Kenneth Alan Taylor
There is nothing like a dame - and there's certainly nothing like two dames. For his 20th consecutive panto for Nottingham Playhouse, Kenneth Alan Taylor has decided to experiment by having a second dame alongside him, Jeffrey Longmore as the Marchioness of Mansfield. But you have to wonder why he bothered.
Not that Jeffrey Longmore isn't as good a dame as the old master Taylor. It's simply that the Marchioness's role isn't as well defined as it might have been. She's not much of a battleaxe or a mother-in-law from hell and seems to be there only to trade insults with Widow Twanky.
Admittedly the pair of them have the cleverest and funniest scene of the night when the Marchioness's 400-piece white porcelain dining service turns into thousands of pieces because Twanky fails to catch cups and plates as they come down a chute.
Taylor is magnificent when he is faced with something unexpected, as he was with a mug which refused to smash on cue and scenery which failed to move into the correct place. He's great with the kids, he ad-libs at will and nothing seems to phase him. "What a silly way to make a living!" is one of his throwaway yet profound lines. But his performance is better than his direction.
It was a brave decision for the theatre to designate the opening evening as press night. The panto started off slowly, timings were a little awry, there were occasional sound problems and the finished product wasn't as slick as it no doubt will be when the actors have a few performances under their belts.
Highlights? Taylor's magnificent costumes, which become increasingly extravagant as the evening progresses, are outstanding, particularly his Statue of Liberty. Kevin McGowan is a sufficiently evil Abanazar and Everal A Walsh a gyrating, Presley-loving Genie, although his appearance might benefit by his costume being more suggestive of Elvis.
John Elkington's role as Wishee Washee isn't a major one but he does an excellent take-off of rugby world cup hero Jonny Wilkinson.
On the down side, Francesca Ellis (Aladdin) has a tendency to shout her lines rather than projecting; the inclusion of some of the songs seems contrived; much of the choreography looks the same; and there are surprisingly few local jokes.
Overall the kids loved it and no doubt it will be a sell-out. But with a little more thought and attention to detail the show could have sparkled and been sensational instead of good.
"Aladdin" runs until January 17th
Reviewer: Steve Orme