FamilyFestive 15/16PantomimeReviewSouth East

Aladdin – Civic Theatre, Chelmsford

Writer and Director: Simon Aylin
Reviewer: Michael Gray


Simon Aylin’s snappy Aladdin begins with a prologue set in the Stygian supervillain’s lair – the dastardly Abanazar appearing on his throne in a puff of smoke, supported by a team of black-clad avian minions from the excellent juvenile chorus. After that it’s a more or less faithful romp through the familiar plot, with many pantomime traditions honoured including the mangle gag and because every panto needs an animal, an adorable elephant for Fake Your Way To The Top.

Millie O’Connell gives a great performance as the lithe, effervescent Slave of the Ring, as does Shaun Chambers as a nerdy, beardy Abanazar. The widowed washerwoman Twankey is given a saucy persona by Tim McArthur, with his colourful frocks and neatly buttoned boots. His first entrance makes for a refreshing change. David Tarkenter gives a fine actor-laddie Emperor, and Neal Wright, back by popular demand, is a lovely cuddly Genie of the Lamp.

No “traditional” principal boy here, but a somewhat laddish Aladdin from Liam Ross-Mills who seemingly channels Essex boy Jamie Oliver, not perhaps sufficiently distinct from his brother Wishee Washee, enthusiastically played by Samuel Parker and wrapping things up is a striking princess played by Gabriela Gregorian.

A powerful soundtrack comes from Musical Director Tom Curran and his three-piece band, with a gloriously varied musical mix. Olly Murs, The Addams Family, Jekyll and Hyde, Dreamgirls, Hairspray, Memphis and Lady Gaga all add their contribution. A lovely performed Mambo, the Macarena for the Ghost Routine, the ubiquitous Uptown Funk – featuring this year at Hammersmith and Hackney among dozens of others and a well-received revival of that Gang Show staple If I Were Not Upon The Stage wrap up things nicely.

Fizzing dance routines choreographed by Damian Czarneck are performed well from the principals and the ensemble as well as students from Laine Theatre Arts. The sets (Scenic Projects) look a little old-fashioned, but there is an impressive magical carpet, and a beautifully animated digital front cloth.

More laughs, more mess, and more awful puns, would not have come amiss, with maybe a little less music. A loud, lively panto, which delighted the Brentwood Beavers and the rest of the packed audience when we saw it, and provided a few embarrassing moments for Dean and Steve, mercilessly targeted by Twankey and Wishee.

Runs until 3 January 2016 | Image: Contributed

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