REVIEW: Aladdin, Burnley Pantomime Society

The cast of Aladdin
The cast of Aladdin

A young cast bringing a modern take to an age-old story, a genial genie who just loves to tap dance, a dame whose saucy innuendos are as considerable as her chest ... and not forgetting the return of a missing panda – and that’s panto panedemoniun Burnley style.

And what a style! Experienced panto pair Neil Tranmer and Angela Foulds joined forces for the second time to direct Burnley Pantomime Society’s annual show and their “Aladdin” is definitely a winner.

They have put together a full-of-fun panto that packed Burnley Mechanics at the weekend and is set to do so again this week.

Joining a full house on Saturday was a real treat and worth venturing out in the snow to see. All the principals shone, the musical numbers led by maestro Jonathan Chalker are real crowd pleasers, the dancers from the Lynn McCheyne school add pots of panache, the costumes sparkle, the jokes maybe not so much (but that’s panto for you) and the audience seemed to be having a great time. Even the two unfortunate chaps who the dame made a beeline for, and then proceeded to tease and taunt all night, took it in good spirit and joined in the fun.

That is the beauty of panto. Anything goes. But don’t tell Widow Twankey – played by Kevin Kay – who would have continued with his saucy suggestiveness all night given the chance. With his outrageous costumes adding to the craziness, Kevin took to the pantomime dame role with real gusto and was lots of fun.

The prince and princess were perfectly cast. Laura Chadwick plays Kung Fu-loving Princess Jasmine with real confidence and humour, and Gary Leonard excellent as her beau Aladdin, who really owns the stage as he almost loses his head to the evil Abanazer. Jonathan Pye is a refreshingly young and convincing Abanazer, taking to the baddie role wonderfully and telling the noisy audience that “he likes his boos” and so boo they do every time he appears.

Sam Parker is a lively and fun Wishee Washee and, with the usual crowd-pleasing Blackburn Rovers jokes, the youngsters love him.

There is a great performance from Rebecca Wright who has a strong voice and confident stage presence as the Empress; and it was worth waiting for the arrival of the Genie to rescue Aladdin from the dark cave, because this scene is a real gem. Well done to the stage team who must have worked so hard on it, and to Leanne Tempest who was possibly my favourite Genie ever – and I have seen a lot! She is full of fun and vitality and her background in musical theatre comes to the fore as she sings and dances her way through her very first panto.

Add to this comedy mix a pair of incompetent Chinese police officers – Ping and Pong – hilariously played by Leighton Hunt and Kayleigh Hindle, a charming performance by Lydia Hunt as the Genie of the Ring and last but not least the appearance of Tyson the Giant Panda, and what a star he is.

Tyson’s head famously went missing weeks before the show when he was mistakenly sold at a Christmas Fair. But thanks to a front page Burnley Express article and social media he came home and received a lively reception. Under the costume was Jamie-Leigh Tyson who played him just right with fun mischief and Panda attitude. Brilliant.

The choice of musical numbers are a mix of modern and traditional and Jonathan Chalker’s arrangements are spot on. Add to this the beautiful dance routines from the Lynn McCheyne dancers and the Panto Society’s own chorus line and you have the magic of panto. Throw everything into the mix and end up with a wonderful evening of comedy and colour that is really worth seeing.

“Aladdin” continues until Sunday. Call the Mechanics box office on 664400 to book.