I OFTEN joke that were Her Majesty to nod to me in the honours lists, I’d have to skip the MBEs and OBEs and go straight to a Damehood, so many pantomimes have I reviewed in my career.
So it is with delight that I can say that Salisbury Playhouse’s Aladdin, on until 7th January, is the best panto I have seen in the 21st century.
The modern fashion for casting men as principal boys, traditionally the domain of leggy girls in fishnets, has never been better argued than by Tyler Fayose. He’s no boy-band refugee catapulted in for prettyness alone. He’s a hunky, funny romantic lead who can dance, sing and delight all sections of the audience.
Andrew Pollard’s version of the story, directed by Ryan McBryde with music arranged and led by Christoper Peake, dispenses with Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee, and also with the usual wishy-washy characterisations of the Emperor and his daughter. Here Fred Broom is Imperially hilarious, and Rebecca Hazel a spirited Princess Jasmine with a fine voice.
Poole resident Richard Ede is familiar to local audiences as Richard Hannay in a recent tour of The 39 Steps, and he demonstrates his versatility as a delightful Widow Twankey, with just enough double entendres to keep the grown-ups happy, and a flirtatious and charming lightness of touch that could take him to great damehood.
His comedy routines are a joy to behold.
With Melissa Brown-Taylor as the Genie of the Lamp and Nerine Skinner as the academic Geni(us) of the Ring, the magic is in sensational hands. And Lynden Edwards is an attractively hissable Abanazar.
There have been routines based on “money” in pantomimes for years, but Chris Peake’s brilliant medley of familiar songs about dosh all but brought the house down.
The flying carpet scene caused gasps from the audience, and Juliet Shillingford’s designs are colourful and exciting.
So if you want a traditional telling of Aladdin with many modern twists, familiar songs, energetic dances and performances to make you smile all the way home, head for Salisbury’s Aladdin this Christmas.
It will be a very, VERY, hard act to better.