IT may have been a muggy August afternoon outdoors, but inside The Kings Theatre they were embracing the festive panto spirit.
More than 200 lucky fans came along to the Southea venue to see a special preview of this year’s coming pantomime, Aladdin, after applying for free tickets through an exclusive offer in The News.
In the guise of Widow Twankey, Jack Edwards, who is also The Kings’ creative director, was the host with the most.
Unfortunately, chart-topping Boyzone star Shane Lynch, who plays Abanazar, was unable to make it as he was apparently stuck in traffic.
Earlier in the day he had appeared live in a London studio on ITV’s Lorraine where he claimed to have been awake for 48 hours after the band, who are on their farewell tour, played Belfast for the final time.
But the other leads – including The Voice’s Lucy Kane as Princess Jasmine, Phats and Small singer Ben Ofoedu as The Genie, West End star Dani Acors as The Spirit of The Ring and children’s presenter Mike Goble as Wishee Washee – each gave a star turn to the delight of the audience.
And Mike, who was born in Portsmouth, is looking forward to his homecoming. ‘My nan, Pat, used to work here at the theatre for 10-15 years, selling teas and coffees, so her face just lit up when I told her I was playing here this Christmas. I’m really looking forward to it.’
The Alexander family had come all the way from Northampton in the hope of seeing Shane – mum Zara is a super-fan, even having his face tattooed on her arm. She was joined by husband Dean and their children, Erin, 11 and Alfie, five, but claimed not to be disappointed.
‘We are all big Boyzone fans,’ she said, ‘It’s a shame he couldn't make it, but we love Ben too, so it was still great to see him.’
Sat in the front row, Brian Morgan, of Southsea, got to be the butt of many of Twankey’s jokes, but was still smiling at the end. The 34-year-old came with his partner Stacy Ellis and their daughters Daisy, 10, and Betsy, four.
He said: ‘We come to the panto pretty much every year, so I saw this and thought it would be fun for the kids. It was very entertaining – we’ll be back for Christmas.
Aladdin is on from December 11 to January 5. Tickets from £17. Go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk or call (023) 9282 8282.