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Aladdin pantomime is sheer Genie-ous
THIS Christmas cracker of a panto doesn’t just start when the curtain goes up, the show hits everyone right between the eyes the moment they walk in the door.
Yes, it’s non-stop action right from the word go – and especially so when the children of Kempsey Primary School reprise the song that their mums and dads helped to create in Muff Murfin’s village studio exactly 30 years ago to the week.
For it was three decades ago that Roy Wood’s Wizzard cut I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day with the children of this Worcestershire school. And as the song reverberated around the Swan’s walls before the main action started, their successors – out in force – showed that they could also cut the mustard with that famous refrain.
However, this heavenly chorus soon turned to boos as Graeme Brookes’ Abanazar growled and grimaced his way across the stage like a Buddha-gone-wrong. Clumping around with his tinsel-encrusted rhino horn hat, he’s the big bad villain all right, so when the Genie appears we’re happy again. Fiona McGregor’s slave girl butter-wouldn’t-melt routine provides a perfect counterpoint to the awful Abanazar, but it takes the arrival of our hero to confirm the fact that good will always triumph over evil in the end.
But while Swan newcomer James Keningale’s Aladdin oozes boyish charm and vulnerability, it’s his wayward brother Wishee Washee, played by Garry Ellis, who harvests the laughs thick and fast – although Rob Leetham’s Sergeant Ping Pong apprehends quite a few chuckles himself. Meanwhile, Liz Grand as the Empress of China brings her famous death stare to the proceedings, a kind of Rocky Horror Show meets the Mikado.
Who would have thought that the demure Princess Jasmine – Natalie Cawley – could possibly have been her daughter?
All the same, it is Ben Humphrey – in arguably his greatest panto role yet – as Widow Twankey who, if not exactly stealing the show, certainly purloins most of it. You’d better believe it – there ain’t nothin’ like this dame.
Produced and written by Chris Jaeger with choreography by the inimitable Helen Leek – the dance routines were out of this world – this was also a triumph for deputy stage manager Claire Litton and her team, who made the whole magnificent performance possible.
Aladdin runs at the Swan until Sunday, January 5.
Oh yes it does!