Writers: Michael Harrison and Alan McHugh
Director: Bob Tomson
Reviewer: Clare White
Pantomime wishes have been granted in Wolverhampton this festive session, as the Grand Theatre delivers a magical production. With more glitter, sparkle and silliness than ever before, Aladdin is a fun family spectacle.
The story is a jam-packed mash-up of the traditional Arabian adventure, set in both China and Egypt, complete with magic lamp, a genie, a giant spaceship and a Cockney policeman. Some of the elements, like the random spaceship and the Cockney bobby, are a bit bizarre, but this is panto and we wouldn’t want it any other way. With magic, romance and adventure at the heart of story, and with comedy and sing-a-long songs thrown in, it is enjoyable on many levels and the perfect show for all the family.
Joe McElderry really impresses as Aladdin. The 2009 X-Factor winner has a superb voice and makes a lovable leading man. Soprano Lucy Kay, a former Britain’s Got Talent finalist, is a beautiful Princess Jasmine, with a stunning voice to match. Their duet of Listen from the film Dreamgirls is a highlight, so it’s a shame that the two talented singers aren’t used a bit more throughout.
Actress Lisa Riley sparkles as the Slave of the Ring, and Stefan Pejic strikes a perfect balance between wit and wickedness as the evil Abanazar. Adam C Booth and Ian Adams as Wishee Washee and Widow Twankey respectively are masters of entertainment and firm favourites with the younger members of the audience. Their physical comedy, wordplay and general silliness is spot on.
Yes, many of the gags have been done before, but frankly, toilet humour and local ribbing (Bilston, West Bromwich and Wolverhampton Wanderers take the brunt) never get old. An energetic slapstick routine featuring Wishee Washee, Widow Twankey, The Slave of the Ring and PC Ping Pong (CBeebies Mr Bloom, aka Ben Faulks) gets the biggest laugh of the night.
However, it is The Lazy Empress, Doreen Tipton, aka actress Gill Jordan, who steals the show for the grown-ups. Doreen, the Black Country’s internet sensation and self-confessed ‘lazy cow’ is a genius addition to the production, hilariously riding around on a mobility scooter, complaining about her Jobseekers Allowance being stopped and missing the Jeremy Kyle Show.
No expense has been spared on the sets, special effects and costumes. From Widow Twankey’s launderette to Princess Jasmine’s gowns, everything is bold and bright. The flying carpet scene at the end of Act 1 is particularly impressive and adds to the magic.
Aladdin is a real success for the Grand, with laugh-out-loud comedy, plenty of opportunity for some enthusiastic booing and heckling, clever special effects and a strong cast – there is never a dull moment and it is thoroughly enjoyable.
Runs until 22 January 2017 | Image: Contributed