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Corn Exchange - Aladdin

5th December 2008 to 4th January 2009.

From the Newbury Weekly News.

There's magic in the air

Oodles of audience participation in fun-filled panto at The Corn Exchange

Aladdin, at The Corn Exchange, Newbury, until January 4

There was a magical atmosphere in The Corn Exchange, with Chinese lanterns and washing hanging in the auditorium. The audience was buzzing with excitement for this year's pantomime, Aladdin, and it was an absolute cracker.

From the moment the opening number began with an enthusiastic chorus, we knew we were in for a real treat. Ian Mowat was a splendid Widow Twankey, an ideal dame with a big singing voice, who had a wonderful rapport with the audience and soon had all the children and grownups participating with vigour. Writer and director Phil Winter had created a witty script which included all the traditional elements of panto; cheeky humour, slapstick comedy, pyrotechnics, a hilarious rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas, oodles of audience participation and some slick dance routines, choreographed by Ally Holmes. He also played the evil Abanazar, despite suffering from a throat infection, so in true showbiz tradition the show did go on.

Joseph Wicks was the excellent Abanazar's servant who gave a wonderful physical performance as he craved to claim his sweeties as a reward for his services, which the pupils from Horris Hill School supplied him with in the second act, much to the surprise of the cast.

An unusual twist was to have Wishee Washee (Juliet Lundholm) as a panda puppet who immediately won the affection of the audience. Every panto has a love interest, and our hero Aladdin (a strong performance by Tom Oakley) fell head-over-heels for Princess Jasmine (Emily Patrikios). Their romantic duets were beautifully sung. Ellie Collyer-Bristow was the faithful Dim Sum. The comedy element was supplied in abundance by Clare Plested and Adam Brown as PCS Ping and Pong. This talented and hilarious duo sparkled and lifted the production whenever they appeared; their inventive routines whether as genies or as detectives was a joy to watch.

Musical director Leigh Thompson, together with Jonnie James, provided a rich score and with sumptuous costumes by Frank Kershaw and atmospheric lighting (Guy Dickens) this was a fun-filled traditional panto for all the family and the perfect start to the Christmas season.

Highly recommended.