It’s pantomime season (oh yes it is!), and theatres across the country try to draw in the crowds with their glitziest fairytales, biggest wigs and dodgiest jokes. Cambridge Arts Theatre have gone for Aladdin, which started rubbing its lamp earlier this month.
The well-known story needs little introduction (poor lad, evil wizard, genie, lamp, carpet), but this production provides everything your family needs for a bit of theatrical spark this Christmas. Directed by Michael Gattrell, the production looks great and runs at a mostly snappy pace to stop the little ones getting bored. The costumes also look great in vivid colours, and some nifty haze and light effects will delight the youngsters, alongside the flying carpet scene which is brilliantly done. Al Lockhart-Morley’s script contains more Dad-jokes than a warehouse full of 1980s Christmas crackers, but most of them land and are delivered well. There are also the obligatory handful of gags for the grown-ups which will thankfully go over younger heads.
Carl Au plays the titular hero as wholesomely as you’d expect and shows off his impressive voice in his musical numbers. Rolan Bell (Abanazar) is also on good form, revelling in the hisses and boos that come his way every time he steps onto the stage, and his deep voice perfect for pantomime villainy. Much of the comedy comes from Matt Crosby as Widow Twanky, and her son Wishy-Washy, played by Isaac Stanmore. The two bounce off each other well, with the Laurel & Hardy-inspired laundrette scene a particular highlight that the crowd eat up.
The show makes full use of the musical-theatre performers within its cast, and has some big voices on show. Aiesha Pease gives some great belting as the Spirit Of The Ring, as does Megan-Hollie Robertson as Princess Poppy.
Fans of musicals will find a lot to love throughout this production, with songs taken from (or inspired by) Annie Get Your Gun, The Book Of Mormon, South Pacific, The Prince Of Egypt, Sister Act and West Side Story. If you stretch this to include songs from jukebox musicals as well, you also get tunes from We Will Rock You, &Juliet and Priscilla. Outside of showtunes, we’re also treated to a bit of Rick Astley, One Direction, Madonna’s “Hanky Panky” (reworked for Widow Twanky), and even Barry Manilow. Or Take That, depending on how old you are. It’s a very tuneful show, and all are well-performed, with the live band also sounding great. Some of the choreography could be a little slicker, but there is still an enjoyable energy to the numbers.
Aladdin is a fun, vibrant, entertaining show which will put a smile on your family’s faces and bring a little magic to your Christmas, and if you’re looking for a way to get the next generation interested in the theatre, it’s a great place to start.
Aladdin runs at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until 9th January 2022
Running time 2 hours 30 minutes, including interval