I’m never quite sure on the controversial subject of reviews that offer star ratings. If one aspect – lighting or a performance, for example – deserves one star, and another – say, script or another performance – deserves five stars, is it fair to average the whole production out at three stars? Possibly not. However, it is a fact that shows are selling the whole package and it’s a director’s job to ensure that every facet, every performance, is as competent as it possibly can be.
Aladdin, at the Marina Theatre, Lowestoft, is a case in point. Some performances are less successful than others, pace is inconsistent, and the script needs a bit of a re-write but, for a small-scale panto, it has many merits to sing about.
Eve Wilkinson’s costumes are spectacular and their quality and sheer number far exceed those of bigger budget shows. Stephen Wilson's set is also nicely done. There are no gratuitous 3D CGI effects here, and it’s a shame that magical characters have to wander on rather than being shot out of a stage trap but, all in all, Aladdin is visually appealing.
The producers have opted for names, although “star” maybe over-egging it a little. Coronation Street bad-boy Nigel Pivaro snarls his way competently through Abanazar, while Britain’s Got Talent finalist Christopher Stone offers an effete Emperor of China.
Matt Brinkler and Ellie Stevenson work well as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, with some believable chemistry between them. They both have fine singing voices, although some of the higher notes strain on occasion, not a good sign at the beginning of a run.
Simon Howe’s Widow Twankey is a more subdued affair than we’re used to and the character seems reduced to pretty much a supporting role here. That’s a shame because, given free rein, Howe has great fun with it from time to time.
Mike Newman’s Wishee Washee is the Hell-spawn of Benny Hill and Timmy Mallett - an engaging enough buffoon who works well with the children and adults alike, but whose enthusiasm perhaps swamps those around him, especially the Dame.
Special mention must be made of the young actors, Sam Johnson and Sam Humphreys, playing comedy law enforcers PCs Ping and Pong. Neither are greatly experienced – indeed Panto virgins both until now – but whose confident and competent physical performances excel.
Music is provided by a two-man “orchestra”, Matthew Reeve and Andy Burt, creating a much more impressive sound than their numbers would suggest.
Aladdin doesn’t pretend to be a big-budget production and is not without flaws, but most of the cast are clearly enjoying themselves and that naturally permeates to the audience. Well worth a visit for a traditional-style Christmas outing.