Theatre: Aladdin

Like an old-fashioned brass lamp, the Richmond Theatre’s Aladdin is made of solid, sparkly and familiar stuff. Former Hear’Say member and Dancing on Ice champion Suzanne Shaw headlines as both the Genie of the Lamp and her similarly sequined sister, but makes less of an impact on stage than her name does in the marketing material.

Comedian Tim Vine, as a defiantly non-Chinese Wishee Washee, is the real star. His trademark strings of puns are ideally suited to a style of theatre where gags are frequently more of a focus than story. At times, it’s difficult to tell where the stand-up ends and Eric Potts’ similarly silly script begins.

As is often the case in pantomime, the peripheral characters are more interesting than the leads and the women only get good lines if they are played by men in drag. Graham Hoadly’s gregarious Widow Twankey and her takeaway-inspired outfits steal more scenes than Helena Dowling’s subdued Princess Jasmin, while an acrobatic flying carpet has more charm than Shaw’s feigned street slang.

Gareth Leighton is a sprightly Aladdin who really shines when singing. Upbeat revivals of 1980s and 90s pop songs are well suited to a finale filled with tickertape  but less so David Lee’s balletic choreography. While the children in the ensemble have stage school poise, they can’t compete with those picked from the audience and their answers to questions from Vine such as “What do you like about being alive?”.

Richmond Theatre, London. Until 13 January

Written for The Stage

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