With more corny old jokes than a Christmas cracker factory, Aladdin brought a whole new world of panto fun to the Key Theatre.
The sets are bright and eyecatching and Brad Fitt’s script is sharp and witty- I didn’t see it coming or know why it was in there - but I loved the “silent comedy” sketch, and it provided plenty of opportunities for the comic characters in particular to shine.
And they didn’t disappoint one bit.
Darren Machin camped it up to the max as Widow Twankey, firing out gag after gag - and there were a couple of gems in there - with great comic timing, not to mention a hint of Rigsby, Max Bygraves, Dame Edna and more, and jelled well with the other characters.
James Peake was bang on form too as Wishee Washee - more fullwit than halfwit. Incredibly likeable, he knows how to play the audience alright every minute he was on stage with a smile on his face and a glint in his eye.
His 100mph delivery describing the appearance of “Uncle Abanazar” was a joy, breathless and faultless.
Star of the show for me was undoubtedly Robin Johnson as the aforementioned evil Abanazar (“boooooo”).
Accompanied by wonderfully atmospheric music, his slightly over the top panto villain’s every appearance was simply brilliant - exuding theatrical menace galore but played with just the right amount of tongue in cheek.
His big number “Pulling Power”was the musical highlight for me.
Trevor A Toussaint was a little underused as the Genie of the Lamp, but he shone - with his big personality and big voice filling the stage.
And Helen Power caught the eye, too, as Ishtar, the Genie of the Ring, who got the show off to a great start with the toe-tapping opening number. What a voice.
The Emperor (Robert Maskell) had a few good moments- and bad gags - not least his George Formby-style ukelele duo with Widow Twankey, which worked well as it got the audience going.
The paying public’s participation is a vital panto ingredient and a good old fashioned singalong plus the use of water blasters was very effective.
Even the obligatory time filler with the Egyptian Mummy worked - because the little ones love those “he’s behind you moments”.
The songs from Simon Egerton were catchy and upbeat although at times slightly overpowered by the band, otherwise expertly led by Peterborough’s own Lewis Hall.
I did feel a little bit for Sally Peerless as Aladdin and Natalie Morton Graham (the Princess) who both performed well and sang beautifully, but it must be so difficult playing it thigh-slappingly straight when everyone around you is having a right old laugh.
And special mention for the “little folk of Pekingborough”, the children in the cast who danced and sang with great enthusiasm in every scene they appeared.
See Aladdin at the Key Theatre until January 3. Details from the box office on 01733 207239.