The entertainment at this year’s panto at Milton Keynes Theatre is certainly more than a bit Wishee Washee - but that’s a good thing as comedian Joe Pasquale leads the cast of Aladdin .
He definitely enjoys taking centre stage as Aladdin’s hapless brother in the Qdos Entertainment production which also features Lee Mead in the title role, best known for winning the BBC Talent Show Any Dream Will Do.
Joe’s been delighting audiences for more than 20 years with his live stand-up tours and infectious sense of fun - and he certainly had the MK audience in fits of laughter – along with his fellow cast members who had to pause to gather their composure on many occasions – during Wednesday’s press night.
Fast-talking Joe spent the whole show pretty much just larking about – whether through his array of one-liners and jokes, trying to put off the cast, insulting the audience or with a conveyor belt of Frank Spencer-type hapless moments (perhaps not surprising given he’s toured the UK in a stage incarnation of classic sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em).
An example of his mischief was when Aladdin and Princess Jasmine (Tegan Bannister) were having a romantic moment, which was crudely interrupted by Joe squeezing in between them as he played with Aladdin’s curly hair (which he was obsessed with throughout the show) and then burped in this face.
And the vulgarities - which may not be to everyone’s taste - didn’t stop there. In fact, parents who expect their offspring to behave with impeccable manners will be horrified by one unhygienic scene. It was pretty revolting and saw an extended period of Aladdin and Wishee talking a gulp of water from a cup and spitting it in each others’ faces - that’s when they weren’t spraying it out prematurely because they were laughing so much.
It was squeaky bum time for Joe with the stool gag which was one of the best moments of the panto and, incredibly, made his infamous squeaky voice go to an even higher pitch.
Another highlight was the ‘If I Was Not In Old Peking’ routine which featured Wishee, Aladdin, The Empress (Debra Michaels) and Widow Twankey (David Robbins) playing with props as they sang - and it proved to be a painful slapstick experience for one cast member. There was also an unexpected surprise for the audience during the routine thanks to a bucket!
Widow Twankey, with her fabulous knobby knees, was my favourite character of the night and she must have one hell of an enormous walk-in wardrobe backstage as her countless costume changes got more outrageous as the show progressed.
There were plenty of hiccups along the way, although most were presumably planned - including props falling apart, a baby elephant’s head being knocked off to reveal the actor inside, and Wishee being tangled up in a scenery curtain.
Phil Corbitt, as the excellent evil Abanaza trying to get his hands on Aladdin’s lamp, was the perfect villain and thrived on the grief he was getting from the audience. When the crowds weren’t on his back, he was quick off the mark with a “you going to boo me or not?” prompt as well.
Throw in water pistols, a ‘flossing’ panda, a magic carpet that spun the actors upside down at one point, and the show certainly served up plenty of festive fun - even if the large puppet genie had some serious lip sync issues!
The panto runs until Sunday, January 12, with best availability before Christmas on Friday, December 20 at 7pm. Box office 0844 8717652 www.atgtickets.com/miltonkeynes