“needs more magic “
*** 3 Stars
Glasgow has the very rare distinction of hosting two Crossroads pantomimes which has been the case since the company took over producing the Panto at the King’s Theatre. Prior to that, the Armadillo panto was the home for Crossroads.
The problem is now the company have two productions in the same city the Armadillo feels forgotten about with clear cuts to the budget that delivers an underwhelming production devoid of panto magic.
Firstly the venue is a strange choice for pantomime, it always has been, it’s a concert and conference hall that seats 3000+ making it a massive challenge to fill. It’s also not designed as a theatre so the flying of the sets during the show is painfully slow even on a heavily brought in stage set.
Aladdin is the classic tale of the boy who falls in love with the princess and goes from rags to riches with the help of the genie, the spirit of the ring and does of magic that transforms his life and that of his mother, The Widow Twankey. The Story is there fully in Director Tony Cownie’s tight production.
This production relies on the cast who are excellent even though the strange twist in the writing means Aladdin isn’t Aladdin its Gary Tank Commander being well Gary Tank Commander (Greg McHugh is in fine form in delivering a character he knows inside out). Abanazar, the baddie of the story is played by Sanjeev Kohli (who steps in for the indisposed Gavin Mitchell) he too is playing Navid (he of still game) playing Sanjeev playing Abanazar! See the confusion.
Leah McCrae is Widow Twankey (Glasgow seems to have a passion for women playing dames, it may not be traditional but with a strong performer like McCrae it works so well) she delivers in spades with strong comedy timing and a wonderful voice. Her costumes are fabulous but even those were seen at the King’s in 2017/18.
Elsewhere in the cast Brian James Leys as the Emperor and Blythe Jandoo as Princess Jasmine deliver everything you could wish for and the same goes for Rachel Flynn as the spirit of the ring whose vocals are peerless. The strong principal cast are joined by a large ensemble dance troop to bring the story to life.
From the moment the curtain went up there were issues, the Set looks like it’s been clubbed together from whatever was left in the stores, it doesn’t sparkle, Gary’s first entrance in a tank was blown when it completed failed and had to be pushed off with the help of the ensemble with Greg adlibbing for his life.
There are trimming issues galore in lighting and sound especially when the giant puppet Genie appears using a pre recorded vocal track it feels as if these scenes are under rehearsed. Pantomime should also have a splash of magic, this production is lacking in it, the flying carpet is nothing more than a truck pulled across the stage in a cloud of dry ice. Speaking of the smoke machine, too often the cast disappear in the smoke perhaps a little less heavy on the button would work wonders.
Crossroads have a partnership with Twins FX who deliver astonishing effects, but in the SEC Glasgow there are none, they do have a 3D sequence but even that feels dated although does get the screams coming from the younger audience members.
Musically the show is strong; with Richard Andersons 5 piece orchestra delivering a heavily pop infused score in style even though there is no orchestra pit there stationed on the floor of the stalls in beside the front row of the audience.
Given tickets cost up£40 each for this production, it’s not delivering value for money, there is a strong pantomime somewhere in this production but it needs more magic and increased production values for it to match its selling title of “Everything you could wish for in a panto”.
That all being said for a classic panto that relies on the cast delivering a panto master class then Gary Tank Commander and Leah McRae and company won’t steer you wrong.
Crossroads Pantomimes present: Aladdin, SEC Glasgow (Armadillo), Runs until Wednesday 29th December for tickets go to: https://www.sec.co.uk/events/detail/aladdin