again 


Sunday, 15 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the South Hill Park Arts Centre

One of the real joys of seeing a wide range of Pantomimes is visiting the smaller venues where the creative teams work real magic with small budgets to delight their local community. One such venue is the Wilde Theatre in South Hill Park near Bracknell. Not resting on their laurels after last year's GB Pantomime Award nominations for best script and set designs, so clearly trumpeted on their handbills and poster, they set out to go even bigger and better this year with Aladdin. Victoria Spearing, last year's winner of Best stage design, has this year gone used her inventive imagination to create a huge set that magical transforms with a minimum of effort from Old Peking with false perspective, to the desert and pyramids of Egypt with an amusing simple flying sequence in between. She makes a virtue of having no flying capacity by using five multi sided trucks all artistically painted with delightful touches to amuse and intrigue. It is a truly magical setting and the Egyptian interior is exquisite. 

Within these settings the strong cast work hard with a well drilled and disciplined young ensemble to bring Joyce Branagh's traditional script to life, although on the adult only nights there are few more near the knuckle ad Libs to amuse the well lubricated members of the audience - hopefully out of ear shot of the younger cast members! Brad Clapson returns as the larger than life, over the top, outrageous Widow Twankey and dominates the stage when he is on. It’s a drag queen performance rather than a Dame but it gets plenty of reaction and laughs.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking

It’s not very often a show can pick you up and transport you back to the happiest days of your childhood; infact it’s less than “not very often”, it’s incredibly rare and quite honestly, I don’t think it has ever happened to me quite like this before. As I left Woking’s New Victoria Theatre, I was beaming and full of nostalgia and joy. Pure childish happiness and Christmas cheer. What more could you want from a Pantomime?

Before this review, I would first like to share a little story. Circa 2001, my parents took me backstage at the New Victoria Theatre and I met Bobby Davro before a performance of Cinderella where Davro was playing ‘Buttons’. Despite only being six or seven years old at the time, I still remember him being exceptionally fast-talking, funny and kind. He filled my pockets with milky ways and smarties before the show as I wouldn’t be able to reach from the Royal Circle when he would later throw them across the stalls during the performance. Almost 20 years later, I was finally able to meet him again after this show and with tears in my eyes, I proclaimed I had been transported right back to that purely happy and innocent time thanks to him. He truly is the soul of this pantomime - a born entertainer and genuinely lovely man. I cannot advocate his performance enough. Bobby, thank you for your kind words and humble ways. I hope we meet again soon. 

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley

A marvelous Christmas present has arrived at the Churchill Theatre in Bromley in the shape of Christopher Biggins. As panto stars, TV presenters and ex boy/girl band members are all very well, but a proper panto deserves a proper panto star, which is what Biggins undoubtedly is.

His is a twinkly presence as Widow Twankey, appearing in a series of costumes and wigs ranging from the extravagant to the bizarre. He is effortlessly at ease with the audience. Indeed his first ‘scene’ is not really part of the show, just an informal chat identifying school groups, brownies and those celebrating birthdays. Throughout the show he totters about the stage and is both hilarious and a little vulnerable.

Sunday, 15 September 2019

20 Production shots that describe the struggles of being in a Musical | Part 2

Following our overwhelming response to our article last year, we have decided to bring this back! Production Pictures that describe the struggles of being in a musical smashed all of our records last year and we had such fun creating it, so here's another one! We hope you all like it as much as last year and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed making it. 

Please note, this article is merely light-hearted entertainment. We respect and adore all the performers and shows involved in this and hope that it is viewed in the same way. 

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Hardest Male roles in Musical Theatre

Being a musical theatre performer is not easy in the slightest; from the auditions to get the job in the first place, to the constant rehearsals and finally recreating an incredible performance for a paying audience night after night. This is even before you look at some of the challenges some roles might have within them; either emotionally, physically or vocally. Here at Pocket we have teamed up with our friends at and put together a list of characters we think are among some of the hardest. And don't just take our word for it; we've had help from some of our performer friends who have played the roles to give you an insight into what it was like from their perspective. 

