For its second Easter panto (following last week’s The Wizard of Oz) the Epstein has chosen another well-loved classic. Aladdin transports us to Old Peking, enjoyably recreated in colourful sets portraying such locations as a royal palace, a Chinese laundry and the mysterious cave where Aladdin finds the magical lamp.
Kurtis Stacey (Emmerdale’s Alex Moss) and Laura Gregory give convincing performances as the clean-cut hero and the sweetly virtuous Princess, but other cast members are able to make the most of meatier roles. Joe Cawley is especially powerful as the sinister Abanazer, a classically compelling villain. Pantomime veteran Michael Chapman not only directs and scripts the show but also plays Widow Twankey, a Cockney battleaxe whose jokes often target the adults in the audience, with some especially risqué material involving Steve Gerrard and Louis Suarez. In contrast, Bradley Thompson’s crowd-pleasing performance as Aladdin’s naïve, put-upon younger brother Wishee Washee was a big hit with the kids. There’s a female Genie, played by Amanda Harrington as the Desperate Scousewife she so recently was on TV. A similar persona is adopted by Radio City’s Leanne Campbell, who as the Slave of the Ring has one of the show’s musical highlights, a belting rendition of I’m Every Woman which brought the house down. Other hits of a similar vintage – Money Money, For Once In My Life, Get Here (If You Can) – also go down well.
A troupe of excellent dancers (including several young children) add to the spectacle – as do the special effects, which include exploding fireworks and a simulated magic carpet ride. At one point several of the cast chase each other around the stalls, and people sitting in the front rows pay the price for their good view by getting soaked with high-powered water pistols. Aladdin offers an entertaining story, good music, several memorable performances and a lot of fun.
Aladdin continues at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre over the Easter weekend, with performances on Good Friday (1.30pm and 6pm), Saturday (1.30pm and 6pm), Easter Sunday (1pm and 5.30pm) and Bank Holiday Monday (1.30pm and 6pm). For more information, click HERE.