This show has most of the virtues and few of the vices you might look for in a family pantomime: the audience knows what it wants, and that’s pretty much what it gets.
Nothing comes as a surprise, but I rather enjoyed the spirit of complicity with which, for instance, the time-honoured tradition of the ghost scene was delivered.
It’s interesting to note that while another tradition – throwing sweets into the audience – has succumbed to health and safety considerations in Birmingham, the Malvern public is still allowed to take its chances.
As Wishee Washee, Michael Absalom brings his children’s TV presenting experience, as well as an extremely wide smile, to befriending the young members of the audience, and Nick Wilton is a satisfyingly old school Widow Twankey. The two of them do a breezy laundry scene, although these days the mangle gag has to be prefaced by a brief explanation for the kids of what a mangle is.
Clive Mantle, a long-time fixture of Casualty and Holby City, gets to ham it up as the evil Abanazar. It must be a breeze playing the villain when the audience is as ready to boo from the off as Malvern’s is.
The one disappointment among the principals is Hannah Waterman, formerly Laura Beale in EastEnders, who makes a rather downbeat Aladdin, more Old Vic than Old Peking.
The show’s eclectic musical package is more than averagely catchy, and it doesn’t hurt in that respect that it has borrowed Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances for the dance routine at the end of act one. But if football results keep going the way they did last weekend they may have to drop the Aston Villa jokes.
Running time: Two hours, 35 minutes. Until January 11.