There are so many more that could be on this list so if we've missed any, tweet us what you think should be on it! @PocketSizeBlog

Thursday, 3 January 2019

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre

As the main pantomime season draws to a close for 2018/19 season, two shows hit the news headlines with leading artistes illnesses causing them to drop out mid run. The wonderful Jimmy Osmond was unable to continue and has been replaced for the rest of the run as Hook by Darren Day in Birmingham in a wave of sympathy and concern. Down in the New Theatre Wimbledon, Lee Ryan reportedly left the show at the interval during one performance and has been replaced by  Chris Durtnal with a programme insert being given out to the subsequent audiences. These changes must be very disruptive to cast and crew requiring additional rehearsals to be fitted in to the already hectic two shows a day, six days a week schedule. 

Durtnal makes a solid substitute in his leading role debut as Aladdin opposite Lauren Chia as Princess Jasmine. They combine well in a comedy song routine sat on a wall with Wishy Washy which is featured in many of the Qdos shows this year but when it comes to the big final fight with Abanazar (Adam Pearce) it is Jasmine who takes centre stage to defeat him in the sword fight while Aladdin lies unconscious. 

Monday, 17 December 2018

REVIEW: Aladdin at the Hackney Empire

When a pantomime production team have been building their team, experience and ideas for twenty years it shows. Susie McKenna and Steve Eldis continue their tradition of providing a high quality shows fit for the large venue in East London with their version of Aladdin. It is a delightful combination of Victorian traditions, modern references, well known songs and original music that is bound to appeal to adults and children. 

The budgets may be tighter than their new rival as London's No 1 Pantomime across London at the Palladium but they use their cash wisely with a talented cast (though less well known) and some lovely magical effects. Best of all is Gaia, Goddess of light, a huge animated monkey voiced by the wonderful Sharon D Clarke who opens the show in magical style and adds a neat twist to the familiar tale of Aladdin. It is impressive and brilliantly executed character that interacts perfectly with the audience and cast. Equally effective is the sequence with Aladdin hovering over a beautiful dragon flying after the kidnapped Princess and the Palace which like Gaia was created by Jonathan Saville and Scott Brooker.

Monday, 26 November 2018

INTERVIEW: Gemma Sutton, soon to star in the title role in Aladdin at the Hackney Empire

Gemma Sutton is one of the most talked about West End leading ladies of the moment, having starred in numerous musicals over the years. She is now taking on the title role in the Hackney Empires 20th Anniversary Pantomime, Aladdin before heading off to the National Theatre to play Young Sally in Folles. Just some of her credits include Charity in Sweet Charity (Watermill Theatre), Angel in The Rink (Southwark Playhouse), Fran in Strictly Ballroom (West Yorkshire Playhouse, Princess of Wales Theatre), The Go-Between (Apollo Theatre), Louise & June in Gypsy (Savoy Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre),   Julie Jordan in Carousel (Arcola Theatre), Roxie in Chicago (Leicester Curve), Amber in Hairspray (UK Tour), Sally in Me and My Girl (Kilworth House), Enid & Understudy Elle Woods in Legally Blonde (Savoy Theatre) and  Laurey in Oklahoma! (UK Tour).

You have had such a varied career, performing not only all over the country but around the world too. What’s been your favourite place you’ve visited with work?

I enjoyed my 10 weeks in Toronto, Canada in 2017 with Strictly Ballroom as it’s a very friendly place and because we were there for a while we really got to know the city. I also had a very interesting three weeks in Cairo, Egypt doing the first western musical ever seen there - The Sound of Music. It was in a tent in the desert and they dug an orchestra pit out of the sand, so it was a memorable experience to say the least. 

You started your career understudying in shows before really making your name as a true West End leading lady. What have you learnt from starting out that way that you’re proud of? 

I learned a great deal from understudying as it really allows you to observe from the sidelines, watching amazing leading performers work both on stage and in the rehearsal room and also how to lead a company well. I think it’s really important that there is a nice atmosphere in the company, particularly for long runs, and you have a responsibly as a leading performer to help that along. Everyone has a different start in the industry depending on circumstance but working your way up does give you a grounding to know that longevity requires patience and graft.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Best Couples in Musical Theatre!

