04:10PM, Wednesday 11 December 2019
The standing ovation that the performance of South Hill Park’s ‘Aladdin’ received on the night my daughter and I went along to, and thoroughly enjoyed, summed up perfectly yet another Christmas Cracker of a show.
This pantomime was more polished than the magic lamp itself. Played out on a stage awash with magnificent sets that have to be seen to be believed, Director Adam Stafford and writer Joyce Branagh aided and duly abetted with a wonderful cast and crew and a budget tighter than the Genie’s living quarters, certainly made wishes come true for yet another festive spectacular.
Likeable Jake Watkins played the lead role more like a lad in a boy band than the norm, which was very refreshing. Faye Ellen as Princess Jasmine and the Spirit of the Ring and Jacqueline Tate as The Empress won everyone over with their infectious vibrancy and talent. Marnie Yule who played the ‘Jean’ Genie as an Australian, was more ‘out there’ than ‘outback’ with a fantastic singing voice that most would need more than three wishes to achieve.
As over the past few years, the exuberant human Duracell Bunny that is Brad Clapson, lit up the stage like a thousand Christmas lights as Widow Twanky and nearly stole the show and all the laughs if it wasn’t for Michael Ayiotis as Abanazar.
I’ve got to say that this was one of the best portrayals of the evil wizard I’ve seen since Martin Clunes played the role in an ITV special quite a few years ago. Along with some excellent comic timing and facial expressions and great dance moves and singing, Michael did give Brad a run for his money in the scene-stealing department.
In the end though, I think the honours were shared as this riotous laugh out loud double act, along with the rest of the cast, including an energetic and joyous junior ensemble, wrapped in the wonderful musical arrangements of Tim Cumper, made this the Christmas present that just keeps on giving.
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