In a nutshell
Tweedy channeling Trump, that incredible laundry scene, non-stop singing and the moonwalking Genie – Aladdin at the Everyman Theatre was a slick, epic and no-expense-spared musical production fit for the West End. In the words of Princess Xiao Xue, the pantomime was simply ‘untouchable’.
The perfect ingredients
Aladdin, the Everyman Theatre’s annual pantomime, has whipped Cheltenham into a frenzy. From school playgrounds and hair salons to Montpellier bars, we’ve never overheard more buzz and excitement about a local event.
A huge dollop of fresh writing and directing from actor and Blue Peter legend, Peter Duncan; liberal sprinklings of beautiful, extravagant costumes and a lavish set; big musical numbers; as well as an almost entirely new cast, joining unanimous favourite Tweedy – it sounded like all the ingredients of the perfect panto. Add a few smidgeons of surprise: an impressive moonwalking Genie, the best baddie we’ve seen, and a particularly saucy dame, and it was a theatrical feast!
Even the Everyman Theatre’s chief executive, Mark Goucher, has admitted he’s now a panto convert – so, if anything is going to convince a panto cynic to appreciate the form, it’s Aladdin.
Losing the plot
Set in Old Peking, while the age-old storyline of Aladdin was very loose – skimming over the orphan Aladdin, love story with a princess, magic lamp and evil ‘uncle’ Abanazar – what was lost in plot, was gained in sheer showbiz razzmatazz, as the panto moved from one epic scene to the next – in the true sense of the word!
The back-to-back musical productions were inspired – and fit for the West End. With enough current hits to appeal to the younger ones in the audience – including Trolls anthem ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ and, yes, that ubiquitous ‘Baby Shark’. While the novel decision to relocate the musicians into the boxes either side of the stage was an inspired one.
Nostalgic numbers were brought to the stage by the Genie of the Lamp – performed exceptionally by Miguel Angel, who channeled music legends from beyond the grave – from a moonwalking Michael Jackson with his ‘Smooth Criminal’, Prince and his ‘1999’ and Bowie singing ‘Gene, Genie’, rather aptly, to Freddie Mercury belting out the electrifying Queen medley.
The hilarious, chaotic, ad-libbed ‘12 Days of Christmas’ performed by Aladdin, Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee was a highlight and made the whole audience howl with laughter until our cheeks hurt, while ‘A Million Dreams’ and rousing ‘This is Me’ was a treat for The Greatest Showman fans in the audience – and just who isn’t?
From Brexit jibes and cheeky Love Island gags, to ‘Fortnite dance’ moves that even made the teens snigger, the topical references were spot-on, with Tweedy’s Trump proving sidesplitting. While the exceptionally choreographed laundry scene – and culmination in Wishee Washee being shrunk in the wash – had the kids (and many grown-ups) in hysterics!
The stars of the show
While the red-haired clown, Tweedy, unsurprisingly continues to be everyone’s favourite, it was nice to see that Aladdin wasn’t the one-man show you might expect. Tweedy was incredible – and his boundless energy, silly slapstick and physical comedy is just incomparable. We could easily watch him for two hours. But there were other shining stars too.
The handsome Aladdin, played by Ben Darcy, was the perfect fresh-faced boy next door, who’s flips (and biceps) made the girls in the audience swoon. With particularly strong vocals from both him and Princess Xiao Xue, played by the elegant Grace Eccle – we loved her rendition of Meghan Trainor’s ‘No’ as she described being ‘untouchable’.
The baddie, Abanazaar (bless you!), was played by a Professor Snape-styled Miles Western, who shunned the corny side of the role and was a more polished baddie than we’ve seen before – dominating the stage and still causing plenty of boos and hisses.
While Widow Twankey, played by Daniel Beales, was a hilarious drag act whose saucy ad-libs and adult asides really added to the role and got the grown-ups joining in. I was particularly tickled (and a little red!) when she ‘found’ a pair of sparkly sequin pants with my name on it on stage!
EVERYTHING. We loved every single second. Aladdin provides exceptional entertainment value and the calibre of production is a quality you’d struggle to see on regional stages anywhere in the country.
Don’t wait until 2019 to book for the Everyman Theatre’s next pantomime, as tickets for Cinderella at Everyman Theatre are already flying out of the box office.
By Michelle Fyrne