Writer: Andrew Ryan with additional material by Anthony Williams, Jon Monie and Michael Gattrell
Director: Michael Gattrell
Musical Director: Oliver Rew
Choreographer: Danielle Drayton
Reviewer: Harry Mottram
A sparkling finale from a production that is kind-hearted to the core and delivers beautifully choreographed dancing and musical set pieces with the fabulous vocals of Loula Geater as the Slave to the Ring lighting up the Main House.
Michael Gattrell’s Aladdin is a buoyant, bubbling, good-natured traditional pantomime that never allows the pace to falter and is filled with all of the ingredients necessary for a wholesome production. Jon Monie pulls the story together as Wishee Washee. He invites children onto the stage to have a chat and a go at Kung Fu, pours liquid gunge over PC Pong’s (Tom Whalley) head and fits in birthday greetings to members of the audience while being the comically useless brother of Aladdin. However, children complain that he doesn’t throw enough sweets to the audience – so he shows room for some confectionary improvement despite his commanding presence.
The kind-hearted tone of the show extends to the baddie Abanazar played with relish by Bill Ward who can’t help debunking his evil persona with self-deprecating asides. No small child will have nightmares over his dramatic entrances and dastardly plans to steal the magic lamp. Up against him is the wholesome nice guy Mark Rhodes as Aladdin who any mum would love as a son since he is so nice and sings and dances so well. Shame about his mum though; Nick Wilton as matriarch Widow Twankey is superbly grotesque and is just one innuendo short of being too smutty. Of course, the shadow of the late Chris Harris still haunts the dressing rooms of the theatre as the grand dame for many years, but he would surely approve of Wilton’s take on Peking’s least politically correct mum.
Silk clad Gemma Naylor is suitably beautiful as Princess Naylor if an unlikely looking Chinese aristocrat as she falls for Aladdin in a waft of sequined veil of love at first sight. A real star turn is Tom Whalley who brings some period piece old style music hall acting as the hapless copper to the fore while another old style acting gem is Glyn Dilley playing the straight man as emperor.
A much-simplified storyline inspired by late 18th Century notions of where the “East” is (Arabia, Persia, China and Morocco) in a panto that refreshingly includes local references, current political quips, topical notes and many a joke at the expense of residents of nearby towns. Yes, all the ingredients of a traditional show are here and performed with energy in a show that knows its audience. In a cracking dance and song production, it is a pity about the dated looking flats depicting old Peking. They look as if dropped in from a panto of another era. A small matter perhaps but when the show zips along with stand-out singing, exquisite dancing from the Dorothy Coleburn School of Dance, and a cast on fire – sets and design are important.
Runs until 8 January 2017 | Image: Anna Barclay