Panto review: Aladdin
It's all back to Justin's House for a panto party. Aladdin at The Hexagon in Reading will be cleaning up this year with a show that's fun, festive and very silly.
Berkshire’s pantos are all in full swing, so buckle up for my latest hot-off-the-press panto review. We have all the essentials: plastic neon spinny things, bumper bags of Minstrels (no, I’m not sharing) and a fixed look of embarrassment from my children as I enthusiastically join in. Oh yes they do… oh no… Sorry.
The good news from Aladdin at The Hexagon Reading, starring Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse as the Widow Twankey, is that it’s very funny.
Some pantos can take a while to get going, but this rollicked along – a baying mob of young kids doesn’t conjure up the Christmas spirit and seeing the parents hitting the bottle before the interval, just won’t do. CBeebies rock star Justin Fletcher and dame Paul Morse have done four pantos together and their chemistry is undeniable. They bounce off of each other, cover up unrehearsed bloopers with laughter and ad libs and generally have a right laugh. You cannot help but love them both.
Paul Morse is a superb as Widow Cheryl Cole Fernandez Versini Little Mix Lady Gaga Twankey (an award-winning dame, dontcha know, and he curtsies to a pic of Princess Margaret before every show. Fab-u-lous), with a wardrobe that gets more outrageous as the show goes on. He’s a glam man in a dress who can whip off his frocks on and off faster than Cheryl Cole can find a new fella.
The big voices were provided by the wonderful Princess Jasmine (Sophie Ayers) and So Shi (Lydia Rose Bertie), who performed a beautiful duet together. But it was Aaron Gibson as the Genie and Emperor who caught my eye. Who knew that rubbing an old brass lamp would reveal a half naked handsome fella who is so eager to please. Is he single? As it turned out, no. He had his eye on the Spirit of the Ring (Jenny Phillips) and ethereal gal genie wearing a fabulous jumpsuit.
But it was Aaron in his role as the dappy Emperor that turned out to be the highlight of my panto. Very, very funny, with a touch of old school silliness. It wasn’t until the second half that I even realised he was playing both roles. Seriously impressive.
The highlights? Well, Justin, as our hero Aladdin, is more than just a name. He did a phenomenal job singing, dancing, acting and bringing the slapstick his fans adore. The messy slosh scene has a new twist that had the audience rolling in the aisles. The traditional 12 Days of Christmas has been replaced with If I Were Not Upon This Stage – a choreographic masterpiece that required perfect comic timing. One wrong or poorly timed move and it’ll hurt. I won’t spoil it for you, but it must have taken hours to get that one right.
What else to tell you? Well, the set was vibrant and sparkly and the supporting cast all sang, danced and acted with heart to the live orchestra. If I was to be picky (hey, its my job to tell you the truth!), I’d have liked a bit more wickedness from panto baddie Abanazar (David Higgins) and a little more audience participation. There is a panto song, but it felt it a bit like filler rather than something that was truly meant to be part of the show.
I dare say as time goes on all the little glitches will be ironed out.
So all in all, a great success – fun for the kids, a bit of sauce for the adults, and also at two and a half hours from beginning to end, not overlong for smaller kids on an evening. A big Muddy panto pleaser.
Aladdin, The Hexagon, Queens Walk, Reading RG1 7UA. Tel 0118 960 6060.