All previous notions of pantomime Aladdins must be left at the door. This production strips the story back to the bare bones. The cast are dressed in tuxedo or black evening gowns. The stage is bare, with just a white-wash light, and the songs verge on operetta. It is also staged as a kind of rehearsal, with characters carrying black ring-binders containing their scripts. However, the ring-binders are moved around with such fluidity that they become a part of the performance, and take nothing away from the action.
The fourteen-strong cast manage to bring the story alive through brilliant acting. It is hinting at slightly over-the-top Broadway style, and nudges at the door of pantomime on occasions, but never oversteps the mark.
Stand out performances include John Savident (Coronation Street's Fred Elliot) as the dark magician, who shows an aptitude for song as well as an evil laugh, whilst Vivienne Martin as Aladdin's mother and Stewart Permutt as the loveable pick-pocket are the comic relief with their double act.
This revival puts the tale of Aladdin at the forefront. It is not swamped by silly songs, farce and choruses of 'he's behind you'. In fact, the songs are complicated, and complement the story (a tribute to Porter's Broadway credentials), proving that this is a revival that deserves to be un-lost.
- by Katherine Graham