Panto season is in full swing but it seems that this year it has just got bigger!
Described as a ‘truly unique event’, the story of Aladdin is to be told in one of the world’s most famous arenas, London’s O2. The pantomime will take place in a specifically built, 1,900 seat theatre under the canopy of the world class arena and stars a true UK legend, Lily Savage. Paul O’Grady’s alter ego will take on the famous role of Widow Twanky and Aladdin: A Wish Come True also sees Jersey Boy’s favourite, Jon Lee, appear in the show’s title role.
Running from Friday 7 December 2012 until Saturday 5 January 2013, the pantomime also stars Issy Van Randwyck as the Slave of the Ring, Darren Bennett as Abanazar, Marissa Dunlop as Princess Jasmin and Nigel Garton as the Emperor. The production has been lovingly produced by Michael Rose and Chris Moreno, and is directed and choreographed by David Morgan, a panto alumnus who had previously worked on Cinderella on the stage of the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton.
Paul O’Grady has been a household name for many years now, as has Lily Savage, and he shows no signs of slowing down this Christmas. With promoting his book Still Standing: The Savage Years and other TV and Radio commitments, O’Grady cannot wait to be on stage this festive season, taking on arguably the most famous pantomime dame! Paul is not also not phased by the surroundings, saying “The Arena’s no place for panto, it’s too big, so they’re building us a theatre… I expect we’ll all be in porta cabins round the back, hovering over a fan heater, but no doubt but it will look lovely out front.”
The O2 does seem the perfect setting for this festive treat, along with the theatre, the array of bars, restaurants and entertainment spots, audience’s can really make a day of it, which is what the theatre is all about!
Paul O’Grady is no stranger to the campness of the panto, “I love the insanity of it all! You’re in this family for four weeks and if you have the three ‘Gs’ – a great company, great audiences and a great production – then you’re laughing. I couldn’t think of a nicer way to spend Christmas”. And pantomimes aren’t just for the children! O’Grady states that it is the story that will keep Aladdin’s audiences hooked, ““You’ve got to keep the story going. Don’t just wander out and tell a few gags. It’s really important to tell the story. Ours opens with a funeral – the kids’ love that, with all the thunder lightening and the dry ice – and they’re burying Widow Twanky’s husband. It’s a prologue so you find out how Widow Twanky ended up in Peking running a laundrette; you get the back story. And when you have a really good script like ours it enables you to stray off for a bit. I chat to the audience and tell them me woes, but, you don’t want to be going overboard; you’ve got a crew there who want their lunch and people who want to get the bus!”
With Christmas very fast approaching, we can only imagine that for the performers there isn’t much time to be at home celebrating. But at O’Grady towers he will says he will be celebrating in style! “I have all the friends round and I cook a big Christmas dinner. Honestly, if you walked into my house you’d think ooh! Someone in this house absolutely adores Christmas; a lovely tree, holly, ivy and mistletoe around the banisters – you’d think Kirsty Allsop had been in working overtime!” O’Grady also reveals that his own back garden looks a lot like the famous nativity scene too… “I’ve got nine pigs, ten sheep, four barn owls – it’ll be like Hogwarts here soon – two goats, four dogs and loads of chickens and ducks. It’s ridiculous!” Blimey.
Famously, the story of Aladdin includes a magical Genie, who grants the young lad three wishes. So what would Paul O’Grady wish for? “A good blast of sunshine, just for a week, to give us all a treat before Christmas… I’d ask for a big pot of money to give away to mates and charities that really deserve it.” Well, two aren’t bad… And we all know the famous scene where the Cave of Wonders appears and nearly traps the hero. Would O’Grady banish anyone there though? ““It would be a very busy cave,” he cackles. “And not only would I shut ‘em in but I’d fill it full of ice cold water, just waist level, and then I’d break the sewer pipe. Then and I’d go in and cheer myself up watching them all being miserable!” (Remind us not to get on the wrong side of him!)
We have to say, the prospect of seeing Paul O’Grady in a pantomime is one that fills us both excitement and joy, and we simply cannot wait! Be sure to catch our review of the spectacle later this week.
Aladdin: A Wish Comes True runs at The Theatre at The O2 from Friday 7 December 2012 until Saturday 5 January 2013. Tickets: £19.50 – £49.50. To find more information on the show click here.