Sunday, 5 January 2014

ALADDIN (New Wimbledon Theatre) Review January 2014

Usually before a show, there may be an announcement to turn off your mobile phone, a black out or a booming overture, but before this performance of Aladdin, out walks Wishee Washee... except it wasn't Alan Committe. George Wood from Family First Entertainment explained that Alan, taken ill at the eleventh hour was unable to perform and with no understudy he was stepping into the role clutching a script... only in panto could this happen and with a supportive audience well and truly on his side it was on with the show!

The show begins with a screen lowered in and a trailer for the DVD release of Shrek The Musical - it's very much like being at the cinema and theatre doesn't need this... It's followed by a short film about the stars that graced the Wimbledon stage and then some text which tells you to practice cheering and booing. Without the encouragement of a live actor it doesn't perhaps work as effectively as it should but as soon the curtain rises we're back to theatrical normality. 

Wimbledon has long been the home of London pantomime, since the London Palladium the New Wimbledon Theatre has been the place to some of the biggest names over the festive season, Priscilla Presley, Warwick Davis and David Hasselhoff, Pamela Anderson and Dame Edna Everage in recent years and now another line-up of stars make up the cast of Aladdin.

Oliver Thornton

West End heartthrob Oliver Thornton recently hung up his heels after a yearlong tour of the Rocky Horror Show - playing Frank N Furter. Here, he couldn't be further from the kinky transvestite as the dashing Aladdin. Perhaps not his usual singing style, he makes his way through a score of recent chart hits including Daft Punk's Get Lucky. A strong performance and a charming lead boy. Another ex Frank N Furter in the shape of David Badella is the villain Abanaza. With such a rich voice, he relishes the part and is a brilliantly booable baddie and his special effect fireworks are pretty exciting! Claire-Marie Hall is in fine voice as Princess Jasmine and her Beneath Your Beautiful duet with Thornton is a special moment. 

Top of the bill is comedienne Jo Brand, famous for her sarcastic and downbeat humour which I happen to love... it's perhaps not perfect panto humour but a nice contrast to the traditional lame panto joke. Despite appearing forlorn at every entrance she receives the biggest applause and is a welcome spin on the usual Genie Of The Ring. She can even twerk...

Jo Brand

Tonight Matthew, you're going to be... an audience favourite! Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly shines as Widow Twankey, camping it up as the village laundress with an array of fabulous costumes - the best perhaps is a pot of noodles. Britain's Got Talent contestant Shaheen Jafargholi is given plenty of opportunity to showcase his singing talent as the Genie Of The Lamp. "It's not an opera!" says Jo Brand to the boy who sings every line of his script... but, by doing so he proves just why he was worthy of singing at Michael Jackson's memorial concert in Los Angeles. At only 16 he's a particularly impressive member of the cast. 

Matthew Kelly

Dance troupe Flawless fit perfectly into the story as the Chinese police force, with their usual style of street dance they're at the most exciting when the lights go out and they perform a routine with only their silhouettes illuminated in different coloured lights. By the end of the show, George Wood has done an amazing job standing in as Wishee Washee, glancing only at the script for reference he performs with confidence and charm - a true panto professional. 

There could have been a lot more audience interaction, particularly with the dame. This feels like a particularly current pantomime, the beginning of a new breed almost... it's sparkling with star names - a jewel at the end of the District Line. You can book the final remaining seats via the website here. Tickets priced from £11.90 - £47.40.

Jo Brand will not be performing on Saturday 11th January, the part of the Genie Of The Ring will be played by Jenny Eclair. 

View the trailer:

Cast List: Jo Brand, Matthew Kelly, Oliver Thornton, David Badella, Alan Committie, Shaheen Jafargholi, Matthew Rixon, Claire-Marie Hall, John Conroy, Flawless, Lauren Carrick, Stephanie Langley, Chantelle McDermott, Charlotte Perry, Alexandra Tyndall, Emily Wilson. 

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