Aladdin - At The Richmond Theatre

New talent and old panto hands lead to a great ensemble performance

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Richmond Theatre's annual pantomime rarely disappoints and this year's offering, Aladdin falls firmly into the mould of family-friendly entertainment with lots of razzmatazz and clapalong tunes.

The cast pits old panto hands Tim Vine (Wishee Washee), and Graham Hoadley (Widow Twankey) with darling of the West End, Suzanne Shaw (Joseph, Dancing on Ice, Emmerdale ) who plays a two hander as both Genie of the Lamp, and Slave of the Ring, prompting jokes about the management 'saving a salary' by having her work twice as hard.

Two newcomers to panto take the romantic roles, with Gareth Leighton (Dreamboats and Petticoats) and Helena Dowling (Nick Junior presenter ) as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. They provide the youthful element to the production, although Leighton's vocals are sometimes drowned out by the orchestra.

Graham Hoadley is Widow Twankey - Pic Peter Schiazza

The script is by Eric Potts, otherwise known as Diggory Compton in Corrie, and a prolific writer of panto. This year Potts eschews political references in favour of one-liners and slapstick. The result is a traditional panto night out with lots of fun for everyone, though I did not think it reached the dizzy heights of last year's production, Cinderella.

Aladdin (Leighton) is the heartbreaker, popular with the girls, while his brother Wishee Washee (Vine) gets tongue-tied whenever he tries to flirt with the opposite sex. They are hopeless sons to Widow Twankey (Hoadley) who runs a launderette in a back street of Old Peking. Princess Jasmine, (Dowling) briefly escaping from the confines of palace life, falls head over heels in love with the charming Aladdin. Unfortunately her father, the Emperor (John Pennington) wants his daughter to find a rich husband to fill the palace coffers. Aladdin must find a get-rich-quick scheme or lose his lovely Jasmine.

Picture- Peter Schiazza

Lured to the Cave by the evil Abanazer (Jonathan D Ellis) to find an enchanted lamp, he becomes trapped inside, but as we all know, the Lamp is Aladdin's ticket to fame and fortune. But before he can marry Jasmine, the evil and fiendish Abanazar comes in disguise along with his "new lamps for old" trick and Aladdin is again cheated of his fortune. The hunt is then well and truly on to find and thwart the baddie and restore the lamp to its rightful owner.

Some of the best scenes are in the Launderette where the rapidfire interplay between Vine and Hoadley produced some of the loudest laughter, with Vine the master of the one-liner and Hoadley in Panto Dame mode, all heaving bosums, bottom wiggling and outrageous costumes.

Heard the one about the girl who bought a pack of after Eights. She fell asleep at half seven Boom Boom.

The set is glittering and gaudy, a riot of Eastern magic, from Enchanted Caves to Exotic Palaces, Mythical Mountains and Jewelled Gardens. The fierceness of countenance and meanness of spirit of the evil Abanazar had every child in the theatre yelling at the stage, as he pranced about taunting them with his evil laugh.

Suzanne Shaw - Pic. Peter Schiazza

Some of my favourite parts included a very funny pas de deux involving a large balloon, a hilarious scene involving a misunderstanding over 'who, where and what', and the slapstick with brushes and mops during a song about dream jobs. Another highlight is a magical carpet ride where children's faces gazed in wonder as Aladdin glides across the stage. "Look, he's really flying," exclaimed my juvenile companion.

The best performers had the best lines. Vine and Hoadley excelled in their comedic roles and they carried the show. I really enjoyed the latter's Ugly Sister last year, but Widow Twankey does not disappoint this time around. The two were ably supported by Ellis as the menacing Abanazer. Suzanne Shaw gives a slick performance in her dual roles and the rest of the cast, notably Yo Santhaveesuk as PC Pong, and John Pennington as Emperor, were also convincing. Pong was particularly funny during the launderette scenes which called on him to disappear into the washing machine and through a mangle, emerging as a cardboard cutout. The child dancers, beautifully dressed in Chinese costumes were also delightful.

There are plenty of upbeat song and dance moments, with nods to the latest pop culture in One Direction's 'Beautiful', a too-short Gangnam Style rap with Vine, and a version of Queen's, 'I Want It All'. And the show ends to the upbeat sing-a-long of the Monkee's ' I'm a Believer'.

Dont miss out on this spectacular journey to the Far East, and the fun fairytale world of Aladdin. I liked it so much I wish I could see it twice!

Anne Flaherty

Friday 7 December– Sunday 13 January


The Green, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1QJ

Box Office 0844 871 7651 (fees apply) (fees apply)

Tickets: £10 - £29.50 (premium seats available)

Family Tickets from £14.50 per ticket

Aladdin is a First Family Entertainment production. Formed in January 2005 FFE is a company created to provide fresh, high quality family productions.


December 21, 2012