Elphaba and Fiyero from WICKED

George and Albin from LA CAGE AUX FOLLES 


Saturday, 16 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Aladdin at the Bristol Hippodrome and The Playhouse Theatre in Weston-Super-Mare

We sometimes forget that as well as being a family entertainment, pantomime is a serious competitive business with productions doing their best to attract rave reviews and audiences which can be critical to the financial success of a venue for the whole year. Large venues that can attract large audiences, have bigger budgets for headline casting , special effects and more promotional impact than their smaller local rivals. This is only too clear when you see Aladdin within a few days at both the enormous Bristol Hippodrome with a Qdos production starring Joe Pasquale and at the much smaller Playhouse, Weston Super Mare with an ensemble cast.

The Qdos offering relies almost entirely on Joe Pasquale's high energy squeaky voiced madcap persona, as he does his best to make the rest of the cast corpse and on the amazing Twin FX special effects including King Kong, a giant Cobra, elephants, pandas and a flying carpet with 2 passengers that turns upside down. It is spectacular and amusing but at times the pace slows and the humour is laboured. 

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Aladdin at the St Alban Arena

St Alban arena attracts over 40,000 to its annual pantomime and this year's offering from them and producers Evolution is Aladdin. The size of the audience allows them to invest in a first class cast and under Will Brenton's direction , Paul Henry's script delivers an outstanding evening of pantomime family entertainment. 

The central trio of Phil Gallagher as Wishy , Bob Golding as Twankey and Ian Kirby as Pongo , all frequent visitors to the venue drive the show along with great energy, brilliant comic timing and a warm charm. They have also perfected the faux slips, mistakes and corpsing that are part of these shows. Golding and Gallagher link up is reminiscent of the stage performances of Morecambe and Wise in the natural ease together, the asides and the looks and easily win over both the kids and the mums and dads. Their routines with Kirby are show stopping highlights and true to the tradition of great pantomime; a clever spurious shops signs routine , a wonderful 12 days of Christmas with five custard pies, the standard of pantomime bench scene, an overacted death scene and a very good Laundry scene. They all engage the audience well in banter and comic looks but beware sitting in the first few rows especially when they bring the video camera on stage!

Monday, 31 July 2017

FIRST LOOK: New cast joins London production of Aladdin

Matthew Croke plays the titular role. Croke's previous theatre credits include Annie Get Your Gun (Crucible Theatre), Singin' in the Rain (UK tour), and Funny Girl (Menier Chocolate Factory). 
Jade Ewen continues as Jasmine and Trevor Dion Nicholas continues in the role of the Genie, for which he won the WhatsOnStage Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical. 
Nick Cavaliere joins the cast in the role of Iago, while Miles Barrow plays Omar, Leon Craig plays Babkak and Daniel de Bourg plays Kassim. Don Gallagher and Irvine Iqbal continue as Jafar and the Sultan respectively. 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Trevor Dion Nicholas will make his West End debut as the Genie in ALADDIN

Disney announced today that the Tony® Award-winning new musical Aladdin will hold its West End premiere on Thursday 9 June 2016 at the Prince Edward Theatre, with previews from Friday 27 May.

To sign up for exclusive access to the priority booking period, which will open on Friday 23 October 2015, please visit Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Monday 23 November 2015. Tickets for the initial booking period are available for performances up to and including 1 October 2016.

Broadway cast member Trevor Dion Nicholas will make his London stage debut as Genie. Full casting will be announced in due course.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

REVIEW: Aladdin at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking

There is nothing that gets me more in the mood for christmas than Pantomime, remembering back to my childhood where I used to be taken to see one every year brings back all the feelings of excitement!

The pantomime starts out with an advert. Yes, you read that correct, an advert. I feel very disappointed that adverts have now been introduced to theatres. It completely takes you away form the magic of theatre and I couldn't believe my eyes when it started to play! It left the auditorium feeling very stale and unenergised for the performance. However this energy dip was soon rescued by the cast. 

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Star cast join ALADDIN at the New Victoria Theatre

The New Victoria Theatre is proud to present the most spectacular and magical pantomime adventure, Aladdin from Friday 5 December 2014 – Saturday 10 January 2015.  

Join our Panto stars, Justin Fletcher, Ben Adams, Steven Arnold, Jason Sutton, Shaheen Jafargholi and Djengla Denman as they come together to celebrate this magical Panto extravaganza!

Justin Fletcher returns to the New Victoria Theatre following a sell out 2013 season and overwhelming public demand. The BAFTA award-winning CBeebies superstar will be starring as the loveable and fun Wishee Washee. 

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