WITH its fast-moving, well choreographed and brilliantly staged pantomime production of Aladdin, this year’s Christmas production at the Alban Arena should be set to break box office records.
Quite simply, it’s brilliant  and keeps both adults and children engaged throughout two-and-a half-hours with plenty of booing, singing, laughing and even screaming.
Husband and wife team Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, who head Evolution Productions, have certainly hit on a winning formula, staging pantomimes in many of the country’s best theatres since 2005.
This is the third time Shaun Williamson has played the evil Abanazer for Evolution, a part which he (Shaun) plays quite gleefully, manfully taking the merciless Barry jokes. Shaun’s former EastEnders’ character Barry Evans, will haunt him forever it seems.
But it was obvious he was enjoying his work, which is very infectious.
He can sing too, as we discover with his Elvis impersonation number. The script is witty and moves along at great speed. One of my favourite jokes came in describing the Milletts sale, ‘now is the winter of their discount tents’. Shakespeare is another recurring theme as Abanazer has an ambition to be an ACTOR, don’t you know.
Aladdin, was played with charm by Phil Gallagher, CBeebies’ Mister Maker, obviously a familiar, figure to children in the theatre. They loved his 12 Days of Christmas obligatory slapstick scene with PC Pongo (Bob Golding) and Widow Twankey (Sam Rabone).
Super funky Genie of the Lamp (Nathaniel Morrison) was a treat for the ladeez in his 70s-style gold-lame jumpsuit and platforms boots.
Kelly Chinery as the Spirit of the Ring was engagingly Essex-like and she and Jemma Carlisle as Princess Jasmine impressed with their singing ability.
The standard of Aladdin as a whole is very high. There’s even a flying carpet special effect!
Widow Twankey’s exotic costumes were a triumph and the most imaginative I have ever seen, thanks to set and costume designer Helga Wood.
Special mention should be made of  the comic PC, played by Bob Golding and Stuart Nurse, who gave the Emporer of China authority, as they both live in St Albans and are delighted to be appearing on their home town stage.

Aladdin runs until January 6 at The Alban Arena, St Albans. Details: 01727 844488, aaboxoffice@leisureconnection.co.uk

Ruth Brindle