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Royal Spa Centre, Leamington, panto review: Aladdin

Aladdin, Royal Spa Centre, Leamington, to January 2.

By Hilary Hopker

Last year we thought panto might be back on stage in Leamington but in the end it was a case of "oh no it isn’t!" So it was great to find out this year that "oh yes it is!" and judging by the theatre packed full of families, many of whom had held on to their tickets for over a year, it’s been sorely missed.

If you are a regular panto-goer in Leamington rest assured that the Spa Centre’s winning formula is back in action. This is a high-energy performance filled with laughter, song and bad jokes. The dads in the crowd will heave a sigh of relief to know that the only thing covid has knocked out of the performance is on-stage participation.

The show opens with baddy, Abanazar, setting out his evil plan and the vague plot. He continues to be brilliant throughout. Sean Dodds bounces around the stage as the loveable Aladdin and entertains the crowd with terrible jokes. However the star of the show is definitely JP McCue as Dame Dolly.

I watched in wonder as Dame Dolly tottered across the stage in impossibly high heels. After a year in which people have spent more time in slippers than any kind of outdoor footwear, it’s a marvel that anyone can walk in high heels any more, but to JP McCue it’s clearly second nature.

Dolly is running a launderette with help from her son Aladdin, but she seems more interested in finding a man than getting her wash on. There’s a beautifully choreographed scene in the laundrette with slap-stick comedy a-plenty.

The second half is very much a distillation of classic panto sketches. There is a great take on the "it’s behind you!" scene, a song to stand up and sing along to, plenty of madcap comedy, and if, like me you happen to be in the third row, a chance to get wet. There’s a stand-out magic carpet scene which is a real treat.

Panto is a long show but this is one you simply don’t want to end. After a year away from the stage, the performers give it their absolute all. The songs and the choreography are faultless.

As we left the theatre the audience around me were exclaiming how great it was. Even my teenage son grunted "yeah it was good" before recounting his favourite lines and marvelling at Dolly’s ability to roll a good "r". My younger son loved the 12 Days of Christmas song and left clutching his prized panto prop – a piece of toilet roll.



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