Never Too Old For Panto – Aladdin at Birmingham Hippodrome

Last night I had the most wonderful time at the panto.

Raj and I took two of my baby sisters along to the Birmingham Hippodrome to see this year’s pantomime production of Aladdin.

We had only recently been to the Hippodrome for the first time a few weeks ago when we came to see The Nutcracker by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. We already had a good first impression so were super excited to check out the panto.

Aladdin (Lee Mead) 2 - credit Keith Pattison

The show was brilliant. We laughed the whole way through the performance. It was fun, visually-exciting complete with a buzzing atmosphere.

Aladdin started, quite literally, with a bang and continued with that same energy throughout.

The stars of the show were spot on.

Abanazar (Marti Pellow) - credit Keith Pattison

Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet fame played a beautifully sinister baddie in Abanazar. He wrote some original songs just for the occasion and still managed to get the audience booing and heckling him.

Julian Clary was cast as the Slave of the Ring, and his act was incredibly naughty! He provided some rather adult content to the show by peppering his act with a slew of rude jokes. Trying to explain to my 8-year-old sister that I was laughing for no reason was a tad difficult! Nevertheless, Julian was hilarious and super fun.

The kiddies did however LOVE Wishee Washee as played by Matt Slack. They recognised him from the previous pantos that they’d been to and were excited to see him there. His slapstick, silly humour had them chuckling from start to finish. It was an utter joy to see my little sisters giggling so hard. There was a moment when his character was interfering in a romantic love song – it was perfectly silly and had us rolling in laughter.

Lee Mead played the perfect titular heartthrob. His voice is wonderful, as expected, but he played up the fun for the panto which worked really well for the other comedic roles in the show.

Aladdin at Birmingham Hippodrome

My youngest sister is a champion gymnast in the making (she trains very hard!) so she was particularly impressed to watch the comedy acrobatic scene by the Acromaniacs playing the police officers. Using a mini trampoline, box and crash mat they performed outstanding, perfectly timed stunts that built up in impressiveness. Probably one of my favourite parts of the shows!

With pyrotechnics, large-scale puppets (hello king kong, genie and a snake!) and machinery (a spectacular flying carpet) and even a 3D film section, Aladdin delivered on great production values. But the real star were the costumes! They were stunning, a real visual delight. I particularly enjoyed Julian Clary’s numerous costume changes with outfits that became more and more outlandish as the show went on.

The ensemble cast were not only ALL talented eye candy (phew!) but again, the costumes looked fab.

Finally, I must mentioned Widow Twankey, the panto dame as played by Andrew Ryan. Just like Matt Slack’s Wishee Washee it was a laugh a minute. There was one particular scene with an ‘apple’ watch that had us rolling in laughter.

And I won’t mention the saucepan scene … oh my, that was beyond hilarious!!!

Salve of the Ring (Julian Clary) 3 - credit Keith Pattison

Going to see Aladdin was one of the highlights on my year. Getting to take my little sisters was a wonderful treat and I enjoyed watching them laugh their hearts out as much as I enjoyed the show. The folks at Birmingham Hippodrome have managed to stage a panto that really is fun for all the family. I think everyone would get enjoyment out of different parts of the show and it really does lend itself to being a great all-rounder.

Highly recommended if you’re in the West Midlands. The show runs until the end of January so you’ve still got time to grab a ticket.

One final note, I would like to mention the outstanding response of the Birmingham Hippodrome when I mentioned that two of my party of four were registered disabled. For Raj being on crutches they made sure he had an aisle seat, the entire foyer area has lifts and ramps and is full of space so it rarely gets too cramped.

For my sister, who is autistic, they provided me details with how the show starts (with a loud bang) and the special effects such as smoke and strobing. It’s important for me to pre-warn her so she can prepare herself for these things. They also made sure I was aware that it was ok to leave the performance if she needed to and there was a quiet space outside she could go and still watch the show on the screens. Having that awareness for people with autism is fantastic. It was the reassurance we needed, but thankfully we didn’t need to use it.

As our awareness for access needs are heightened as a family we might see the importance of these details more than others. But I felt it was important to share and congratulate the Birmingham Hippodrome for making a performance space that is accessible to as many people as possible. They also offer captioned, signed, audio described, and relaxed performances. This is a venue that understands accessibility.

All in all, we had a fantastic night and would recommend you grab yourself a ticket pronto.

I’m almost tempted to go again myself!

Thank you to the Birmingham Hippodrome for a wonderful show.

Watch my vlog from the day on YouTube here or below.

Photo credits: Keith Pattison