Thursday, December 08, 2011


at the Broadway, Barking

In Barking's pop-up Broadway, now scandalously threatened with closure, local panto for local people, but with admirable style and gloss.

The small company is augmented and enhanced by some very talented youngsters, who are given plenty to do in Karena Johnson's lively production. Singing, dancing, and for three of them, major roles and a fair share of the best lines: a crazy chase through the auditorium for the two comedy policemen, and a mischievous, eager Genie of the Ring, who even gets to share the magic carpet ride.

The kids in the audience are well served, too, lighting up the place with their glowing cutlasses. They are thrown sweets – once a given in any panto, but this is the only time I've seen it this season – and enjoy script [Marc Day] and delivery very much pitched at their level. But lots of nostalgia for the oldies: "Together", "Chuchi Face", H-A-P-P-Y for the Mummy ghost routine, not to mention loads of local references and antiquated gags.

From Ashley J's in-flight introduction it is clear that here is a panto performer who knows how to interact with his audience – he makes a very likeable Wishee-Washee [and choreographed the dance routines]. His brother Aladdin – whose Dagbad has very obvious East End roots – is Michael Sewell. The lovely Princess Jasmine is played as a strong young woman, and beautifully sung, by Roxanne Douro.

Hugh Osborne's Emperor sounds just like the Englishman abroad his name suggests, while Benedict Martin is the power-hungry Abanazer, fighting to be heard over the jeers and boos from the audience, and doing a great job with his "Evil" front cloth song.

Marcus Powell is a lovely Widow Twankey, bouncy, giggly with more than a hint of Frankie Howerd; wonderful dresses, of course, including bubble baubles and magnificent twin lamps.

While the staging is inevitably simple – the canvas cave entrance less than impressive – there are lots of lovely touches, my favourite the surreal perambulator sound of marching feet.

Phil Gostelow's music includes a great sing-along Bruno Mars Lazy Song, and a Glee finale – "Don't Stop Believin'" a handy mantra for the beleaguered Broadway to take into 2012 ...

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