'Who is this guy, dad, he's hilarious!' Joe Pasquale entertains a new audience at Milton Keynes Theatre's panto
For the younger members of the audience at Milton Keynes Theatre the star of this year's panto, Joe Pasquale, is not a name they will instantly recognise.
It matters not.
My 11-year-old son encapsulated it in one simple comment to me very quickly into the show - "who is this guy, dad, he's hilarious!"
Joe Pasquale as Wishee Washee had both my children in absolute fits of giggles throughout. I don't think I've ever seen my eight-year-old daughter laugh so much, she was literally doubled up at times. One particular routine that involved Pasquale's voice reaching an even higher pitch left in stitches...at one point I thought she was going to pass out!
And that's exactly what panto is all about.
It's the time to leave all the stresses and strains of everyday life outside of the theatre for a couple of hours and just have fun. Embrace the slapstick humour, enjoy the feelgood songs and boo and cheer like the best of them. And Aladdin at the MK Theatre does that in spades.
Pasquale is an old hand at pantos and you know what you are going to get from him. Cheeky, engaging, a little bit risque at times, but all done with a twinkle in his eye...and the kids loved him.
Fellow headliner Lee Mead as Aladdin was superb. A powerful voice and a great partnership with Pasquale providing some hilarious routines. Mead's performance of Any Dream Will Do, which harks back to his career-defining victory in the BBC show to find the star of Andrew Lloyd-Webber's hit West End show, was superb and demonstrated his class...surrounded by more slapstick humour from Pasquale.
The role of pantomime dame is played brilliantly by David Robbins, starring as Widow Twankey. With seemingly more costume changes than the rest of the cast put together, Robbins drew some of the biggest laughs of the night from the audience.
Combining with Pasquale, Mead and Debra Michaels as The Empress, the quartet produced one of the funniest routines of the night, that again left my children in fits of laughter and was one of the highlights of their night.
The panto villain that everyone loves to boo is Abanazar, played by Phil Corbitt who captured that balance of being the baddie...but still showing a softer side that wins the audience over and ensured a great cheer in the finale.
The musical line-up was joined by Tegan Bannister as Princess Jasmine and Sarah Earnshaw as Scheherazade, Slave of the Ring, both with strong, powerful performances throughout.
The supporting cast of dancers were excellent throughout and gave energy and vibrancy to their routines.
All in all, it is a rip-roaring night out and has all the elements you want from a panto - and everyone left the theatre with a smile on their face and ready for the festive season to begin.