“I’m a Believer“
Actually, literally, which is tricky during a panto, I prefer ‘Al – la – din’. That has distance and colourful resonance. Losing that second ‘d’ does away with the Highland laddie and puts our local hero Southside, somewhere between and above the Mosque Kitchen and the Nile Valley Café . Only momentarily though, for the gong gongs and we’re away to Peking of old. ‘Somewhere in Egypt’ is scene 12 of 16.
The King’s 2014 ‘Al – la – din’ is no call to prayer, although it does co-opt I’m a Believer as its signature belter. No, this is a serious magical treat, remarkably served after only ten days of full rehearsal. The reach and back-up power of producers Qdos Entertainment beggars the imagination, which is also what young Aladdin is about. He is poor but bold, his Mum runs the steamie off the street of 1,000 chopsticks, and he’s going to marry the most beautiful and loaded girl in the land, sorry, Empire. Yes he is and you should not doubt it. For a start Greg Barrowman as Aladdin has One Direction quality and the spangled charms of the Slave of the Ring to help him, in an appealing and graceful performance by Lisa Lynch. Kohl eyed Princess Jasmine (Miriam Elwell-Sutton), all brocade and style, just clocks him the once and she immediately wants “to talk to that boy – alone”. Lucky lad.
So dump the suspense and bring on the dancers, young and old, and give in to the moment, to the scene painting, to the costumes and to the out and out marvellous: the Vanishing Princess, Escape from the Table of Death, and an absolutely wicked, jaw dropping, example of Defying Gravity. Then enter, upstage and tall, the Mighty Nasty Cobra and the Giant Genie (a very droll, almost child-friendly Malcom Tucker). Take hold, my son, of the The Lamp of Amazing Power. Capital!
Actually, again, there are three presiding comic genies of panto at the King’s. Three denizens of this Christmas cave of wonders: Allan Stewart as Widow Twankey, Andy Gray as Wishee Washee, and Grant Stott as Abanazar the bad, bad, Wizard. Rub that lamp for all it’s worth and you could not wish for more fun than these three familiars provide. “Oh, the acting!”, despairs Washee, as in “Our acting’s pants”, but what’s not to enjoy in amongst the topical gags (listen out for the 45/55 result), shuttling tongue-twisters, celebrity laundry, and hilarious routines? Their final skit of ‘If I Were Not Upon the Stage’, when they are joined by James Paterson (prev. the Emperor of China), is pure wallaping music hall.
This ‘Aladdin’ is an extravaganza, up there with flying carpets, and is tip-top admirable. My one queasy, senior, misgiving – because I’m not good off the ground – is that if there is a command message, it’s not ‘Open Sesame’ but ‘Get rich, and the girl’s yours’.
Reviewer: Alan Brown (Seen 4 December)
Visit ‘Aladdin’ at the King’s here