Venue: Aylesbury Waterside Theatre
Performance Date: 06 December 2022
Reviewer: Gemma Fincher
Star Rating: ★★★★★
It’s that time of year again when theatres are bursting with festive frolics, double entendres, and extravagant costumes. Panto season has begun in earnest and the magic and frivolity of this Great British tradition are alive and well at Aylesbury Waterside Theatre. Their offering this year is Aladdin starring regulars Andy Collins and the incomparable La Voix. This year ex Eastenders star Davood Ghadami joins the cast as the villainous Abanazar.
The magic begins in the foyer where visitors are greeted by a real-life magic carpet on which many a photo opportunity can be captured. The show itself is a flamboyant blend of colour, campness, and comedy.
The Waterside’s 2021 production of Cinderella, whilst beautifully chaotic, felt somewhat nervy, a casualty of the lingering COVID restrictions at the time. Masks were still mandatory, social distancing was still a thing, and there were no children in the cast. Aladdin is, by contrast, a much slicker and more professional affair. Indeed, the general feeling in the auditorium is relaxation and comfort mixed with anticipation of the nonsense that is about to come. It’s safe to say, panto is officially back.
Aladdin packs in all the requisite and delightful pantomime tropes and as is normal the logic of the narrative is binned to accommodate them. La Voix is back in residence at her beloved Waterside Theatre playing the chaotic Widow Twankey, a slapstick launderette owner living with her two sons. The titular Aladdin played by the charming Kian Zomorodian and Wishee Washee played by the dependably hilarious Andy Collins. Much fun is poked at the ridiculousness of the brother’s ludicrous age gap and differing accents which just adds to the wonderful comedy value of such an eclectic family.
As with the productions that have come before them, Collins and La Voix share a wonderful chemistry and clearly delight in their annual festive shenanigans. The moments where the two share the stage are just the epitome of good old-fashioned, tongue-in-cheek entertainment. Both have an enviable flair for physical comedy proven by the fact that all they need are tutus and a balloon to deliver comedy gold. Aylesbury has nailed the recipe for panto perfection here and it’s so easy to see why the pair continue to headline at this venue.
Zomorodian and Melanie Elizabeth as Jasmine are a cute pairing and do justice to the contemporary numbers that accompany Aaron Renfree’s vibrant choreography. The wider cast is full of energy and give their all to the performance. There is truly no weak link in this production. It’s been said before that pantomime is an incredibly gruelling schedule and maintaining the level of energy required is no mean feat.
Fresh from her powerful turn as Killer Queen in the recent UK tour of We Will Rock You, is Jenny O’Leary. An incredibly gifted vocalist with West End pedigree, O’Leary gives a commanding performance as the Spirit of the Ring. She is complemented beautifully by the sassy Liam McEvoy as the Genie of the Lamp. The casting team behind Aladdin should be congratulated for McEvoy’s inclusion. He is a joyous performer, and his movement is quite something.
Producers UK Productions add some (not so subtle) nods to Moulin Rogue the musical which, if you are familiar with the show just add to the hilarity of the parody. In fact, La Voix and Ghadami’s hilarious Argentine Tango satirises one of the sexiest dances in existence and it’s utter genius. How the pair don’t collapse into hysterics is a testament to their professionalism.
Ghadami is clearly revelling in his pantomime villain debut. He has the evil laugh and booming voice down to a tee and elicits the required booing and hissing from the audience. As pantomime villains go he’s rather tamer and more likable than some that have come before him which adds a more comedic slant to proceedings.
There are also plenty of nods to recent Tik Tok trends including a fine ensemble version of Meghan Trainor’s, Made You Look. The numbers are strong and don’t feel shoehorned into the narrative allowing the cast to have the opportunity to shine and show off their comedic prowess. This production doesn’t rely on excessive gimmicks or the overuse of special effects. Its strength comes from the pure talent of its cast, creatives, and musicians.
Overall, Aladdin is a wonderful example of everything that is right with panto. It is slick, sparkly, and spectacular. The comedy is perfectly balanced with the fast-paced numbers and the hard-working cast are all on point. There is audience participation aplenty and nailing that magic formula makes Aladdin another standout success for Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.
Runs until: Monday 02 January 2023