Dec 7 2017 | By More

★★★★☆   Fantastic Family Fun

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 6 – Sat 9 Dec 2017
Review by Sarah Moyes

The Balerno Theatre Company whisks us away to Agrabah with their magical production of Aladdin at the Church Hill Theatre until Saturday.

The story is a well-known one of the pantomime circuit. Aladdin, a poor boy with not a penny to his name, falls in love with the Emperor’s daughter Jasmine. In a bid to become rich to win her love, Aladdin is persuaded to fetch a magic lamp from the Cave of Wonders meeting a Genie who will grant its owner three wishes.

However rather than just sticking to the original, director Audrey Jones gives the show a new lease of life by combining the tradition Aladdin tale with enough modern references to entertain those who wouldn’t call themselves a classic pantomime fan.

The show opens with the classic Aladdin song, Arabian Nights, but it’s not long until before Aladdin and his friends are belting out Abba’s Money Money Money as they think of all the things they could do if they’re weren’t so skint.

Jamie Duffy gives a strong performance as Aladdin and he tries to win the heart of Jasmine played by Kirsten Keggie. In Panto land, these parts can be overshadowed by the bigger characters of the show, but the young pair gives excellent performances and their Rooftop Duet is one of the musical highlights of the first act.

The cast of Aladdin. Pic: Mike Ferrigan

Not only do their vocals sound great, but it also sees the Church Hill Theatre make use of a full 7 metre LED screen for the first time. Stefano Modica Ragusa really helps to elevate the show by using the screen to display stunning backdrops, and this case helps Aladdin and Jasmine look like they are flying through the clouds on their magic carpet ride.

George Mackie is terrific as the pantomime dame Widow Twanky who is joined by his equally hilarious son Hanky Panky Twanky (Fraser Kelsey) who can’t understand why he didn’t get a better name like his brother Aladdin did. The pair, dressed in their over the top outfits, are great are getting the audience to participate throughout the show, with Hanky Panky Twanky making sure all the dads are taking part too by telling the kids in the audience that their dad doesn’t love them if he’s not shouting out too.

hitting the highest notes

It wouldn’t be Aladdin without a Genie and this production there’s two – a Genie of the Lamp and Genie of the Ring. Michael Davies is bold as he commands the stage as Genie of the Lamp. Despite the Genie of the Ring being a low-key part in the show, Ashley Davies doesn’t waste any time showing off her vocal chords on Whatever Happened To My Part? hitting the highest notes of the show while making fun of her small part in the casting.

Pantomime baddie SoFar (Paul Calder) and his 9 year old sidekick SoGood (Freya Reid) are the perfect double act. Although it has to be said that Freya does upstage him and the rest of the cast at every opportunity with her sassy attitude and brilliant comic timing. She might only be 9 years old but she oozes confidence, and without a doubt gives the stand out performance of the entire show.

Choreographer Debbie Spurgeon makes slick and entertaining use of the talented cast. The whole chorus works well together on the show’s big numbers, but it’s also great to see a smaller group of dancers take on more challenging ones, in particular the solo ballet routine by Susanna Anderson which a beautifully choreographed.

There’s a mix of traditional and modern pantomime songs from Uptown Funk to Never Had A Friend Like Me, all accompanied by a fantastic live orchestra. There are a couple of times in the show when it can be harder to make every word of a song, especially on the faster ones, but it doesn’t derail from the fact the BTC are an established group of singers.

lots to love

Of course there’s some silly songs too, and in this show it comes in the form of 12 Days of Christmas with Genie of the Lamp, Widow Twanky and the King introducing a new version which includes Irn Bru, custard pies, and a group of dads and boyfriends from the audience being dragged onto the stage to participate as one of the numbers.

There’s lots to love about this show and there really is plenty to entertain children and adults alike from Brexit jokes and a Blind Date sketch for the adults to water pistols and shouting “he’s behind you!” for the kids.

A refreshingly modern take on a classic pantomime tale, Aladdin is the perfect show for all the family.

Running time – two hours and 35 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 6 – Saturday 9 December 2017
Evenings: 7.30pm; Matinees, Friday: 3pm & Saturday: 2pm.

Balerno Theatre Company Website:
Facebook: @balernotheatrecompany.


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