Aladdin The Wok 'n' Roll Panto, Stafford Gatehouse Theatre - review and pictures
It was a rip-roaring, action-packed fun-filled 'woking and rolling' panto at its finest – oh yes it was.
With virtuoso performances from a multi-talented cast of just 10, fans were rocking in the aisles during a spectacular performance of Aladdin at Stafford's Gatehouse Theatre.
The actors/musicians/dancers seemed to be having as much fun as the audience with a spectacle of live music, glitzy costumes and dazzling sets during a spectacular two-hour show at the Eastgate Street venue.
Adding to the mix were dozens of local schoolchildren who screamed and shouted their approval as one of the most popular of all pantos took a rock and roll twist.
The cast joined with the audience for a host of musical numbers which had the whole theatre rocking and even the younger children joining in with songs probably better known to their parents or even grandparents.
The show is filled with a storming line-up of classic rock 'n' roll hits from Aretha Franklin, The Specials, The Carpenters, The Everly Brothers, The Monkees, James Brown, The Temptations, The Jackson Five, and many more, all played live by the actor musicians, who one member of the family said they would pay to see at a music gig.
The moment the cast came out to mingle with the audience before the performance had even begun we knew we were in for a treat.
My "tween" and two teenagers are notoriously tough nuts to crack when it comes to being entertained, but boy, were we entertained.
The talented performers provided all the wonderful ingredients of a traditional panto, the risque jokes, slapstick humour, topical one-liners, the 'he's behind yous' and even a firework display.
The Gatehouse is one of just five theatres in the country to produce a rock 'n' roll panto.
The show, produced by Derrick Gask, written by Peter Rowe and directed by Rob Salmon, is a real festive firecracker – with over 15,000 tickets already snapped up and you could see why with all the usual ingredients of panto, including slapstick comedy, plenty of audience.
The story follows a time for celebrations in old Shanghai as the Emperor hosts a party to celebrate the engagement of his daughter to the mysterious and slightly suspicious Abanazer. But families will be left wondering if the Emperor and Princess really trust him?
The panto's hero Aladdin meets the Princess on the street and falls for her instantly, but knows a penniless boy like him could never marry a princess.
When Aladdin goes on an adventure with his best friend Cuddles the Monkey, could the discovery of a magic lamp really turn his fortunes around?
It is really unfair to single out any individual cast members, such was the professionalism and sure-footedness of the performers, but Steve Simmonds as Widow Twankey and Katie Pritchard as Cuddles the Monkey were favourites with our children, bringing much hilarity and slapstick humour, with even a little body-popping and topical Honey G reference.
Derrick Gask said: "We couldn't have asked for a better start to our panto season. It's a wonderful feeling seeing so many people enjoying the magic of the show – we've been absolutely delighted with the response so far, especially from many of the kids who have marvelled at the elaborate set and the fire-breathing dragons."
"Tickets are selling fast with lots of performances sold out or with limited availability so we do recommend early booking to avoid disappointment," added Mr Gask.
The show could well top last year's record-breaking performance of Jack and the Beanstalk, this time it's the story of Aladdin which is being brought to life.
For a family night out I can't recommend it enough. We all laughed together, sang together and even danced together - oh yes we did. A huge congratulations to the cast for a wonderful, entertaining, energetic performance.
Aladdin the "Wok 'n' Roll" panto runs until Sunday, January 8. Tickets are selling fast, so early booking is advised and tickets can be purchased by calling the box office on 01785 619080 or by booking online at www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk
By Clare MacPhail