West Yorkshire\'s biggest pantomime, ALADDIN, which opened to packed houses and glowing reviews on Saturday 14 December 2013, continues its run at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford until 26 January. The pantomime stars Billy Pearce, Chico and a full supporting cast of performers, singers and dancers, including the ever-popular Sunbeams and some amazing special effects.
The contrasts in this year\'s spectacular panto range from the traditional slap-stick panto antics to some of the biggest effects and illusions in theatre today, provided by The Twins FX. The Twins are considered to be one of the leading companies operating in the field of theatrical visual special effects, illusions and animatronics in the world. Contrasts are also very apparent in the casting of this year\'s panto, with a giant gorilla called Little Ernie and children from the Sunbeams.
Little Ernie stands at a huge 6 metres (19ft 8 inches) tall, towering over the smallest cast member, Sunbeam Gabriella Baglio (aged 7 years) who is only 1 metre 17 cm (3ft 10 inches). Little Ernie probably takes a size 40 in shoes, although the biggest recorded shoe size for a basketball player is only size 22; Sunbeam Gabriella takes a children\'s size 12. Little Ernie would be capable of picking up Gabriella and completely covering her in one hand!
Little Ernie took seven months to make and there were twenty people involved in his creation. He has to travel in two sections as he\'s so big and his head takes five people to lift into position. This gigantic animatronics puppet has twenty motors inside his head, linked to radio controlled transmitters which make him blink, wink, frown and snort in the same way that a real gorilla would. It takes seven puppeteers to operate Little Ernie and bring him to life. His \"fur\" was provided by a company located in Bradford.
Gary Hardy-Brown from The Twins FX say:
\"We pride ourselves in making the impossible possible! Each year we work closely with colleagues at Qdos Entertainment to plan some awe-inspiring creations. In Bradford this year, we\'re delivering, amongst other things, an 18-foot long talking Cobra, a unique flying carpet ride using what we describe as ‘revolver technology\' and of course, Little Ernie the monster-sized gorilla.\"
Audiences at this year\'s panto are invited to throw (foam) bananas at Little Ernie to fend him off if he becomes too scary, and over 11,200 bananas have been delivered to the theatre to use in this scene. One group of children who cannot be frightened of Little Ernie are the Sunbeams, who appear in the show courtesy of The Sara Packham School of Dance based in Oxenhope and Keighley.
Sara has provided children for the Alhambra pantomimes for eleven years (not consecutively) and the first Alhambra Theatre panto that she supplied Sunbeams for was Aladdin starring Cannon & Ball in 2000. There are two teams of Sunbeams (each team has ten children) who take it in turns to appear in a performance during the six week run of the panto this year.
Sara Packham comments:
\"The tradition of the Sunbeams at the Alhambra Theatre pantomime is well-known to people in the local area. It\'s very rewarding to see the children from my Dance School performing to such a high standard, enjoying themselves on the Alhambra stage and maintaining this wonderful tradition.\"
***** (five stars) \"... it succeeds in combining breathtaking special effects and illusions with old fashioned panto without destroying any of the magic and glamour of this spectacular tale...\" Yorkshire Post
\"It\'s faster, telling a familiar story with fizz and freshness, seamlessly incorporating the musical numbers, comedy routines and the wonderful Sunbeams.\" Keighley Evening News
ALADDIN is produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world\'s largest pantomime producer.
ALADDIN - at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford - closes Sunday 26 January 2014
Captioned performance: Sat 19 Jan 2.30pm
Tickets £11 - £28 (+ booking fees)
Booking fees: Phone/Counter - £1 per ticket plus postage charge where applicable
Online - £2.50 per ticket plus transaction fee of 50p
Call the Box Office on 01274 432000 or book online at bradford-theatres.co.uk