Corn Exchange and New Greenham Arts - Aladdin
28th November 2014 to 4th January 2015.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News and the British Theatre Guide.
Full of Eastern awesomeness
Newbury's family-friendly Aladdin is a panto to remember
Aladdin, at the Corn Exchange, until January 4
The Corn Exchange has a huge festive hit on their hands with a cracker of a pantomime with this year's Aladdin.
From the decorative murals, created by local schools, in the foyer, to the auditorium bedecked with Chinese lanterns and washing, the atmosphere was electric and the audience buzzing with excitement. They were duly rewarded with a sparkling traditional family show that was absolutely superb.
Once again, Phil Willmott has written a witty script and directs with inventive panache, with all the familiar ingredients that make panto; groan-making puns that really are quite funny, a truly messy slapstick scene, a magical flying carpet that mesmerised everyone, pyrotechnics, and oodles of audience participation.
The whole enthusiastic cast are really excellent, including the young company of dancers, who seem to thoroughly enjoy their performances.
Christopher Hines is a splendidly evil Abanazar, who has a commanding stage presence and was thoroughly booed by the audience, much to his delight.
Returning for his sixth appearance as Billy, but this time as the Genie of the Ring, Mathew Grace just grows in confidence and affability, creating a wonderful rapport with the audience who simply adore him. His catch-phrase this year, "give us a ring", was energetically responded by loud shouts of "ding dong".
There is a clever tongue-in-cheek parody of Turn It Off from The Book of Mormon, sung by Billy and Aladdin, that is hilarious.
Every panto needs a dame and Phil Sealy, making his first foray into the role, is terrific - a truly loveable character, wearing outlandish frocks that become more and more exotic throughout the show.
Making their professional stage debuts are Christian James as the charming spirited Aladdin, who falls head-over-heels in love with Princess Jasmine, the delightful Caoimhe Garvey. They both sang beautifully.
Anne Odeke is outstanding as the sassy Gloria, the Genie of the Lamp, with a powerful performance and a voice to match - a joy to watch. The gospel style number Dig a Little Deeper is great fun and full of energy.
Amy Christina Murray gives an excellent physical performance as policeman Ping, and Joshua Coley is the somewhat silly Policeman Pong who loves Strictly.
An unusual twist was to have Wishee Washee (Dominic Griffin) played as a giant panda, who swiftly won the affection of the audience. And look out for the penguin.
There is so much to enjoy in this family friendly panto with lots of surprises, including hairy guerrillas and a magical carpet ride that is certainly a 'wow' moment and a charming nod to the movie Frozen.
Musical director Richard Baker, assisted by Gavin Whitworth provides a vibrant score and Holly Hughes' lively choreography is spot-on.
The colourful sets, exquisite costumes (James Maclver) and inventive lighting by Guy Dickens made this a Corn Exchange panto to remember - perhaps best summed up by Henry, my seven-year-old companion: "Awesome...". And I must agree.
There are reviews from The Stage ("Corn Exchange exceeds expectations to produce its best panto to date" - 4 stars), the Oxford Times ("a colourful, good-natured production, with its heart always in the right place, that will instil the true spirit of Christmas in all who see it" - 4 stars).