It’s that time of year when you’re expected lose your inhibitions and join in with shouts of ‘Oh yes it is’ while booing the baddies and cheering the goodies as the annual Milton Keynes pantomime heralds the arrival of the festive season.
Once again the new city’s theatre has come up with a true Christmas cracker, for Aladdin not only boasts a star-studded cast, but it features lavish sets, glamorous costumes and a talented troupe of dancers which all helps get the festivities off to a flying start.
Penned as usual by talented panto guru Eric Potts and directed by Russell Labey, the part of Aladdin is played by former a1 boy band front man Ben Adams (remember ‘Take On Me’) while the role of his love interest Princess Jasmine is taken by Aimie Atkinson, their voices perfectly complimenting one another.
And while the pair shared several excellent vocal duets, the undoubted stars as far as the audience were concerned are the brilliant Kev Orkian as Wishee Washee and the ever-popular Bletchley-based all-rounder Gary Wilmot as Wishee’s ‘glamorous’ mother, Widow Twankey.
The pair are truly perfect for pantomime, Orkian getting the audience on his side as soon as he makes an entrance. He is also exceptional when he gets some of the younger children up on stage to sing ‘Old McDonald Had A Farm’ and he has that special gift of laughing with them and not at them.
Meanwhile the brilliant Wilmot takes the role of a panto dame to a new level. His over-the-top costumes, make-up and sheer comedy timing had the audience in raptures.
Priscilla Presley is actually the show’s headline name and while she plays The Genie of The Lamp, it’s almost a ‘walk on’ part. At 70 she is still extremely glamorous and throughout the show there are numerous references to hit songs made famous by her late husband, Elvis whom she actually divorced in 1973.
The other household name in the cast is that wizard of dance Wayne Sleep. He twizzled and spun his way around the stage and, at 67, he gave us a great song and tap rendition of the famous Fred Astaire number ‘Puttin on the Ritz’ while accompanied by the eight ‘Citizens of Peking’ dancers and a team of juveniles from the Myre Tiffin Performing Arts School.
Marc Pickering managed to get the audience booing enthusiastically every time he appeared as the dastardly Abanazar while Warwick Davis’s ‘Reduced Height Theatre Company’ regular Phil Holden took on the comical role of Chinese policeman PC Pong. Meanwhile role of the Emperor is played by serious actor David Whitworth.
There was a rather intriguing performance in Abanazar’s Egyptian Palace by Bruce Airhead, a man who literally climbs inside a huge balloon. He bounces around the stage watched with gasps of disbelief from the whole cast.
The music is provided by just five musicians (it often sounds like a full orchestra) under the direction of Barry Robinson while the pantomime is so glitzy, spectacular and packed with stars that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Elvis himself pop his head round the curtain.
Aladdin – which runs for approximately 2 hours 40 minutes (including the intermission) – plays Milton Keynes Theatre until 10 January 2016 with two shows daily but please check the website at www.atgtickets.co.uk/miltonkeynes for show dates and times. Tickets are priced from £18.90 and can be booked via the website, by calling the box office on 0844 871 7652 or in person.