A wonderful warm welcome as always from friends at BTP as I joined them for their opening night of Aladdin and Jasmine’s Genie-us Adventure.
BTP are yet another society needing to find a new “home” for recent productions and as we all try to get back into the swing of things our audiences don’t always understand the additional pressures placed onto committees and volunteers.
Brighouse High School has thankfully been able to provide a suitable alternate space, and it was intriguing for me to go back to my old school, trying to find the correct entrance, but I can only imagine the worry of having to do a half strike after each performance as the school hall is clearly needed for other activities during the daytime.
In spite of this, BTP created the perfect setting for their version of the classic Aladdin story. Simple and flexible sets made quick transformation between Hideaways, Market Places, The Palace, The Cave and of course the infamous Laundry, complete with a multitude of contraptions to keep the laughter flowing later in the show.
Written expertly by Damian Shalks and Sean Brennan we are immediately brought face to face with Abanazar as he bemoans his plight and dire need to find the renowned lamp. How wonderful to be able to work with a brand new script and have it tailor made. Sometimes I feel a panto script can be a little thin in terms of the actual story, relying on most of the audience already knowing what is happening; this version allows the performers to put a little more flesh on the bones of their characters rather than simply playing to stereotype. The script is very witty, plays to casts strengths and still allows for familiar elements to shine through. It really does have something for all ages and works for your typical panto audience and newcomers alike.
The Band is led with flair by Peter O’Hare as the MD, who ensures the performers are comfortable and supported in their vocals. He also ensures the scene changes are slick and maintains the musical elements throughout. I love the interaction with band and in this space the proximity worked well as they were both part of the action and then slightly removed. I understand we were also treated to some original songs, which gave a great mix of melodies and rhythms throughout.
The Direction by Damian Shalks is great and gives the impression that lots of fun was had during rehearsals. The cast are funny, enthusiastic and deliver the story with great energy. They work well together and drive the story forward, pausing now and then for comedic effect, jokes and empathy in good measure. There is plenty of good onstage banter and It really does show how much this is a team effort, creating a strong ensemble piece.
The Costumes are fun and flamboyant, with great attention to detail in terms of accessories, textures and vibrancy. In this production we have these in abundance, particularly with the likes of Abanazar, an Emperor and Empress and of course a Dame in all her glory. Lighting gave us a range of atmospheres and settings, enhancing the mood and without being in your face, showing it has been well integrated.
The singing was strong, grabbing our attention, enhancing the story. There was some fabulous choreography by Holly Robson, displayed with cuteness and sass and I particularly liked the Walk like an Egyptian sequence; again a team effort for bringing the UV element to life.
The whole cast blended well to form this production but I really must mention a few by name. Aladdin was played effortlessly by Emma Riley-Tomlinson. What a great performer and we felt completely at ease in her presence. Wishee Washee is such a different character to his brother, and John Murphy is a complete natural for these character roles, a true entertainer, keeping all different areas of the story tied together. I loved Sean Brennan as Twanky, what a force of nature, sassy, sexy and so at ease in a frock. The Genie and the Spirit of the Ring were played with down to earth comedy and sass, such great elements to feature when the cast has many varied characters. Each played their role brilliantly and ensured our story reached the ending we all know and love.
Overall a wonderful production, can’t wait for next year!