“Let's go home now, Olivia ...”
Well it was 4.45, and Olivia and her friends had several toddlers in tow.
What with a late start and the raffle, this panto ran close to three hours, a long time for tinies, even in the comparative comfort of Braintree Arts Theatre.
But young and old who stayed to the end enjoyed an old-fashioned community pantomime from this passionate company who've just celebrated thirty years on the boards.
For this, their fourth Aladdin, they've gone back to the original story, though there are of course topical quips, anachronisms and a stereotypical Scotsman, his impenetrable accent moderated by an ingenious Jock-ometer.
This character is beautifully played by Phil Osborn, founder member of the group, who's also written and directed the show, and painted the colourful set [a lovely giant clothes horse with fluorescent washing].
His script is studded with witty touches: the baddie, masquerading as Uncle Erasmus, is Graham Abanazer, with his wife Barbara, the Genies are streetwise, the Emperor [Liam Lawless] is named Penn Kwin.
Dan Winnington is an imposing ice-cream-loving evil genius [“Wicked Abanazer to you”] - his finest hour comes with the punning prop lamps; his terms of endearment for Mrs Abanazer [Jo Speed], though varied and inventive, need selling harder. Michelle Jesse is in the Ring, the East-Endery geezer Genie of the Lamp is Graeme Aldred.
Not one but two double acts – policemen Wiff and Waff [Nycckie Lowden and Emily Smith] and the likeable Hansel-and-Gretelish Hanky and Panky of Sue Stedman and Hana Younger.
Craig Douglas makes a cheeky, laddish Widow Twanky, gloriously bejazzled in purple – his Wishee Washee is Nic Hammond.
The two young lovers are fetchingly played by Rebecca Tyler and Clare Ryan. Clare manages to be both sexily elegant and a convincingly sulky, slothful teen – an ideal Principal Boy. Their Can't Buy Me Love duet, and their shared sandwich, a highlight of the show.
Loads of good musical ideas, from the bright opening chorus to the final Walk Down. The Marketplace number is excellent, although, as often, the unmiked chorus struggle to be heard over The Pitz [the three-piece band under MD Matthew Speed]. Some smart choreography, too [Emma Loring], especially the dancing finger lights.
Plenty of pyrotechnics, kiddie karaoke, hisses, boos and aahs, ice cream and cupcakes at half-time. But maybe a little too generous with the dialogue and the songs – most professional pantos are much shorter nowadays ...