Madcap Mark’s star burns bright on this December night

THIS is a show that gleams with a galaxy of stars but there is one that shines so bright that you’re positively dazzled… and that’s Mark James, back by popular demand, and quite obviously now very much a firm favourite with Worcestershire panto audiences.

Mark appears as Wishee Washee – but there’s nothing half-soaked about this northern lad, who comes over as a madcap cross between George Formby and the Clitheroe Kid.

So it’s no wonder that this is his third appearance at Malvern. And the good news is that he’s coming back to the county next year for Peter Pan, the 2020 panto.

Nevertheless, he doesn’t completely hog the limelight, for when it comes to glittering singing talent, you’d be hard pressed to find a better Spirit of the Ring than that presented by Loula Geater.

When it comes to vocal numbers, the sheer power of her voice really rattles the rafters in the Festival Theatre and soon gets everyone clapping along.

Panto would be nothing without the villain, and it is here that Only Fools and Horses star John Challis comes into his own as Abanazar, harvesting the hisses and boos the split second his ghastly grimace greets the crowd.

And if this isn’t enough, there is a wonderful moment when he reprises the Boycie role which prompts the crowd to substitute cheers for catcalls.

Meanwhile, Jamie Steen’s Widow Twankey is an absolute hoot, with evermore absurd costume changes, the best in my book being without doubt the Christmas bauble outfit.

Aaron Jenson as Aladdin is the perfect suitor for Joely Barbour’s Princess Jasmine, Danny Rogers as PC Pong does a passable imitation of a Keystone Cop, and Gary Davis merrily booms along as the Emperor.

That just leaves Genie of the Lamp Jacob Morris to throw some light on the scene, something he does without getting on anyone’s wick.

This year’s Malvern Theatre’s pantomime is most certainly blessed with top talent, fabulous outfits and with the whole caboodle being powered along by musical director Tom Self’s team of excellent players.

No Christmas season would be complete without a visit to the panto and this one’s got to be up there with the best of them. It runs until January 5… so don’t delay, book today!

John Phillpott

Worcester News | What’s On