New Wimbledon Theatre, London – until 6 January 2019
Guest reviewer: Becca Cromwell
Panto season is upon us once again, and this year at the New Wimbledon Theatre, we are transported to Old Peking in Aladdin. We are first introduced to the wickedly evil Abanazar (Adam Pearce), who explains that Aladdin is the ‘Chosen One’, and must go into the cave to collect the magic.
Then comes along Blue’s Lee Ryan, most recently of Strictly fame, who plays the title character of Aladdin, a peasant boy who dreams of marrying the Empress (Linda John-Pierre)’s daughter, Jasmine (Lauren Chia). However, his brother Wishee Washee (played by magician Pete Firman) has the same ambition. Have I Got News for You’s Paul Merton plays Widow Twankey and provides more laughs than everyone else put together. Unfortunately, it’s the unscripted lines that are funnier than the script itself. With quick-witted, hilarious responses to hecklers, he keeps the audience in stitches.
Firman, who is better known for being a magician on ITV1’s The Next Great Magician, does a pretty good job of the comedy sidekick. Magic tricks are thrown in for good measure, thoroughly entertaining everyone.
Everyone in the show gives a good performance and the team of dancers are spectacular. We are treated to renditions of ‘Defying Gravity’ and ‘One Love as well as some new music written especially for the show. In one particular scene, we even see Ryan come out over the audience, which brings a smile to most people’s faces.
The pantomime features a 3D screen with various special effects such as the Genie and a second magic carpet ride, which is an impressive feat and something relatively new to pantomime. However, the special effects are more suited to a horror film than a family pantomime, with some children in the audience screaming in terror, rather than amusement. The second carpet ride, taking five minutes, does drag and feels like a filler.
At times the show is lacking. For example, an actual genie rather than a 3D animation, or an actual story that is easier to keep up with.
As this is pantomime, all ends happily ever after with Abanazar turned good and Aladdin and Jasmine married. Its an overall entertaining evening with plenty of laughs and jokes for all of the family. Even the teenagers enjoyed it.
Aladdin runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre until January 6th 2019
photo credit: Craig Sugden