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Panto Time!!!
17 Dec 2011
by Kirsty Smallman

After two and a half hours of full-on laughter, first class panto entertainment – I am asking myself the question “why has it taken so long to pay my first visit to Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn?”

Aladdin – produced by Shropshire’s Paul Hendy and his wife Emily Wood under their company Evolution Productions – has this week become a “record-breaker” after selling more tickets than any other panto held at the theatre. And proud bosses have still got three weeks of performances still to run.

The talented cast provide a faultless show packed full of both child and adult humour from the outset but for anyone looking for a traditional Aladdin story they may be left a little surprised! Genie of the Lamp (Toussaint Meghie) and Genie of the Ring (Anna Westford) give the audience a taste of the classic tunes from the 70s where some of the toe tapping quite honestly, ever so nearly, turned into dancing in the aisles. (Other theatre goers had a lucky escape!) This came after first-class performances by Aladdin (Kirk Barker) and Princess Jasmine (Wrexham-born Lydia

Griffiths) of adaptations of recent chart toppers.

While the must-have custard pies of any panto, along with the “bra made for three” brought a new dimension to the “12 days of Christmas” which saw the audience enjoy the festive cheer.

I did attempt to count how many different outfits Widow Twankey (director Brad Fitt) boasted throughout the show but think I lost count during the first 15 minutes. The stage sets, scenery and vast array of costumes were magnificent – glitz, glamour, comedy, talent and family entertainment all rolled into one.

And for the cast it’s all about audience participation – and if you think you could be the one to get away with it – you’re wrong! As “Mike” from the audience found out and resulted him later being hauled on to the stage to be the centre of a fire juggling act. While others found themselves the victim of water pistols!

No matter what age you are – from tiny three-year-olds in the front row offering their disco moves to 80-year-old grandparents – this show really puts a smile on everybody’s face. Even the most miserable looking couldn’t resist a chuckle!

While the cast members also spanned the age ranges – tiny tots whose angelic faces of joy and concentration as they performed meticulous moves were amazing, while young adult dancers and performers turned gymnasts proved what talent there is in the country.

My advice to you is escape from any stress of the build up to Christmas or enjoy the post-Christmas break by booking your tickets for Aladdin to enjoy a night of guaranteed laughter.

And for BBC Shropshire fans they can put a face to a name and see Eric Smith play the role of Emperor of China simply “brilliantly”.

With Evolution Productions already preparing for next year’s performance of Jack and the Beanstalk I am already preparing to book my tickets and despite setting the bar so high I have no doubt they can match it.

But with Paul Hendy’s enthusiasm for producing a record-breaking pantomime in his own county (which he dedicated to his grandad Clifford Blocksidge who died this year after living in Shropshire all of his life) he is sure to produce the goods once again and some-how make it even better.