Panto Review: Aladdin at the Churchill Theatre, Bromley
Oh, what a show!
We all love a good panto, and we all love a good laugh. At the Churchill’s superb production of Aladdin, you definitely get both. It’s slick and professional with a big dose of mischief and mayhem and plenty of giggles. It’s a little bit rude, very silly, and it’s got enough ‘wow’ moments to impress even the most seasoned of panto-goers. In essence, Aladdin may just be the perfect panto.
It all begins with Abanazar (or is that ‘Ave-A-Banana? A name that caused my 9 year old to almost fall of her seat with laughter every time it was uttered!), played with convincing menace by Ryan O’Gorman, plotting and scheming – we know he’s the baddie right from the start and there are plenty of boos and hisses aimed at him while he details his evil plan. And then we’re right into the action with Aladdin (Yazdan Qafouri), the chorus, and a rousing song and dance number that’s all glitz and glamour. This, then, is our hero.
But although Aladdin and Jasmine (Emily Hawgood) may technically be the stars of the show, as Wishee himself says, it’s all about the comedy, and that comes good with Rikki Jay and Max Fulham (plus Gordon the Monkey who’s on the poster as he’ll tell you himself – more than once) as funny brothers Wishee and Washee and, of course, the incomparable Christopher Biggins as Widow Twankey. It was a joy to see them, whether Wishee was telling jokes, Washee was entertaining with Gordon (they’re a ventriloquist act), or Twankey was being rude and crude and flirting with the Emperor (Derek Elroy) – alone or in a combo, these three were delightful.
Biggins is the consumate panto dame, of course, and this show is proof (if proof were needed) of that. Sparkling and winking his way through the show, it’s no wonder generations of children have been entranced by his costumes, jokes, and charm.
Many pantos are very much reliant on the talent on the stage and the set and costumes are perhaps second thoughts. Not so in Aladdin. The costumes were gorgeous, with so many changes that the anticipation of Twankey coming back on in yet another unfeasonably impractical outfit was one of the very best parts of the show (although only one of, because there were so many). And the sets were incredible; no wonky scenery or wobbling walls here; it all looked as though it could have come from a West End production so high were the values of it.
There were two stand out moments when it comes to special effects and surprises. The first has to be the genie – playing himself – and this huge blue wish granter is wonderful. I won’t give it away, but that lamp must really be magic. The second was the all too brief magic carpet ride. Aladdin, singing his heart out, flies out over the audience (or at least that’s how it seemed) and the oohs and aahs of delight and appreciation were loud.
Do yourself a favour and book some tickets to Aladdin at The Churchill Theatre, Bromley – it will be the perfect start to your Christmas, or perhaps a post-Christmas treat, that the whole family will love. It runs until 5th January 2020.