Mark Clements
Salisbury Playhouse

Aladdin production photo

There must be as many versions of Aladdin's story as there are tales by Scheherazade - and now Salisbury Playhouse have added another, courtesy of Mark Clements whose third pantomime this is for the company.

For much of the colour and sparkle in this production, again smartly directed by Caroline Leslie, we must thank designer Karen McKeown. No surprise that she has also worked on Arabian Nights.

Being, let's face it, somewhat over 35, my companion and I now find some of today's treatment of what was once part of our staple, Victorian-style Christmas entertainment, distinctly challenging.

The music we must accept is by and for another generation and, to judge from the enthusiastic reception of the full house, none the worse for that. In any case, three of the patrons cheering and applauding alongside me could give me, I suspect, several years!

This year's original score is by Paul Herbert with Niall Bailey as musical director.

What I am less sanguine about however is the loss, in Salisbury at least, of the principal boy. No better legs were ever seen on the English stage than those of the late Patricia Burke. I am sure the new age of ingénues could do as well today? Yet John Addison is a sturdy leading man with a strong singing voice and he is well partnered by the comely Emilia Williams as Jasmine.

Happily, the grand institution of the dame is still with us, this time in the person of Alan French whose Widow Twankey is a splendid drag queen in the mould of Danny La Rue.

Alexander Giles' Abanazar is sometimes closer to comic than villain and there is scope for more of his evil magic. Yet he does in the closing scenes come closer to the real thing evoking a ready response from the eager youngsters out front.

There is, too, a sympathetic Wishee-Washee from Mark Anderson whose tour de force is his faithful, radio controlled hound. And Michael Hobbs is the stern Emperor with charming cameos by Sophia Ragavelas as Genie of the Ring and Kyle Lima as an eccentric Genie of the Lamp.

"Aladdin" continues at The Playhouse until Saturday 8th January.

Reviewer: Kevin Catchpole

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