I must put my hands up and admit that I thought I had tickets to see Disney’s Aladdin, the glitzy, glamorous musical with areal stunts and chart topping tracks. When I discovered that I was in fact going to be watching First Family Entertainment’s pantomime production; starring Ex-Loose Women and Benidorm favourite Sherrie Hewson as the Genie of the Ring, I couldn’t hide my disappointment.
Nevertheless, #DefinitelyNotDisneysAladdin also stars Manchester actor John Thomson (Cold Feet) as Abanazar and Ben Adams from the band A1 as Aladdin. Unsurprisingly, only one of the cast members chose to sing and dance throughout the show, but none of the three decided to act.
This production is of course better suited for a younger audience but writer, director and star, Eric Potts (Widow Twankey) clearly puts a lot of effort into the visual designs of the set. Regardless of where you are seated, The Opera House staging offers a revolving door of impressively lively sets and costumes to dazzle the crowd. Regrettably, little money was left to amend the writing, with jokes left from Aladdin’s first cobweb covered script written 100 years ago.
Whilst visiting Old Peking I couldn’t help but notice that there were no jokes I hadn’t heard read from a Christmas cracker, no scenes that I hadn’t witnessed in previous pantomimes. E.g. Let us throw a little person into a washing machine and pull out a tiny doll. Poor Princess Jasmine may as well have been replaced with a cardboard cut-out as her scenes were rarer than the randomly inserted constable character. The ensemble cast are given fleeting moments to play with their roles or interact with the audience. Instead, Potts is the nucleus that demands the majority of the story and jokes.
To make up for the lack of interaction with kids, a tacked on ten minute solo show where magician, Wishee Washee forced us to sing and read out audience member birthdays should have been an optional ending to the production.
The ticket pricing was dumbfounding as the whole production felt laughably cheap. Honestly, cheap and cheery is what you want from an easy-going Christmas pantomime but full disclosure…I didn’t want to watch a pantomime and especial not one for Disney ticket prices. That being said, Ben Adam singing Take On Me whilst riding a suspicious mechanical looking magical carpet, was the most enjoyable scene to watch.
Aladdin is a cheesy, entertaining pantomime that kids will love. The young audience were energised throughout the performance and I assume the adults riding solo were there for nostalgic reasons. Although, the jokes were far from new, kids will find this experience thoroughly enjoyable.