First Family Entertainment
Milton Keynes Theatre
A glitzy, colourful Aladdin has arrived at Milton Keynes. This is definitely one for the lovers of Strictly with lots of references to the hit TV show, as well as appearances from the star dancers themselves. This was a mass collection of sequins and mirror balls!
In this particular performance, the genie was played by Camilla Dallerup. The role will be shared with this year's Strictly stars Anita Dobson and Russell Grant. The role is really an acting part with some dances shoehorned in to make sure we see what we came for. Commercial? Yes. A little shallow? Certainly. Yet, completely the right thing to do—a real 'crowd pleaser' if ever I've seen one.
Alongside the standard panto moments and one liners is a standout performance and some superb staging. More about the standout performance in a moment. The superb moments for me tended to revolve around the comedy characters.
Paul Burling suits the nice but hapless 'Wishee' completely. His impressions as seen on that other reality talent show are well known. There are moments when it feels like an impression too far and the pace slows slightly. However the Harry Hill tribute received a large response from the audience.
Perhaps most successful is Burling's impression round up of cartoon characters. The routine is simple in content but brilliantly executed and complex in the pace of the speech. In short, Burling makes the routine look easy and I am sure it was far from it.
John Barr seems so comfortable in the portrayal of 'Widow Twankey' that he seems to inhabit the role. Barr's performance is slick and professional and has a great sense of comedy present. Added to this, you have Chris Nelson as 'Major Pong' (a comedy panto name if ever you've heard one!) and you have a comedic trio that works well throughout. The 'chase' scene in particular is spectacular in terms of pace. The lines and jokes just keep on coming, as though the performers hardly draw breath.
So back to that stand out performance. Adam Pearce as Abanazar is outstanding; this is a panto villain played with complete focus, a very powerful performance full of strength and quality. It would be worth the visit just to see his portrayal.
And so you have it. A real mix of your standard 'celeb' performances (Gareth Gates as Aladdin for example) and a quality cast. If you want to experience a panto with all the elements, you really can't go wrong with Aladdin.
Aladdin plays at The Milton Keynes Theatre until Sunday 15th January 2012
Reviewer: John Johnson