Hot off the stage: Gags galore in Playhouse Panto Aladdin

Wirral Globe: Sam Haywood as Aladdin. Picture by Topher McGrillis Sam Haywood as Aladdin. Picture by Topher McGrillis

AT PANTO time, no city offers such a choice of entertainment as Liverpool - only London can beat it in the diversity stakes.

The Everyman and Playhouse never fail to deliver a surreal journey into Pantoland. If there is a rule to be broken, they will happily break it.

Oh yes, they do. Had to get that in.

One thing struck me - is Fazakerely becoming an inner city capital of culture?

Around the corner from Williamson Square, the Royal Court have their Hitchhikers Guide to that famous Scouse area.

Now the Playhouse pays homage to this new Scouse tourist attraction, too.

I never knew there was an Emperor of Fazakerely, but Griffin Stevens does a fine job in the mantle with the strangest prop ever - a hypnotic hip.

The old Everyman - the new version opens next year - was perfect for in-the-round antics. But moving to the Playhouse has not put the cast in any theatrical straight jacket.

Their on-stage acrobatics - physical and vocal - are a joy to see and hear. Every musician clearly loving every minute of it.

And as always, the focus is on sheer fun.

There's visual gags galore, special effects and performances from a cast who know Merseyside audiences love to join in.

It is a fast-paced show from writing stalwarts Mark Chatteron and Sarah A Nixon.

Mark is working another shift as the director.

The favourites are back Adam Keast as a Mountie...In Aladdin? Oh, and he also becomes a giant shrimp.

No, I hadn't been on the mulled wine.

Yes , it gets crazier as he doubles up as the Gene Genie.

Partner in creative crime is Francis Tucker as Lottie Longbottom wearing the most hilarious of costumes with the patter and ad lobbing to match.

He acts the goat...literally.

The ten-strong cast, who are also the house band , all throw their energy and talent into re- telling the tale of Aladdin and a lamp that must end up in a volcano to break a spell.

Crater expectations.

It may not be a traditional version but it keeps adults and audiences laughing and on their collective feet during such rocking songs as Blame It On The Boogie.

Bohemian Rhapsody, aided by some clever back -screen projections, is a highlight along with Eric Carmen's All By Myself.

Mr Sandman and Temptation illustrate the vast catalogue the creators have dipped into with great humour and slick performances all around.

Marianne Benedict is a vampish Morgana Beezlebub; feisty, sexy and with a powerful voice to match, while sidekick in crime Griffin Stevens relishes every boo and hiss.

While sidekick in crime Griffin Stevens relishes every boo and hiss.

The sparkling set and costume design is faultless and provide splendid backdrops to the wide-ranging music under the rock and roll baton of musical guru, Rick Juckes.

Highlights include a giant flying flying shrimp, see I told you it was true, fighting with a shark while serenaded by the Bond classic Nobody Does It Better.

Sam Haywood, in his debut, is an energetic and engaging Aladdin, while love interest Carla Freeman as Princess Willow and a bubbly Ninja illustrates her versatility at home with wacky dialogue as well as soaring on the songs.

Sometimes the plot is overshadowed by the costumes, but that's fine, because the show works on so many levels, including some rude jokes.

There's some water-pistol shenanigans too (I got soaked - thanks Francis).

The audience participation numbers such as Lottie's love theme fit in superbly with the numerous madcap routines en route to a fab finale.

The Playhouse Panto has done it again respecting tradition, but also moving magically along with the times.

Globe Verdict: Aladdin Zany 9/10

Runs until January 18. Box office: 0151 709 4766.

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