Families across South Yorkshire are having festive fun kicking off Christmas with a panto. The Civic Theatre in Rotherham has been transformed into Old Peking, China, for the next month as Disney favourite Aladdin spreads its magic across the town.
With a mix of traditional ingredients – slapstick comedy, a man in drag and a baddie to ‘boo’ – the pantomime has the audience in hysterics. But new to the recipe for success in Rotherham this year is Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Ricky K, from Sheffield, who plays the lead role. Renditions of hits including Take That’s ‘Rule the World’ is receiving huge applause but its the jokes and impromptu one-liners which are raising the roof scene after scene.
The custard pie scene is proving popular with children young and old – as is Ricky firing a giant water gun into the theatre and throwing a packet of crisps over the heads of those in the front rows.
Children are being left mesmerised at the flying magic carpet scene after the interval and are in full voice in the traditional ‘it’s behind you’ scene, in which a yeti abducts Aladdin and co.
Ricky, whose made it from 75,000 auditionees to the last 45 in Simon Cowell’s hit TV talent show earlier this year, is not the only cast member to swap TV for live theatre.
Joining him on stage as Abanazar is Mark Labbett, better known as ‘The Beast’ on ITV quiz show The Chase.
With his booming voice and 6ft 7in frame he proves the perfect villain, attracting boos from the audience from his first few seconds on stage.
Scripted gags attract laughs throughout the show, with Ricky’s chemistry with Widow Twankey, played by Mark Hudson, key to its success.
With Mark having played a dame 23 times, his experience, combined with Ricky’s energetic exuberance make for perfect panto. But audience interaction also plays its part with cast members heckling from the stage providing off-the-cuff comedy.
Ricky shares the limelight with Rotherham-born singer Alexandra Hans, who plays Aladdin’s love interest, Princess Jasmine.
Alexandra, who trained at the Gillian Banks Theatre School in Rotherham before moving to the Northern College of Performing Arts and London College, captivates the audience with her pitch perfect vocals.