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A review by Chad Armitstead for EXTRA! EXTRA! -
Who needs Pam Anderson when you have talent? The Shaw Theatre’s panto runs rings around standard London seasonal fare, then slides on its knees across the stage, punishing a guitar.
Aladdin may tick all the panto boxes, but its cast and creatives are thinking anywhere but inside them. There are plenty of the “he’s behind you!” and drag gags that leave small vocal cords hoarse. But the Shaw Theatre’s rock and roll twist (and shout) on the pantomime formula has kids in their fifties on their feet clapping along and grinning like Louis Walsh at a Jedward concert.
Told in the pyro-
Playing opposite the hero, Tara Nelson is the spectacularly adorable Princess Baldroubadour. Nelson’s powerfully sweet voice makes the pair’s duet “I’m a Believer” undeniably endearing.
But as in all panto, booing the villains and laughing at the idiots often proves much more fun than cheering the heroes. And there’s no shortage of villains and idiots surrounding these leads.
Graham Kent’s drag Widow Twankey is as unapologetically thick as she is unabashedly entertaining. His deviously ingenious wardrobe crowns the achievement of Imagine Theatre’s costume design team, whose perverse inventions include a dress made from a bowl of noodles.
The entire cast is a fantastic walking spectacle—something akin to an ‘80’s workout video and Barney the dinosaur in a fabulous head-
Bill Geraghty’s endlessly pleased-
Chris Coxon’s ne’er-
If it’s James Brown in a bottle you’re looking for, then you’ve rubbed the right lamp. Adebayo Bolaji radiates an exuberant Michael Jackson-
Susannah Van Den Berg’s commanding voice and presence as So Shi give a pin-
It’s only out of respect for the rest of the cast’s electric performances that I don’t proclaim comedienne Jess Robinson official thief of the show. She plays keyboards and drums, the airy Spirit of the Ring and the delightfully ridiculous Emperor and Empress. But it’s her prowess as an impressionist that caps the show.
Near the end of the evening, Robinson and Coxon perform an Olympic feat of Christmas comedy, complete with Coxon on ukulele and a riotous litany of pop star impressions courtesy of Robinson.
The entire cast is characterised by astonishing versatility. They all play their own instruments, from trumpet to tambourine. Most, if not all of them play more than one instrument as well as multiple characters. Even the ASM (Katie Pritchard) wears many hats, including a furry one when she dons a costume for some stagehand hijinks.
My only temptation to meddle with the show was an urge to knock on the sound booth door and ask the board operator to turn up the vocals in nearly every mix—it’s a shame to let any of the fantastic voices take a back seat to the instruments.
The show’s inventive, apropos use of songs ensures the rock and roll twist never distracts. From Abanazar singing “Bad” to Aladdin’s “Magic Carpet Ride,” Kevin Oliver Jones (Musical Supervisor and Arrangements) makes the familiar songs feel like they were written for the show.
By the time the end of the story arrives and the show devolves into a Shrek-
The writers (Iain Lauchlan and Will Brenton) get the mix of groan-
From the jokes to the music, Aladdin fires on all cylinders. If it’s your first panto or your hundred and first, by the time you walk out of the Shaw Theatre, you should check your pulse if you don’t feel like you’re five years old at 4:30 am on Christmas morning, about to wake your parents.
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