Storm Barra was fair battering at the eaves of His Majesty’s but it didn’t matter… the people inside were safe in a bubble of panto magic and joy.
And there was plenty of that to go around in Beauty And The Beast, the spectacular festive treat that HMT audiences have been waiting on for so long after the pandemic robbed us of the sparkle of Christmas in our theatres last year.
Even from the opening minutes, magic was at work with a spectacular transformation scene as Prince Sebastian was transformed into the Beast by an Enchantress flying high in the air over the stage.
And we were off, storms, viruses, political problems all vanished in a wave of a magic wand.
Leading the charge was, as always Alan McHugh, His Majesty’s beloved dame who also doubles up as scriptwriter and now director of the panto too.
Easy warmth with the audience
His opening words – “We’re back!” were greeted with a huge cheer and his promise of two years of fun and laughter to catch up on set off a round of appreciative applause.
And he was as good as his word as his Dame Bella Buchan launched into the much-missed round of jokes, gags and quips that ranged from the groan-worthy to the hilarious, including the ones that were older than a tale as old as time.
Present and correct, too, were the risky risque one-liners designed to go completely over the heads of the wee ones in the audience, but land on the funny bones of the grown-ups.
After all, what do you expect when Bella’s daft laddie son is called Boaby – the excellent Paul-James Corrigan who makes being silly an art form.
He shares that same skill Alan has – an easy rapport and warmth with the audience as they riff off each other nicely as a double act.
Into the heady comedy mix was added Joyce Falconer whose Mrs Potty was the very essence of the Torry quine. She took the Doric quotient, turned it up to 11, then pushed the dial a bit further on yet.
It was a hoot and the HMT audience lapped it up – especially when she, Alan and PJ pulled off some excellent set-pieces.
One big glorious caper on stage
A shene about the Sean Connery Appreshiation Shociety dishcushing where Sean ushed to sit in the city was inshpired. This was Alan at his tongue-twisting best, both writing and performing, and he deserved the massive cheer when he finally got to the end – with only one shlip up.
The three also had the audience in stitches with a bedtime, ghostie sequence. Who knew you could tell the time with a trumpet?
Adding magic to proceedings was another of Aberdeen’s own, Laura Main who Called Off The Midwife to play the aforementioned Enchantress, with a sense of fun and mischief.
She brought that to life with the hilarious, knockabout slapstick Music Man routine performed with Alan, PJ and Joyce that was just one big glorious caper on stage that they seemed to be enjoying as much as the audience.
Rounding out the Aberdeen contingent in what has to be one of HMT’s most Doric pantos ever was Danielle Jam as the fiesty and romantic and very Aiberdeen Belle, and Mark Wood as an extremely hissable baddy, Angus McSneer. At the interval someone described him to me as a cross between Trainspotting’s Begbie and West End star, Darius. Which is about right if you add in a light comic touch, too.
And a very special mention must also go to Liam Brailford who was plucked out of the ensemble to play the Beast with a day’s notice after principal Calum McElroy had to to into Covid self-isolation. The boy knocked it out of the park.
It almost goes without saying the panto is full of massive songs, great dance numbers and jaw-dropping special effects. You’ll believe in flying motorcycles after this.
His Majesty’s panto always has heart
But what His Majesty’s Theatre panto always has – and always will have – is heart.
That was put front and centre when Alan announced no bringing doon of the cloot, this year for the traditional audience participation song.
Instead, he sang what he called his tribute to the people of Aberdeen for what we have all been through in these past 18 months, all the sacrifices made, the courage shown, the people lost, the things endured, to get to where we are now.
Sung to the tune of the Northern Lights it was his heartfelt love song to the city and to us and one that added real tears to the tears of laughter the panto always delivers.
And when Alan asked everyone to join in a rendition with the real words of our city’s anthem, the audience rose as one and sang their hearts out.
It was a special moment in a special night in a special run of Beauty And The Beast.
Welcome back HMT panto… God, how we’ve missed you.
For tickets and more information on Beauty And The Beast visit aberdeenperformingarts.com