Milton Keynes Theatre, Tuesday 10th January, 2012
With a script by Eric Potts, this Aladdin veers from what has become the norm with this production. We don’t get a 3D genie of the lamp – instead we get Camilla Dallerup, mangling her lines and far too many Strictly Come Dancing references – amusing at first, they bog down some scenes and soon become tiresome and unfunny. But we also get Gareth Gates’s Aladdin riding on a magic carpet, so it’s a case of swings and roundabouts.
Gates is very easy on the eye and on the ear. His voice is perfect for the pop songs he is given and he also displays a neat sense of comic timing and tomfoolery. He is ably supported by John Barr as Widow Twankey, and impressionist Paul Burling as Wishee Washee. Burling is excellent in his handling of the audience and when his impersonations are included as throwaway lines of dialogue they are very funny. When he launches into one of his routines and the action grinds to a halt, the impressions are quick fire and hit-and-miss, and you want to shout, Just get on with it, man!
The almost obligatory Twelve Days of Christmas routine almost descended into total anarchy among audience members and went on for far too long, but this is counterbalanced with an absolutely hilarious sequence between Burling and Barr, dressed inexplicably as ballet dancers, performing with a balloon. Very near the knuckle, this scene was one of the funniest I’ve seen in panto this season. A pity then that the laundrette scene was lacklustre and low on slapstick.
Adam Pearce’s Abanazar is in fine voice and played to perfection. Nicola Brazil imbues Princess Jasmine with a spark of fun and her duets with Gates are all very strong. It is since the Disney version that the Princess has to be called Jasmine, rather than the Badroulbadour of tradition. In fact, as a pantomime, Aladdin has always been a bizarre mix of Arabian Nights and Ancient China.
Director Andrew C Wadsworth (also appearing as the Emperor) is wise to keep things traditional and for the most part this production is a delight to watch. Also, the pop songs fit the action apart from a curtain call rendition of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way – a song that is almost ubiquitous in pantomimes across the land this year. I could understand Cinderella’s Ugly Sisters might sing this. I was half-expecting Tiny Tim to give us a chorus or two, but here it just seemed tacked on. A reprise of an earlier number would have done the job. If a genie were to grant me a wish, it would be for a few minor tweaks to make this show the most fun of the season.