Curtain Lifts on the Cast of Aladdin as Panto Season Approaches

With the festive season fast approaching, the Kenton Theatre will soon be lifting the curtain on this year’s pantomime, Aladdin. The pantomime was officially launched last Tuesday, with many of the cast meeting and getting into costume for the first time. The 2022 panto is being produced by Immersion Theatre, the acclaimed company behind the 2017 production of Robin Hood and 2018’s Dick Whittington.

The award nominated Immersion Theatre was established by Rochelle Parry and James Tobias in 2010. The pair have both performed on the Kenton Stage a number of times over the years, and even got engaged on stage after a panto show in 2014. James said, “I’m genuinely really excited to be coming back. Obviously I have really fond memories of the Kenton; it is like a second home for me. A lot has happened over the last few years, but as a company, we’ve actually really developed. Our shows, even though they shouldn’t have, have gotten bigger and the spectacle of it all has increased as well.”

Speaking about the upcoming production of Aladdin, James said, “This year we’re not hiring set, we’ve built one ourselves so it’s very much bespoke to Immersion. The script is done, it works really well, and there are tons of local references to Henley. We’ve got some people returning who know how to work an audience very well. Between people that we’ve worked with before, new people, the set we’ve got, and the costumes we’ve got, it’s going to be a really good show. The choreo is going to be so high energy, and the music is so upbeat and in your face. Having such a strong ensemble of people who can move and act and sing, it’s going to be a bit like a concert really.”

The Immersion Theatre team wanted a big title to mark their return, leading them to settle on Aladdin — one of the most popular pantomimes. Simon Spearing, the Kenton Theatre Manager, said, “Aladdin is my favourite pantomime. It is one of the big titles, of course, but it is my favourite just because it’s such a big story, but also quite a personal story. And it’s fun! Aladdin is one where there’s just huge opportunity to have fun with it, and really that’s what we all need right now, to get away from everything and be able to laugh for a couple of hours.”

The show will feature six principal actors and, for the first time, two professional dancers. Luke Haywood, who plays the title role of Aladdin, is also responsible for choreographing the show. He said, “This is going to be a really exciting production. It’s going to be full of audience interaction, loads of sharp choreography, and songs that people really like as well.”

Luke is no stranger to the role of Aladdin, having performed in Immersion’s production in Harrow in 2019. He has also performed at the Kenton twice: in Immersion Theatre’s production of Rapunzel, and earlier this year in Wind in the Willows. He explained, “It’s really nice to be back. It’s such a lovely little town. I love walking round, and it’s just beautiful, and all the shops are so nice. I’m really excited to see what it’s like at Christmas as well, because I’ve not been here at Christmas.”

Speaking about the importance of the pantomime, Simon Spearing said, “Pantomime is the best time of the year. Sometimes it’s the only time people come to the theatre in a year, and often it will be the first time children come to the theatre, so it’s such an important thing, I think. If you’ve never been to the theatre before, you want to go away having had a great time and wanting to go back. The first time I ever went to the theatre was to see a pantomime, and I just think it’s such an important show. Having guys like James and Rochelle who get it, who get how important it is and can pace a show in the way that [they] can — honestly I think I’m even more excited about [them] coming back here than [they] are!”

James added, “We’ve never had from the Kenton the level of support we’ve had this year. It feels like a real team, which is so nice. It’s simple silly things like, ‘Simon do you have a hoover we can use during the show’, and he says ‘yeah we can make that work’. It’s little things like that that I’ve never had before here. It feels like a proper collaboration. Don’t get me wrong, creatively I’m a control freak, but it’s nice to be able to be like, ‘mate can you help me out with this’, and then it’s a yes, and vice versa. It’s really lovely.”

Immersion Theatre have also secured the tender for the 2023 pantomime. James said, “This year is really great because we’re coming in with a bang, but I think there’s no getting away from the fact that year on year, it’s just going to get bigger. There will be more audiences, and with more audiences coming back we’ll have more freedom to make it bigger. We are already starting to think about next year’s titles. We already know what we’re doing here, which is really exciting. I’m genuinely buzzing, I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be so much fun.”

Aladdin will run from 10-29 December. Book your tickets via https://kentontheatre.co.uk/event/aladdin/

The panto is being sponsored by Blandy & Blandy solicitors.

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