It's a little unfair, I know, but I took a look at my review of last year’s Milton Keynes panto before writing this one. To save myself time, I could easily have trotted it out again with the names changed.
Which, coincidentally, is pretty much what the producers have done with this version of Aladdin, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the one they laid on for MK audiences in 2007.
The difference then was that a manic Bradley Walsh was the force of nature that drove the show to the heights of hilarity and mayhem that it enjoyed. This time around, he’s not there.
That’s not to say that TV impressionist Paul Burling doesn’t do a fair job of helming the piece as Wishee Washee, nor that Gareth Gates and Nicola Brazil don’t make a glamorous, fine-voiced couple as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine. Adam Pearce’s overblown Abanazar and Chris Nelson’s reprise of Major Pong also offer entertaining support, with a powerful band in the pit and plenty of expenditure on the set and the well-drilled dancers.
But John Barr’s rather underwhelming Widow Twankey and a frankly dispensable turn from Strictly’s Camilla Dallerup add little to the proceedings, while an odd selection of songs leave you scratching your head over Eric Potts’s script and Andrew C Wadsworth’s direction.
It’s harmless enough – if you’re prepared to excuse the lame attempts at double entendre – and the under-tens in the audience seemed reasonably happy. But there’s no escaping the fact that the stunning Milton Keynes pedigree from the days of Mr Walsh seems to have disappeared in a puff of pixie dust.