ALADDIN AT THE COLISEUM PROVIDES A BURST OF CREATIVE ENERGY
By Steve Cooke
Originally due to be produced and presented in 2020, rescheduled due to the pandemic; now exploding onto the Coliseum stage with creative energy built up over months of lockdown and social distancing frustrations plus a sizeable dollop of sheer existential fear, Aladdin is just the boost we all need.
The Pantomime at the Coliseum lives up to its the reputation of being traditional in its truest sense; a participatory form of live theatre with songs, gags, slapstick comedy and dancing plus gender-crossing actors; combining topical humour with a story loosely based on a well-known fairy tale, in this instance, Aladdin.
I was fortunate to be part of a full and enthusiastic first-night audience, [with tickets for next year's Robin Hood going on sale on the same day].
Richard J Fletcher delivers what my companion pronounced ‘the best Widow Twankee I have ever seen’. You certainly couldn’t take your eyes off him, with his lovable vulgarity amplified by an array of outrageously hilarious costumes, forming a great on-stage partnership with Sam Glen’s Wishee Washee.
The script written by Fine Time Fontayne, with the direction of Chris Lawson kicks off the show by getting a laugh out of lockdown! Dave Bintley’s musical direction (with live band, Bintley on keyboards, Paul Allen on drums and Nathan Welch on bass) and Celia Perkins’s picture-book sets, nicely lit by Douglas Kuhrt. and her stunning, colourful costume designs complement the uniformly excellent performances of the cast.
Aunty Banazar, [played by Liz Carney] arrives from Rochdale, “the land that time forgot”, liberally spreading her evil magic to the accompaniment of hearty audience booing.
Shaun Hennessy’s Emperor sleazily pockets £4.5m profits from his Imperial Washing Corporation while handing out eviction orders, including to the proprietor of the last independent laundry in Oldham, Widow Twankee.
Marc Zayat is a rib-tickling camp, rapping, hippy Jinn of the Lamp, also doubling as one of the comic policemen, in a hilariously engaging double act with Alex Phelps.
Principal boy, Shorelle Hepkin, Is a singing, dancing charming Aladdin who forms a convincing romance with Dora Rubinstein’s glamourous Princess Jasmine.
Special mention also should be made of dancers Heléna Ferreira, Molly-Mae France, Abbie Holt and Erin Marshall both dance and deliver sing-along numbers with great energy.
The story unfolds at a rattling pace with two-and-a-half hours speeding by.
A visual and musical treat - if you haven’t already booked, give yourself and yours a guaranteed uplifting boost.