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York
Aladdin – Carpeting The Competition!
Phil Hopkins, Arts & Travel Editor
Billy Pearce (Wishee Washee) and the Sunbeams. Photos by Nigel Hillier Photography
Billy Pearce has become to the panto audiences of Bradford more familiar than a comfy pair of slippers and, 25 years on from when he first shouted that famous catch phrase, ‘Hiya Kids’, they still love him as much as they did in 1993.

This time, it was the turn of Christopher Biggins, another consummate professional, to step up to the plate as Widow Twankey, in this year’s offering, Aladdin, last done at the Alhambra in 2013/14 when hydraulics were good, but not quite as good as last night!

The culmination of the first half was an amazing magic carpet ride in which Pearce, aka Wishee Washee, and Blue’s Simon Webbe as Aladdin take to the skies for an amazing journey that sees them floating above the audience and even turning a full 360 degrees.

Billy Pearce (Wishee Washee), Christopher Biggins (Widow Twankey) and David O'Mahony (Abanazar)
The Alhambra is one of the country’s grade one theatres and has the budget, space and ticket price which enable it to deliver a big name spectacular, which it rarely fails to do. The costumes were glitzy, loud and very ‘wowish’, with Mike Coltman’s speciality creations, adding hilarity to Biggins’ numerous dame changes as he appeared as everything from an M&S bag to something resembling a bone china pot!

However, I couldn’t help but feel that Biggins, 69, and just a couple of years older than Pearce, was very much there as dressing…..new costume, walk on, couple of gags, walk off and take the pay cheque. Pearce, by contrast, loaned the audience his soul for the evening!

Also by Phil Hopkins...
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There were the customary ‘set pieces’, including a ‘shirt’ tongue twister, Billy’s double speed, half way through the panto narrative round up of the ‘story so far’, ‘my side can sing louder than your side’, 3d glasses, and the poor audience victim from Ilkley required to hand over his sweater for cleaning!

Yes, Pearce and his whole accoutrement is predictable. “Hello, I’m Wishee Washee (pause) this year…..”, but he gets away with it and the audience lap it up, so only a curmudgeon would be too hard on this the annually re-cast formula, because, at the end of the day, people love to see what they know is coming and pay a healthy price for the privilege.

And, more than anything, they also love the occasional ad libs that Pearce lobs at his fellow players, leaving them biting their tongues in order to stay in character.

Simon Webbe (Aladdin) and Sarah Goggin (Princess Jasmine)
The Yorkshire accents were smeared on thicker than dripping on bread, even the genie would have given Barnsley folk a run for their money, and, collectively, this was a pantotastic production with lots of sterling cameos including Emily Beth Harrington as the genie of the ring, Scheherazade, David O’Mahony as Abanazar and Sarah Goggin as Princess Jasmine with Carl Sanderson as Emperor Ming.

This is a full-on, high octane panto and should not be viewed as the region’s ‘definitive’, but as a wonderful part of a regional festive theatre line-up that includes lots of regular players, and a huge array of production types. This is a great panto if it’s the panto for you and your pocket.

Until January 20th 2019
Check theatre for matinee performances

Aladdin – Carpeting The Competition!, 12th December 2018, 11:34 AM