Writer and Director: Richard Gauntlett
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
From the opening moments it’s clear that this is a production that focuses heavily on story as well as spectacle. Aladdin’s backstory is told through shadow puppetry, an indication of the ingenuity that can be found throughout the show.
Young Aladdin has stumbled on a magic cave but an accident leaves Aladdin without a father and in the care of his now widowed washerwoman mother. Skip ten years on and the young lad has fallen in love with a beauty who hides a regal history.
The tale is well known but Richard Gauntlett’s script manages to make the story seem fresh and new. Combining the stock elements of panto with well observed characters, this is a festive show that offers plenty for all the family.
Gauntlett proves to be the ultimate triple threat, not only penning the piece but also directing and turning in a deliciously over the top performance as Widow Twankey. For older audiences there’s more than a homage to John Inman in this Twankey but it’s a genuinely warm and engaging creation.
Hollyoaks’ Lucy Dixon impresses as Aladdin, adept at a bit of comic improv and singing beautifully, Dixon becomes the classic principal boy, sharing real chemistry with Zoe Clarke’s Princess Sukaria.
Alongside Gauntlett’s Twankey, comic honors go to Steve Edwin as the town’s bumbling policeman Sergeant Constable and Andre Vincent’s delightfulbuffoonWishee Washee. The Bill’s Graham Cole gives a nicely rounded villain with his almost Shakespearian Abanazar, while Nick Aldis flexes his ample muscles as The Genie.
There’s plenty of spectacle to impress, with the magic carpet scenesparticularlyeffective. David Carter’s Musical Direction adds to the levels of enjoyment, incorporating both the familiar and new material into the score, a medley of Beatles hits proving particularly effective.
It’s always refreshing to see an old tale told in a new way, and there’s plenty of inventiveness here to keep even the most jaded of audiences happy without losing the magic of the original tale.
This is one Aladdin that meets all the Christmas wishes.