Review – Aladdin – E.M.Forster Theatre, Tonbridge

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Wicked Productions are a locally based theatre and pantomime production company who are rapidly creating a huge fanbase for themselves by producing family friendly, supremely funny, totally anarchic shows and their festive offering, Aladdin, is the latest, and best, of their productions to date.

The show is produced, directed and co-written (with Elinor Lawless) by the linchpin of the company, Tom Swift. He also stars as Wishee Washee and, in no time at all, he puts his wonderfully comedic stamp all over proceedings when he prevents Keith Higgins, as the Emperor of China, from addressing the people of Peking in a, somewhat dubious, Chinese accent.

From here on in it is a huge, chaotic, rollercoater ride right through to the finale, with every scene played for as many laughs as it is possible to extract from this enthusiatic capacity audience – which is no mean feat when it’s only 11am on a Sunday morning!

PC Hip (Ant White) and PC Hop (Shivonne Donovan) are the rapping policemen who have their sights set on capturing a “Street Rat” who has been spying on the Princess – although it would appear that their sights are set rather short, as they always fail to apprehend him.

The “Street Rat” is, of course, our handsome hero Aladdin (James Andrews) who, after a chance meeting in the street, promptly falls head over heels for Princess Jasmine (Meghan Rayner), although their first romantic duet, She’s Like the Wind from Dirty Dancing, is completely ruined by the “saxophone playing” antics of Wishee Washee.

Edwin Wright, as Abanazar, is obviously loving his role as he skillfully mixes high camp and dastardly evil to create a character that gets “booed” and “hissed” throughout the show, but still gets a huge round of applause at the end of his big musical numbers, Rag’n’Bone Man’s I’m Only Human and Ed Sheeran’s Shape of You (performed as a duet with Widow Twankey).

Looking slighly less than ravishing, in a succession of figure hugging costumes, pantomime legend Michael Fenton-Stevens totally owns the role of Widow Twankey and, for this performance, enlists the help of an unsuspecting man in the second row to be his comedy stooge.

The backing dancers, Yasmin Cox, Chloe Lydia Dowding, Emma Leagas and Megan Lane, together with the youngsters from Carla Nicholson-Fuller’s Firefly Dance School, work really hard and, in numbers like Does He Wash Up, sung by Twankey and Wishee, and Genie Magic, the main song by our Genie (Amanda Swift), they really show how very talented they all are.

With traditional pantomime favourites like the “make a story out of brand names in the cart” sketch, the “He’s behind you!” mummy sequence and the simple but very effective “laundry scene”, everything is here to satisfy the most demanding pantomime aficionado but, once you add in the side-splittingly funny and totally chaotic Twelve Days of Christmas, The Boom Box (which just has to be seen to be believed) and a breathtakingly spectacular Magic Carpet scene, this production takes it’s rightful place at the very top of the festive productions tree.

Wicked Productions returns at Easter with Alice in Wonderland so, for that final Christmas present, grab some tickets for you and your friends and witness Tom Swift and his tremendous cast in action for yourselves – you won’t be disappointed!

*****               Five Stars

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About Author

I have lived in Sussex for the past 15 years and have links with many of the arts venues throughout the county. I am passionate about the local arts scene and, as well as providing reviews of local performances, I also preview some of the exciting shows and events taking place around the county. I have devoted all of my working life to the worlds of theatre and travel so, when I am not on holiday somewhere, you can usually find me at one of our superb local theatres, or simply enjoying life with my young son.

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