Aladdin in Portadown

THE magical Portadown’s annual pantomime got underway on Thursday January 13 (oh yes, it did!) when the Gateway Theatre started its 14 performances run of ‘Aladdin’ at the Town Hall - the usual touch of genie-ius from the talented group.

This one is the time-honoured tale of rags to riches, with our hero finding the magic lamp in a cave, giving it a rub and - hey presto - the Genie appears, says the welcome words, “Oh, Master” and the fun and thrills start from there.

Taking on the title role is none other than Johnston Press advertising staff member Daniel May, who was in the final 25 out of over 20,000 in the BBC1’s search for Joseph in Any Dream Will Do. Daniel has played various leading roles locally with MADS (Moyraverty Arts and Drama) and Centre Stage Performing Arts, and last year was in the chorus of the Portadown panto ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. He goes centre stage this year with his superb acting and singing skills.

Of course, every good panto needs a top Dame, and that has been a stamp of the Gateway productions who stick to the tried, tested and talented Eddie Drury, postman by dad, and the Darling of the Dames once a year - this is his 15th appearance in the annual panto, and the 12th as the gal in the outrageous frocks. He plays Widow Twankey.

The evil Abanazar - who tried to steal the lamp - is Simon Hylands (the fiend) while Gillian McShane (actress of wide experience and talent) is the ever-obedient genie, adding to the enjoyment of the patrons who flock to all 14 shows.

The lovely princess, Say-When, is played by debutante Robyn Keegan, and Wishee-Washee is in capable hands of Sean Roberts. And the comedy duo - without whom any panto is incomplete - consists of Elaine Hanvey and Kirsty Flemming (aka Bamboo and Typhoo), while the Empress is Jayne Kingston and the Grand Vizeer is Marie Tiffney, all well-versed in entertainment and women of no mean talents.

There are quite a few others making their debut, not least Alana Armstrong who plays the maid So-Shi and who made the last 200 hopefuls from the 5,000 who entered the BBC’s search for Maria for the West End production of ‘The Sound of Music’.

The fun continues until Saturday January 29, with the evening performances from Wednesday to Saturday at 7.30pm and 2pm for the Saturday matinees.

A few tickets are still available (£7 each) the tickets hotline number is Portadown 028 3835 1313.

The director is Millie O’Kasili, in charge of her 25th show, producer is Nigel Dawson in his 18th show, while musical director Ryan Harris (organist at Thomas Street Methodist Church) is on the keyboards for his second panto.

Choreographer is Deborah Flemming has been a key part of the production team from 2001 and a cast member since the group’s first ever panto in 1984.