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Aladdin The Rock ‘n’ Roll Panto review

The little panto with a big band returns to Leeds City Varieties.

Leeds City Varieties’ Rock ’n’ Roll Panto is back again for the festive season at West Yorkshire’s world-famous Music Hall. This year’s jukebox pantomime is a vibrant re-imagining of Aladdin; brilliantly retold through a witty book by Peter Rowe and brought to life through dozens of chart-topping hits.

Aladdin follows the same tradition as previous Rock ‘n’ Roll pantos, offering a glitzy romp with outrageously silly characters, slapstick and adventure underscored with tub-thumbing pop and rock hits. Unlike many pantomimes this season, Aladdin is unique in the fact that the entirety of the cast provides all the music; swapping instruments throughout scenes and issuing a big-band sound within a pint-sized pantomime landscape.

Double act: Kenny Davies as Wishee Washee and Justin Brett as Widow Twankey. Image: Anthony Robling.

A familiar company of performers have returned this season, with Justin Brett reprising his superlative panto dame for the second year as Widow Twankey. He is joined by the equally hilarious Kenny Davies as Wishee Washee, showcasing brilliant stunts at every turn. The booming Alexander Bean brings a Brian Blessed-like bravura to the Emperor, whilst the beautiful Grace Lancaster delivers a genuine songbird clarity to her Princess.

The beaming Alex Wingfield returns to the Rock ‘n’ Roll panto as a particularly dashing Aladdin, demonstrating some endlessly energetic footwork during musical numbers. Hannah Price is hilariously Essex-inspired as the Genie, whilst Georgina Field steals scenes as Cuddles the Monkey – a leading example of physical comedy and a favourite with the kiddies. Special notice must go to Dan Bottomley as the devilishly alluring Abanazer, whose scheming charm is outdone only by his world-class facial hair.

Visually the show is compact and cute, with a warm homespun feel from props and puppets. Matt Aston’s direction makes judicious use of stage space to ensure there is scope and constant movement in the show. The effects are also relentlessly inventive and will keep families enthralled whilst the music – from technical to performance – sounds and feels great, particularly the closing numbers which will get audiences on their feet. The cast genuinely seems to be having great fun with this panto, which makes the antics and music all the more involving.

Monkey business from Georgina Field and Jacobean villainy from Dan Bottomley. Credit: Anthony Robling.

The Rock ’n’ Roll pantomime continues to be an essential tradition at the intimate City Varieties theatre, capitalising on the Music Hall’s cosy compactness and magical Victorian surroundings. Whilst Aladdin may not offer the sprawling budget or cinematic range of larger productions, this unique Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomime more than makes up for its compactness with its affection, relentless pace and hair-raising live music.

Action-packed, bawdy and brimming full of mirth, merriment and magic, Aladdin is a compact collection of non-stop hits which will appeal to all ages. If you’re intending to see one pantomime this year, ensure it’s Aladdin.

Cast: Justin Brett, Alex Wingfield, Grace Lancaster, Dan Bottomley, Hannah Price, Kenny Davies, Scott Haining, Alexander Bean, Georgina Field, Lindsay Goodhand. Director: Matt Aston Writer: Peter Rowe Theatre: Leeds City Varieties Music Hall Duration: 150 minutes Dates: 24th November 2017 – 7th January 2018.

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