Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
As we enter December, we also enter panto season and this year, Aladdin has flown into Canterbury on his magic carpet for a six-week run at the Marlowe Theatre.
Famous for their celebrity line-ups, special extras (anyone remember the incredible magician from 2011’s Cinderella?) and the ghost bench gag; the Marlowe and director Paul Hendy have done it again.
As the story goes, Abanazaar desires to be the richest and most powerful man in the entire universe but only the Genie of the Lamp can grant him these wishes.
Of course, he doesn’t have a pure heart and so can’t even access the cave that holds the lamp so tricks the naïve Aladdin who would do anything to marry Princess Jasmine. Throw in an incredibly lavish backdrop and range of glitzy costumes (great work by costume and set designer Helga Wood), a life-size elephant and a man in drag and you’ve got a strange but spectacular performance.
Scott Maslen, known for his roles in EastEnders and The Bill, is utterly entertaining as the wicked wizard, playing up to his evil-but-kind-of-endearing character with gusto. He even throws in a little ballroom dancing, paying homage to his 2010 appearance on Strictly Come Dancing, which isn’t too shabby.
Supporting him as brother Wishee Washee is children’s favourite, Mister Maker (Phil Gallagher) who is a winner among mums and dads too with his comic timing and occasional naughty joke.
Of course, king (or queen?) of the dirty gag is always the dame and Widow Twankey, played by Ben Roddy, is vulgar and charming in equal measure. He is pure comedy gold, with an extensive and flamboyant wardrobe and feisty attitude; the late Dave Lee would certainly be proud. As with every year, a poor dad is selected out of the audience and victimised as the dame’s potential lover and just like Lee, Roddy takes no prisoners.
Lloyd Hollett is also a victim as he takes almost 50 custard pies to the face, courtesy of Roddy and Gallagher. He’s a good sport though, as the silly, but sweet PC Pongo and is a pro at not getting tongue-tied when telling tongue twisters.
Fresh-faced David Albury, who makes his debut in a lead role as Aladdin, and Rosa O’Reilly as Jasmine, have excellent on-stage chemistry and their musical performances are extremely enjoyable. It is Sabrina Aloueche as the Spirit of the Ring however who wins the vocal competition and her renditions of Let it Go from Frozen and Pharrell Williams’ Happy and other popular chart hits are all on form.
More laughs are provided by Masahi Fujimoto as the Emperor of China and James Mitchell as Sum Ting Wong, and ladies in the audience are treated to some pec-flexing by Bentley Kalu (wiggle workout, anyone?) as the Genie of the Lamp, or as he calls himself, Mr G.
The entertainment doesn’t stop there as the ensemble provide a range of incredible dance sequences, put together by Jono Kitchens, including an arrangement involving fire eating.
The music throughout the show falls into place perfectly thanks to musical director Chris Wong who celebrates his 20th year at the Marlowe in rock star style, finally getting his time on stage instead of under it. TV theme tunes and sound effects add to the humour and audience participation in songs, including a very different version of The 12 Days of Christmas, allows for an extra special treat.
Aladdin will be running until Sunday 11 January 2015 and tickets range from £11 – £34.
Book yours at www.marlowetheatre.com or by ringing the box office on 01227 787787.