Reviews: Behind you! – the best of the region’s pantos

Aladdin and the Twankeys, and Jack and the Beanstalk, below.
Aladdin and the Twankeys, and Jack and the Beanstalk, below.
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It is definitely pantomime time of year again. We sent our intrepid band of pantomime fans all around the county to find out what the theatres of Yorkshire have to offer as festive fare.

Jack and The Beanstalk

Leeds City Varieties

Liz Coggins

it’S taken a couple of productions to get it right, but this year the City Varieties’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto has achieved perfection.

Taking traditional pantomime to another level is no easy task but this ticks every box. The story, the characters and the format are played out in the well-loved traditional way. It’s laced with audience participation, has lots of belly laughs, some great songs, a fairy that sparkles and a really cute giant who’s guaranteed not to give the tiny tots nightmares.

A high-energy, fast-moving production full of vitality, the talented cast sing, act, dance play musical instruments and must be one of the hardest working panto companies in the country. As Dame Dolly Durden, Simon Nock is in your face and has great comedy timing. Hollie Cassar, as Fairy Aubergine and Robin Johnson as Fleshcreep are one of the best duos I have seen for a long time. Kenny Davies as the loveable but dim Billy, Joe Vetch and Rachael Garnett as Jack and Jill who not only look the part but blend superbly in the vocals. Jack Benjamin is a stern but loveable giant.

To Jan 12.

Aladdin and the Twankeys

York Theatre Royal

Sarah Freeman

I get why people hate panto Honestly, I do. I used to be one of them and it didn’t need a session on the psychiatrist’s chair to trace where the rot had set in. Circa 1980. Leeds Grand Theatre. Babes in the Wood.

I was five-years-old, the oversized babes were in breach of the Trades Description Act and the presence of Cannon and Ball did little to lighten the mood. It was emotionally scarring.

However, for anyone else who has occasional flashbacks of TV stars desperately clinging onto the coat tails of their careers and bad actors delivering bad scripts, can I suggest a trip to York Theatre Royal? It’s become a bit of an institution in the city thanks to veteran dame Berwick Kaler and it deserves its reputation.

No C-list stars here, just a group of experienced old hands blessed with comic timing and a taste for the absurd. This year it’s Aladdin which gets the Kaler treatment, not that the plot matters much. It would be hard to find a better stooge than Martin Barrass, and Suzy Cooper lends a touch of Blackadder’s Queenie to her Princess Peke-A-Boo.

It’s camp. Very camp – there’s even a cameo this 
year from Christopher Biggins, but as pantos go, 
this is hard to beat.

Oh yes it is.

To Feb 1.

Aladdin

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Liz Coggins

Since the days of the legendary Francis Laidler, The Alhambra has been synonymous with spectacular pantomimes and this must rank among its finest.

Not only has it got Bradford’s king of panto, Billy Pearce, but it succeeds in combining breathtaking special effects and illusions with old fashioned panto without destroying any of the magic and glamour of this spectacular tale from the Arabian Nights.

Pearce is hardly off stage in what is a highly physically charged role for someone who admits to being “a pensioner”. His inimitable brand of humour with its strong local flavour, energy and vitality, not to mention spinning upside down high above the audience on a magic carpet, never ceases to amaze. Putting an X-Factor contestant in panto doesn’t always work but in this case Chico proves the exception. As Slave of the Ring his character is believable and he blends into the story beautifully proving his skills go far beyond “Chico Time”.

Having tumbler-gymnasts The Acromanics as The Peeking Police, something I haven’t seen in Aladdin (and I’ve seen many), added an extra dimension to the show.

To Jan 26.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

York Grand Opera House

Liz Coggins

This year’s production of Snow White literally explodes on stage with a fabulously choreographed opening number and a chorus line that’s second to none. Snow White is fast, furious and full of vitality with breathtaking costumes, stunning scenery and a great mix of music.

However, the downside of this production lies with the self-indulgent use of “cod dries” (when the audience think it’s a mistake or an accident and it’s not) and an overdose of in-jokes that cast members seemingly enjoy sharing, which after a while become annoying, tiresome and drag out the already over-lengthy gags that really need the scissors taking to them.

But the saving grace of this production lies in the hands of former Emmerdale actress Adele Silva who is a powerful, evil and menacing Queen Malevola.

In complete contrast, 
Lauren Hood’s Snow White is the stuff that fairytales are made of and she blends beautifully in the vocals with Rob McVeigh’s dashing 
Prince Valentine.

Former Hollyoaks actor Marcus Patrick puts a “Made in Chelsea” spin on The Huntsman whilst Aiden J Harvey is not always totally convincing as Muddles.

Veteran dame Phil Randall as Sarah Spoilt ticks every pantomime box with his raucous humour, over-the-top-costumes and quick audience repartee.

To Jan 5.

Panto around the region

Leeds City Varieties, Jack and The Beanstalk, to January 12. 0113 243 0808.

York Theatre Royal, Aladdin and The Twankeys, to February 1. 01904 550149.

York Grand Opera House, Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, to January 5. 0844 871 3024.

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, Aladdin, to December 26. 01274 432000.

Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond, Cinderella, to January 5. 01748 825252.

The Spa, Scarborough. Cinderella, to January 1. 01723 821888.

Leeds Carriageworks, Sleeping Beauty, to January11. 0113 224 3801.

Harrogate Theatre, Sleeping Beauty, to January 12. 01423 502116.