Writer: Eric Potts
Director: Russell Labey
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
It is panto season again and in Milton Keynes it is time to hop onto that magic flying carpet to be transported to Old Peking where you will encounter Aladdin and lots more!
It’s an iconic tale but, in essence, a young man, Aladdin, finds a lamp containing a beautiful Genie, who grants him wishes and so his adventures begin. He is joined by his brother Wishee Washee and none other than the Genie of the Ring! Of course, there is a major love interest in the form of Princess Jasmine. This being trad panto, the story naturally involves pop songs, silly fun and laughter for all the family, interaction with the audience (boo, hiss, “It’s behind you!” and ahs!) the flying carpet AND the hilarious Pantomime Dame (Aladdin’s Mum, Widow Twankey).
Ben Adams performs the eponymous hero of the piece with real charisma and oodles of charm, to say nothing of his fantastic singing voice, as one might expect from the ex-lead singer of A1.His duet with Aimie Atkinson as Princess Jasmine, singing Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud, is lovely and with excellent harmonies. Atkinson delivers a charming performance too.
The Genie of the Lamp is brought to us by Hollywood “royalty” in the form of Priscilla Presley. She has an understated presence, albeit iconic, and obviously enjoys the numerous Elvis song references.
Wayne Sleep is a cute and cuddly Genie of the Ring. His lines seem to fall a little flat at times but he certainly doesn’t when he taps his way through Putting on the Ritz with real panache. He is always good value.
The ever-reliable and funny Kevin Orkian returns as cheeky chappy Wishee Washee. He is great at audience involvement and is quick at the ad-libs. His delivery of one-liners is spot on too. The oh-so-wicked Abanazar is performed with some gusto by Marc Pickering and what a cool version of the Stones’ Sympathy for The Devil he gives us.
It is actor and comedian Gary Wilmot who steals the show in the rôle of Widow Twankey. He has a larger- than-life stage presence, brilliant comic timing and a surprisingly good singing voice. His rendition of Let’s Marvin Gaye and Get It On with the Emperor (the very droll David Whitworth) is great.
Special mention must go to all the children, who sing and dance so well and with such joy. Indeed, the whole the ensemble is excellent, aided by some wonderful choreography from Sarah Dean.
The set, which is moved about effortlessly, perfectly creates old Peking, the palaces and the laundry but what an awesome flying carpet! The costumes too are amazing and so colourful. Widow Twankey’s are incredible, especially her last one.
This is panto just as it should be. Miss it at your peril!
Runs until10 January 2016 | Image: Contributed