Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent, Wednesday 27th December, 2017
Aladdin is up there with Cinderella as one of the stronger pantomime plots, but it has the advantage of a strong villain role in the evil magician, Abanazar – played this time by Kai Owen. Owen is a formidable presence, menacing but not really threatening, and it falls to him and his machinations to keep the story going – otherwise it’s a lot of singing, dancing and messing around.
Back yet again is the dream duo of local star Jonathan Wilkes and everyone’s favourite dame, Christian Patterson, in the roles of Aladdin and his mother Widow Twankee respectively. The pair also co-direct and we are in safe hands: they know what they are doing to optimise the fun. In fact, it’s the interval before I notice the omission of Wishee Washee, but then I realise when your leading man is so funny, the show doesn’t need another comic presence. Wilkes and Patterson are perfect foils for each other, but they are also strong in their own right. The ageless Wilkes, with his cheeky smile, juvenile humour and pop star vocals is an irresistible, naughty boy persona. Patterson is never short of a twinkle in his heavily made-up eyes and you get the feeling whenever he utters something naughty, there’s something even naughtier just bubbling under the surface.
They are aided and abetted by a vivacious Amanda Coutts as the Spirit of the Ring, and an avuncular Simon Nehan as the Emperor – who has an Elmer Fudd speech impediment but is never mocked for this. Yazmin Wood’s Princess Jasmine sounds as good as she looks – she could do with better songs, to be honest.
The show is fast-moving and fresh (in more than one sense) and the fun is augmented by a couple of 3D sequences for which we all have to don the plastic glasses provided. Spectacles, indeed! The cast is supplemented by an ensemble of energetic, often acrobatic dancers, with Nikki Wilkes’s choreography adding to the exotic atmosphere, and there is a host of children from the Wilkes Academy for the big production numbers. There are pyrotechnics, an elephant, and a magic carpet, all adding to the wow factor, but in the end, it’s the humour that keeps people flocking to the Regent year after year. Traditional word-play routines, innuendo, and some apparently slapdash slapstick – there is a song about alternative jobs for the characters that requires split second timing to get it right (and wrong). The humour is crude but never crass, and the jokes come thick and fast. Two hours zoom by and it’s a real treat to be spend them in the company of these two pantomime favourites. Wilkes and Patterson had better be back next year or the riots will be in the streets rather than on the stage.
The Cheeky Boys: Christian Patterson and Jonathan Wilkes
Leave a comment | tags: Aladdin, Amanda Coutts, Christian Patterson, Jonathan Wilkes, Nikki Wilkes, pantomime, Regent Theatre, review, Simon Nehan, Stoke on Trent, Yazmin Wood | posted in pantomime, Theatre Review
Regent Theatre, Stoke on Trent, Wednesday 28th December, 2016
Seemingly a permanent fixture for the Regent’s annual pantomime, the dream team double act of local hero Jonathan Wilkes and Welsh actor Christian Patterson are back with one of their best efforts in years. Appearing as one of the ugly sisters, Patterson has also written the script – a faithful, fast-moving and above all funny version that allows traditional routines, topical references and a rate of one-liners per minute that no other show this year can match.
Wilkes, on his home turf, can do no wrong, but he does not rest on his laurels, working tirelessly (This year my name is Buttons) to ensure everyone has a great time. His first entrance, purportedly in a cage borne by a gorilla, shows a level of self-awareness and mockery that endears him from the off: “I call him Robbie; he carries me everywhere.” Wilkes has a cheeky stage persona, excellent comic timing and also a good, old-fashioned pop singer’s voice that is a treat to hear.
In the title role is newcomer Finley Guy, a young performer who exudes star quality. Her Cinders is easily a match for the more seasoned professionals and she is more than able to carry scenes on her own. Her singing voice is strong and pleasant, making her one of the best I’ve seen in the role. Similarly, Owen Broughton’s Prince Charming makes a striking impression. Ian Stroughair’s Dandini is a wildly camp, flamboyant gay man but it is pleasing that his sexuality is not the butt (ha!) of any jokes – he is included and accepted, and that is refreshing. Michael Geary is fun as a wild-haired Baron Hardup who finally asserts himself, and Hannah Potts brings rhymes and giggles as a bubbly Fairy Cupcake – the transformation of Cinders from rags to ballgown is truly breath-taking and magical, right before our very eyes.
Simon Nehan pairs up with Patterson as the other sister, a villainous pair who also provide much of the laughter. The comic timing is impeccable – we love to hate them. Routines like Busy Bee and The 12 Days of Christmas are always hilarious when tackled by such skilled performers – youngsters in the audience who may not have seen them before are just as tickled as those of us who know what’s coming.
The dancers, choreographed by Nikki Wilkes, are excellent; elegantly acrobatic, the boys especially impress. Clearly, along with Guy and Broughton, students at the Wilkes Academy are of the highest calibre.
A glittering glut of gags and wonder, this Cinderella satisfies on every count. Wilkes and Patterson have triumphed again!
Rising star: Finley Guy as Cinderella
Leave a comment | tags: Christian Patterson, Cinderella, Finley Guy, Hannah Potts, Ian Stroughair, Jonathan Wilkes, Michael Geary, Nikki Wilkes, Owen Broughton, pantomime, Regent Theatre Stoke on Trent, review, Simon Nehan | posted in pantomime, Review, Theatre Review