Review: ‘Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves’, Greenbrook Panto Society

GRAND FINALE: The cast of Ali Babi. (S)

GRAND FINALE: The cast of Ali Babi. (S)

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A tap dancing baddie, a six foot-something busty dame and a married couple from hell have been providing the laughs at a Burnley panto this week.

They are among the cast of Greenbrook Pantomime Society’s production of “Ali Baba And The 40 Thieves” which runs until tomorrow.

I should have been all panto-ed out as this was my third show in two weeks, but as my friend said, you always leave Greenbrook Pantomimes smiling.

“Ali Baba” has lots of comedy moments, but it lacks some strong singing voices and the chorus line seems to have decreased in numbers; although it is good to see some young people coming through the ranks.

The story itself is largely fun, although a person being hacked to death by brigands is not the usual panto fare. Fortunately it was done in a very lighthearted way by director Edward P. Munday who has brought a lot of original ideas to this tale.

It was a shame the youngest cast members had to leave at the interval as I would have liked to have seen more involvement from them, but all in all a fairly small cast did a good job.

I liked the unusual opening as storyteller Lesley Riley set the scene for us. The first few minutes then are a bit slow but, as the story progresses and we get to know the characters, it gathers momentum – and mayhem ensues!

James Hargreaves does a sterling job as Ali Baba, as does Abigail Wrench as his likeable girlfriend Safiya. Then we have the comedy characters, Daniel Bend as Ali’s mum Baba who puts every ounce of effort into every role he plays with hilarious results. Partner him with Martyn Green as Sheikh Mustafa Leikh, the chief thief, and you have a recipe for fun. Martyn has been away from the local theatre scene for a few years and it is good to have him and his refreshing style back as he can sing, dance and play the fool with great comic timing.

The pairing of James Seymour and Rebecca Munday as Ali’s brother Cassim and his hard money-grabbing wife Sharon is a masterstroke. They complement each other and are an hilarious partnership, well worth watching.

Then we have the return of Mr Pantomime himself Martin (Handbag) Wrench in a small but very important part as Fab Rick the tailor. As ever he put 100% into the role and it was good to see him back. I also loved Elaine Morris, Nicola Barrett and Susan Barrett as Loona, Moonah and Noona. Kirsty Jackson and Glen Hawthorne were Yessah and Nossah. Helen Ingham as Hana, and Dan Tynan has a small but amusing part as a China Man – the stuff that panto is made of!