Review: Aladdin, Derby Arena

Aladdin%20%e2%80%93%20Ritchie%20Neville%20as%20Aladdin%20%e2%80%93%20credit%20Robert%20DayIt was high fives all round at Derby Arena last night as the annual pantomime returned to the city in its new venue with a dazzling show.

Teams at Derby LIVE and Paul Holman Associates, who have been working on the project for well over a year, must have breathed a huge sigh of relief when they saw the happy smiling faces of the youngsters leaving after the final curtain.

The children went along wanting to enjoy their favourite stars, sparkling costumes, slapstick, magic and music – and they got all five in buckets.

They will have been blissfully unaware of the technical conundrum facing the production company ahead of staging Aladdin and certainly won’t have noticed any shortcomings that may need to be ironed out by next year. The sound wasn’t the best and if you were at the back of the auditorium the stage seemed a remarkably long way away.

However we were not too far away for a star of the boy band 5ive Ritchie Neville, who was playing Aladdin.

Much to the delight of one squealing 5iver (his fans) he ran along our aisle during one of the slapstick scenes and even found time to give her a high five.

A true professional, and for my money he was the star of the show. He genuinely had a rapport with the audience and was enjoying every minute of being on stage.

His exuberance may have been boosted by the fact that his real-life partner and fellow pop star Natasha Hamilton of Atomic Kitten is starring alongside him in the panto as The Slave of the Ring.

The singer, who brought glitz and glamour to the show, also seemed to be having the time of her life.

Of course a pantomime at Derby wouldn’t be the same without the wit of Mike (Squeaky) McClean, and I think secretly most of the grown-ups in the audience had gone just to see him.

He didn’t disappoint and his irreverent take on the comic role, this time as Wishee Washee, had us all in stitches. In fact he even reduced the outrageously dressed Widow Twankey, played by Leon Craig, into snorts of laughter for much of the show.

Mike is a tough one to better but it has to be said that comedy duo Joseph Elliott and Richard David-Caine are hot on his heels when it comes to getting us to giggle.

The pair are best known as the double act Cook and Line in CBeebies’ Swashbuckle and work brilliantly together.

As Sergeant Ping and Pc Pong – the two bungling bobbies – their timing was spot-on and they were an absolute scream.

Having said all that the loudest cheer of the night from the audience was reserved for model and The Only Way is Essex star Dan Osborne who played the Genie of the Lamp. The only skill he needed was to be able to bare his impressive six-pack and he certainly did that.

The rest of the cast was Michael McKell as Abanazar, Howard Ellis as the Emperor and Jade Chaston as Princess Jasmine.

The Pantomime Dancers were Larissa Bellamy, Rebecca Adela Fishwick, Kemal Kuguloglu, Lauren Marie Woolridge, Andrew Wragg and L J Wrey.

The Pantomime Children were Blue: Daniella Cauldicott-Slack, Niamh Eagles, Connie Jupp, Aimee Mullen, Anna Rogers, Charlotte Searcey, Maisie Tanner and Amy Webb. Red: Sienna Atkins, Hollie Beastall, Erin Boswell, Daisy Cooke, Lilly Fletcher, Tayler Kerry, Billy-Jo Neale and Libby Thornewill. Yellow: Poppy Ainsley, Megan Allin, Anya Babra, Maddie Elliot, Abbie Faulkner, Isobel Grant, Olivia Gordon and Jenna Wilbraham.

The director was Alan Cohen, the choreographer Robert Wheeler, the musical director Michael Lovelock and lighting designer Alex Marshall.

Aladdin, which is on at Derby Arena until January 3, is a festive show something for everyone and it is worth going just to see how the production team handled transforming the venue. Go to http://www.derbylive.co.uk for tickets.

Amanda Penman