With an obligatory rub of the lamp for good luck, Little Wolf Entertainment are bringing ‘Aladdin’ to the theatre from next Thursday, December 16.
And TV viewers may be familiar with a few of the cast. Fans of BBC’s ‘I Do Anything’ may recognise Jamie Birkett, who just missed out on a spot in the final 10 girls vying for the role of Nancy.
Switching channels to ITV now, anyone who watched ‘Popstar to Operastar’ may have caught a glimpse of ‘Aladdin’s’ Abanazar, Dan Smith, who backed the likes of show winner Darius Danesh.
The man who came up with the panto’s hilarious script, Morgan Brind, will be hoping to get even more laughs as Widow Twankey while his Little Wolf partner in crime, Alan Bowles will be tickling a few funnybones as Wishee Washee.
And they and the show’s other principals, including Nicola Blake as Princess So-Shy and Mark Jackson as The Genie, will be supported by a whole host of local children in the chorus.
The youngsters auditioned for the show back in August and the chosen ones have been put through their paces in time for curtain up. I got to speak to some of the lucky 13 as they were rehearsing last week and they were all very excited about being in the pantomime.
Abigail Thomson said that learning some of the tricky routines had been quite hard but her favourite song was one from the TV show ‘Britannia High’ while Sophie Reilly said she had enjoyed learning the 60s pop song ‘Colour My World’.
Leanne Moffatt said she was really looking forward to doing something a bit different this Christmas- getting to perform in 12 out of 24 shows- and after previously starring in ‘The Wind In The Willows’ with Maltings Youth Theatre, Daniel Howlett, Mary Davenport and Patrick Davenport said they were all loving the ‘Aladdin’ experience.
And the ‘Aladdin’ team seem happy to have them, as they were all full of praise for their young recruits.
Morgan said: “The kids picked things up quicker than we ever could have hoped and are full of enthusiasm. The fact that the they all had some sort of performing experience was definitely a big help. There are two teams of six and one reserve but they will definitely get to do at least two performances.”
Like a lot of the children, ‘Aladdin’ is also Nicola Black’s first professional pantomime, Princess So-Shy being her first leading role since graduating early this year.
She said she really enjoying her time with Little Wolf so far, adding that she thought it was the perfect theatre company to make her debut with.
While ‘Aladdin’ isn’t Genie Mark Jackson’s first foray into panto land, he said he was looking forward to playing a more comical role, having been Prince Charming on previous occasions.
“I’ve played princes before but to be honest they’re a bit soppy so it’s going to be great to be a character that’s got something about them.
As well as local children getting in on the Little Wolf act, another familiar face to Berwickers and Maltings audiences, Ross Graham, also has a part to play, well two actually.
After speaking to Alan and Morgan when they were up for the auditions during the summer, Ross was offered the parts of the Emperor of Peking-whu-pon-Tweed and Pandora the Panda and has also come in handy when its come to local knowledge.
And he is looking forward to adding to his modest panto experience, which has so far only stretched to a walk in part on an Emergency Services Panto many years ago.
Although there weren’t any boos or hisses to be had on ‘Popstar to Opera Star’, Dan Smith said he wants “a hideous amount” every time he steps on stage as Abanazar
“As well as bringing an incredibly good moustache to proceedings, I want people to absolutely loath me. I plan to be sinister and won’t be happy unless people are completely un-nerved and give me horrendous amounts of boos.”
Someone who will most definitely not be receiving any boos is Morgan Brind who gave me an exclusive sneak peak at the wonderful array of outfits he will be slipping into- elaborate doesn’t quite cover it!
“I spend most of my time off stage!” he joked.
“I’ve got 10 costume changes to fit in and there are some spectacular frocks to get through! The budget is particularly eye-popping when it comes to costumes there’s 78 in total which has meant a lot of stitching!”
At the helm of ‘Aladdin’ is director Zoe Waterman who is confident that snow or no snow the show will go on and has all the ingredients to inject plenty of Christmas cheer into freezing days and nights.
Speaking to ‘In The Limelight’ she said: “I think we’ve got an amazing panto on our hands here. The important thing about any show whether it be a Shakespeare play or a pantomime is that there is a strong story. Amongst all the song, dances and glitter it’s important that we’ve still got characters that people care about.”
And as well as characters the audience will love and love to hate, a pantomime needs its fair share of showstopping songs to keep things ticking along. As well as playing Abanazar, Dan Smith is also the show’s musical director and he let slip a few songs that audiences can look forward to.
“There are songs for all ages, one of the biggies is ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ which of course everyone knows from ‘Glee’ and then ‘Defying Gravity’ which was also in ‘Glee.’”