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Aladdin – Darlington Hippodrome

Oh, I love the film Aladdin. It makes me so happy. I can’t believe it came out in 1992! And I’m very excited about the new live action version coming out next May (Will Smith is the Genie, OMG). So I’m always a bit of a sucker for the pantomime version. This year Zoe Birkett rejoins the cast as Princess Jasmine with panto stalwarts Eric Potts back as Widow Twankey (and also directing) and Liam Mellor as Wishee Washee. Robin Askwith joins as baddie Abanazar with Carl Douglas as Aladdin.

This year there seemed like there was more special effects and fireworks, as we enter the Cave of Wonders and meet our antagonist Abenazar, who tells us about his plot to get Aladdin to go into the cave, retrieve the lamp containing the Genie and leave Aladdin in the cave. Aladdin guesses that a trick has been played on him, and Abenazar seals him in the cave. Rubbing his hands in despair, Aladdin inadvertently rubs a ring which conjures up The Spirit of the Ring (played just ever so slightly camply by Louie Spence – cue lots of innuendo).

The naughty Spirit of the Ring – Louie Spence

I’m always impressed at how the local area is weaved into the musical numbers at this panto, and they didn’t disappoint this year with “Darlo” to the tune of Petula Clark’s ‘Downtown.’ The dancing standard is high as always, with a polished ensemble and the excellent Joanne Banks Dancers. The comedy was again in safe hands with comedy duo Eric Potts as Widow Twankey and Liam Mellor as her son Wishee Washee, and some clever jokes around song lyrics (Alexa had her work cut out) and a particularly impressive tongue twister sketch in the laundry.

Eric Potts as the understated Widow Twankey
Most pantos I’ve seen this year have referenced the incredible The Greatest Showman, and this one was no exception, with a quality rendition of ‘Rewrite the Stars’ by Zoe Birkett and Carl Douglas (as well as Jess Glynne’s ‘I’ll Be There’ by Zoe). Liam Mellor topped his board game routine from last year with an impressive skit about confectionary which made me want to buy lots of sweets at the interval. Aladdin goes on a very magical Sky Ride to impressive effect before the first act draws to a close.

Aladdin in Peking
After inhaling a whole bag of revels, we installed ourselves for Act 2 where the action starts in Widow Twankey’s laundry and more shenanigans involving unfinished phone conversations. Wishy Washy has his work cut out with a song naming practically every place in the North East, which was pretty impressive! Equally as impressive are some of the outfits, especially Widow Twankey’s standout dress involving nipple tassles. Throw in more innuendos by the Spirit of the Ring, Empress Ming (Rachel Izen) getting her words all mixed up and a Genie with a weird accent and you get a pretty quirky interpretation of the classic tale.

Aladdin and Princess Jasmine

They also managed to make a list of pretty much all of the songs in the world that relate to dancing and feature them in the show which is no mean feat. I’m super excited about going to see Mary Poppins returns on Christmas Eve so I was over the moon when it was referenced! And it was very sweet when the kids came up on stage.

The full cast in their amazing costumes 

You can expect all of the usual pantomime ingredients – spectacular costumes and sets, big songs, lots of laughs and boos (the comedy is always standout in this panto), great performances, choreography and music (well done Hippodrome Band) and exciting special effects.

Aladdin is at Darlington Hippodrome until Sunday January 6th 2019. Buy tickets here

* I received tickets in exchange for a review

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