This is as far from a traditional version of the well-known pantomime tale as you can get, with not a Widow Twankey, Wishy Washy, thigh-slapping principal boy or Genie of the Ring in sight. Slightly too wordy and peppered with too many incidental characters, perhaps, this show has merit in its choice of rocky tunes played by a brilliant band under Howard Corbett and sung by a confident cast, together with excellent costumes and individual performances. First-night nerves, not helped by a slight delay because of technical issues, may have influenced a pace of dialogue delivery and response which needed to be more snappy, and an act 2 chase scene that seemed a tad unnecessarily long. No doubt these slight niggles will be addressed as the run progresses.
Michael Porter as writer and Aladdin chooses a more geeky take on the role, eschewing the soft romantics for something a little stronger and serious. His duets with the sprightly Rachael Fielden as Princess Pepper are incredibly good with strong vocal lyric and harmony. Her take on the magical table of gifts when conducting the interval raffle is particularly funny alongside clear stage presence and delight in her role.
Daniel Knight is suitably over the top as Aladdin’s mother, Summer Clearance, with also a great vocal range. The cheerleading scene was very well received by the audience. Katie Gates as a gutsy, full-throttled Angie, smitten with the wonderfully ditzy brother of Aladdin, Joaquim (Lizzie Harden), adds much to the proceedings. So does a suave, leather-clad Amber Spencer as world domination fixator Alexandra, clearly having a ball in the major baddie role. Tim Serle is solid and well received in a different take on the usual Abanazar role and Steve Evemy is a regally confused Sultan Pepper.
Performing exceptionally well are Zoe Denyer as a wonderfully thought out and delivered Genie of the Lamp and an athletic Jiles Boota, fully channelling and relishing his inner Mandy Patinkin from Princess Bride. Marvellous stuff from both of them.
Spirits of Caves and Policemen plus a well-disciplined chorus help the matchbox of a stage come to life and as usual I am amazed at the production values achieved from this small space and lack of real theatre facilities.
Great choreography sharply executed all round is the work of Michael Porter and Charlotte Foster, while Jill Corbett and Rachel Fielden should be very pleased that their strongly produced efforts are so well received by the local audience. Set changing is slick, and I suspect other company visitors may well take a few ideas away for themselves from the design of intricate and brightly coloured multi settings that have clearly been well thought about. Costumes are also excellently chosen and designed.
Whilst applauding the concept, I wonder if traditionalists and younger children may be lost in the complex array of characters portrayed and a slight lack of the usual audience banter and interplay from the main characters. However, this is excellent local theatre with great vocalising and music and there is much to enjoy here.
The show continues on 16 and 17 February at 7.30 each evening, with a matinée on Saturday at 2.30.