It’s Chico Time…I mean panto & theatre time… filled with former XFactor stars and smoke, fake snow strewn stages… It must be Christmas folks!
Last Saturday evening, we ventured out into the biting cold to attend the opening night of panto, Aladdin at the historic Alhambra Theatre in Bradford.
This was the first time Oliver aged 3, nearly 4, had experienced a pantomime and it was years (many years) since I too had sat in that very same theatre (watching Russ Abbott in Cinderella) as a child his age. I even made it on stage as children had been beckoned on to play an instrument…it truly made my Christmas in 83!
Witty, outrageous as pantos should be and heartily performed, the brilliant and very lovable pantomime king Billy Pearce held the piece together as a ‘pensioner’ style Aladdin (it shouldn’t but it worked), joined by a more mellow than I’d remembered Chico of XFactor fame, as Slave of the Ring.
Chico was well cast with his washboard stomach and exotic appearance (something for the ladies) and pleased the crowds with his famous rendition of Chico Time, sung with gusto!
…Opening night is never smooth running but that’s what makes it fun, the sheer excitement of the first night, the fact the actors can’t help laughing along to some of their sillier jokes, experiencing them a-new now they have an audience after weeks of rehearsals! The first night always feels fresh too; the buzz is there as with closing nights too and we really enjoyed ourselves as a family!
The highlight for me was of course watching Oliver captivated, particularly at the spectacular, vibrant sets and head spinning special effects which included a mammoth gorilla kids were encouraged to throw plastic bananas at and a flying carpet ride (with no stings)…none visible at the very least!
Stand out support acts The Acromaniacs as the trampolining Chinese Policemen were the icing on the cake and the whole show made for a brilliant, if not late night for my little one which firmly us into the Christmas spirit!
A few days later, I volunteered to help with the Pre-School outing to see the production of Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas at the West Yorkshire Playhouse…. and please, if there’s one theatre trip you make this season, let it be this.
Utterly enchanting, Seamus O’Neill’s grumbly, far too cold, Father Christmas begins with his pre Christmas Eve routine of breakfast, cat and dog feeding and picnic prep before ‘magically’ taking to the skies, flying across the world with his exquisitely crafted wooden reindeers for the ride of his and our lives!
What a magnificent, mesmerising, uplifting production….the theatre filled with smoke as Father Christmas made his descent sleigh bound and that hard yearned for Christmas feeling (the one you want to bottle up for everyday)…that suspension of disbelief was felt in abundance…it blew us all away!
The children gasped and laughed and even the adults believed in Santa (when Seamus O’Neill’s Santa) again!
Kudos too must go to brilliant animal puppeteer Annie Brooks who brought the many wooden animals of the cast to life while musician and foley (sound) artist Naomi Lee Schulke sat high up on her own sparkly lit podium performing the score as a one woman band mostly, thrilling us as she went!
An unmissable production, so good, I’m going again, this time with my husband, the baby, my younger brother and even my folks to witness the magic for themselves on Boxing Day.