Eternal Magic of Pantomime Weaves Its Spell; Christmas Is Just around the Corner and with It Comes All the Traditions of Turkey, Tinsel and Pantomime. Penny Fray Speaks to the Stars of Pavilion Theatre's Aladdin about the Future of an Age Old Tradition
Byline: Penny Fray
FANTASY is yet to be crushed by the weight of modern scepticism.
Despite the lure of sophisticated gadgetry and the strength of scientific reasoning, today's children still believe in the magic of goblins, ghouls and genies. Why else would Harry Potter be hailed a 21st century phenomenon or Disney remain one of America's greatest institutions?
For this reason, the celebrity cast of Aladdin, appearing at the Rhyl Pavilion Theatre next month, say the age old Christmas pantomime custom is an important one.
Modern youth may demand ever more revolutionary forms of entertainment, from PlayStation to robots, but there is still a place for staged fairytales.
Tony Scannell, who plays Abanazel in the production, says: "I've got two children, Thomas who is seven and threeyear-old Sophie, who are already computer literate in that they can switch a PC on and off, print documents and load CD Roms, yet there is still an enjoyment of animation and colour. And that's not just them, that's all children. The love of innocence has always existed and will continue to do so, even in this fast world."
The point is illustrated by the latest news that the film Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone has made more money than any other movie, netting more than pounds 135 milion pounds in less than 10 days.
"People have made millions of bucks in Hollywood by taking children into the realms of imagination with films like Shrek and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, " adds Tony, best known as Ted Roach from The Bill.
And Aladdin is certainly one of the best-loved pantomimes of all time, telling the tale of a young man's discovery of an old lamp, the genie within it and his adventures as he goes from rags to riches in the hope of winning the princess's hand in marriage.
This particular stage version of the story has been written by Tom Bright, choreographed by Richard Hooper and directed by Adrian Allsopp. It also stars Deborah McAndrew, who played Coronation Street's Angie Freeman, and Richard Ellis who was Huw in EastEnders.
Tony acknowledges that pantomime has been forced to evolve during the last 50-years. After all, today's audiences demand value for money.
The 55-year-old actor says: "In the 1960s, the panto was a vehicle for one particular type of star who was normally a person in drag, but nowadays, each actor has to individually entertain the crowds for more than two hours."
He says the writer and director have managed to retain the traditional tale by including characters like Wishy Washy, but the script is much more story based in that "it has a beginning, middle and end".
Tony admits that the job pays well and certainly brings in the crowds.
"Christmas is usually the leanest time of year for us, " he says. "But it's also a good time in that people come en masse to the theatres.
"The industry has gone as far as it can with the thrilling, frightening and sexy.
After all, there are only so many ways you can cut up a body. But in panto, there is still a sense of joyfulness in getting lost in the magic. …