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Aladdin. Royal & Derngate. Northampton.

Aladdin is a classic pantomime and this is the choice of the Royal and Derngate in Northampton. You can expect songs, dancing, booing the baddie and a love story. Aladdin is a poor urchin who falls in love with the princess. But of course a poor urchin cannot marry a princess so when Abanazar asks if he finds a dirty old lamp for him he can have all the riches in the cave, Aladdin agrees.

Paul Nicholas is Abanazar and as a seasoned professional to both TV and stage, he is absolutely brilliant in the role. The audience are encouraged to boo and hiss and he is most definitely the meanest baddie I have seen in panto this year. This role is far removed from his days of Vince in Just Good Friends, which just shows Paul’s talents and breadth of range. Jaymi Hensley (Union J) is Aladdin and he is absolutely fantastic in the lead role. He can act, dance and yet it’s his voice that really grabs you. He is full of charisma and charm reminiscent of a young Donny Osmond. Jamyi does an excellent job in getting the audience onside and he is very amicable. When Princess Jasmine says nice things about Aladdin, he says ‘I wrote that bit’. Princess Jasmine is played by Zoe George and she is not only a very pretty princess but has a lovely voice too. A perfect partner for Jaymi’s Aladdin.

Kev Orkian plays Wishee Washee, Aladdin’s brother, and has defined the role and made it his own. After seeing Kev you cannot imagine anyone doing it better. Kev is funny and gets the audience laughing. He is a real talent and in the second half does a quick update on what happened in the first half. How he remembers it all and says it so fast I will never know but it’s impressive. Kev is also a talented pianist so I was delighted when a small piano is brought out on stage. Kev plays a ‘scratched CD version’ of an Elton John classic it demonstrates his talent for both comedy and playing the piano. Wishee Washee is also part of a threesome on a tongue twister with Widow Twanky and Abanazar. Poor Wishee has to keep repeating what each of the others says. It’s not an easy job but its brilliant comedy. There is a lovely moment when Wishee has some fun with some frozen bodies. It’s a classic moment – Ming really struggled to keep in position and Jasmine kept laughing when they are supposed to be frozen. Original and perfect for panto.

Shelia Ferguson (Three Degrees) plays Scheherazade who is the slave of the ring. She has an amazing voice and is a sassy genie which I loved. One of the defining moments of the show is when Shelia sings Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Pure quality performance. Dom Hartley-Harris plays Emperor Ming and is very entertaining. Dom also has a lovely soul voice too. Darren Machin plays Widow Twankey and has the best outfits of the show - as every dame should! He is the light entertainment and there are some perfect moments when he slips back into a more manly voice. It’s a classic dame and Darren does a great job in the role.

There were some really lovely dance numbers and the ensemble were all excellent, delivering a warm atmosphere. Another lovely moment is the bubbles that fall from the sky when the scene is in Twankey Laundry. It felt really interactive. It wouldn’t be a panto without a few local jokes, so expect comments about the Cobbler’s winning the FA cup (ie never) and if you’re from Stevenage, don’t trust them. It also wouldn’t be panto without bringing some kids on stage and Kev is going to see Old MacDonald’s Farm with them. Well that was the plan but on this night it didn’t quite work out that way. One girl was crying so he gave her a prize and said she can go back to her seat. However this had a domino effect so then all the three remaining kids didn’t want to sing either. Kev is excellent at improv and something like this really demonstrates his skills in this area. He made a joke about it and the audience were still laughing. What’s that saying about never working with kids again? A word about water guns. They slowly get bigger and bigger. Consider yourself warned if you sit near the front.

This is a great all round family panto. Aladdin is at Royal and Derngate Theatre until 31 December 2017.

Photos: Graeme Braidwood

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