Glitzy Pantomime has returned to the city centre with this spectacular version of Aladdin.
The main elements of the rags-to-riches story are all here, even if some short cuts are taken so that more time can be spent with the set pieces. Aladdin and Princess Jasmine start as an item, he just needs to be wealthy enough for her mum, The Supreme Leader of Mancunia, to allow a wedding. Aladdin already possesses the magic ring and just needs Abanazar to force him into the cave to retrieve the famed lamp.
The story is secondary here to showcase the talents of the two main stars of the evening.
Front and centre is Alexandra Burke who rises up through the stage as the glamourous Scherezade, Spirit of the Ring, when Aladdin turns his ring around.
Burke delights the audience when effortlessly belting out her X-Factor winner’s single and Christmas number one “Hallelujah”. Her other massive hit, “Bad Boys”, gets the full music video choreography treatment with the ensemble as she shows off her pop star credentials and powerful voice.
However, it is when she is busting out her Strictly Come Dancing Finalist moves in a dance-off battle that she appears to be enjoying herself the most.
Her opposition is Aladdin’s wise-cracking brother, Wishee Washee, brilliantly played by the returning Ben Nickless who fires off celebrity impressions, topical gags and tongue twisters to uproarious laughter. His ventriloquist act was so good, Nina Conte herself will struggle to get bigger laughs from her puppets at the Opera House next month.
This year’s dame is Ceri Dupree’s innuendo laden Widow Twankee who looks fabulous throughout in elaborate outfits designed by Dupree himself. His gravity defying wigs also hold up during skits of “Bang, Bang” and a brilliant Botox-themed “Poker Face”. Throughout, he and Nickless display excellent timing, but particularly in their risqué DVD selection section.
Abanazar, played by John McLarnon, get the kids booing from the outset but also has them laughing when discussing the certainty of short-sleeved shirts at speed.
Matthew Croke is the first bearded Aladdin I’ve seen in a panto but it is worth breaking the tradition of a female playing the main lad when you’ve got the lead from the West End production of Disney’s Aladdin available to perform.
There are plenty of other visual treats to enjoy here too, from Widow Twankee’s laundry bubbles cascading down onto the audience, to the pyrotechnics fired from the lamp and the stunning magic carpet ride that takes Aladdin out over the stalls.
In the words of the Mancunian Genie, this show is a “Top One”.
Aladdin is at the Opera House, Manchester from 11 December 2021 – 2 January 2022.