Richmond Theatre – until 14 January. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Qdos brings Aladdin to Richmond with some flashy pyrotechnics and lighting, but this production is no magic carpet ride. The production sticks to the traditional plot, and writers Jonathan Kiley and Alan McHugh have included all the elements carved in the 10 Commandments of Panto, but there’s a little magic missing from this Aladdin that needs a powerful genie to remedy.
Christopher Biggins as Widow Twankey is unbelievably restrained, showcasing increasingly ridiculous costumes, but with none of his usual energy. I’m not sure if he’s under the weather or not, but this felt like Lukewarm was performing in Slade prison panto, rather than the Biggins dame we are used to. Count Arthur Strong is used much better than in last year’s Cinderella – with running jokes about Ming’s entrance music changing the children’s initial bemusement at his schtick into shared laughter with the adults. Issy van Randwyck as Scheherazade and Bob Harms as Abanazar bring some musical clout to the proceedings, with their voices adding dramatic power to Better the Devil You Know, and Harms relishing every over the top evil deed. Rikki Jay’s Wishy Washy is a fantastic 1980’s throwback while Denquar Chupak and AJ Jenks are a sweet, but woefully underused Princess Jasmine and Aladdin.
The traditional cast panto song is a triumph, with Count Arthur Strong, for the second year in a row, being battered with various objects whilst struggling in and out of a tutu – worth the ticket price for that scene alone. Biggins’ dame song with children from the audience comes perilously close to boredom – he looks fed up himself at times – but is saved by the children themselves doing whatever unpredictable 6-year olds do. Rikki Jay’s version of the supermarket trolley monologue is a joy, and the appearance of the genie brought gasps from the youngest members of the audience.
Paul Robinson’s choreography to well-chosen pop songs raises the energy levels, and the talented ensemble of only six dancers and eight children fill the stage with the urgency and vigour that the rest of the production lacks.
This is an enjoyable show, with some fine performances and some very funny routines, but, as a complete production, this lamp needs a lot more polish before your panto wishes come true.