Review: Aladdin @ Birmingham Hippodrome

No Christmas is complete without a trip to the panto and in the Midlands the big one’s always at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Julian Clary, Lee Mead and Matt Slack in Aladdin. Pic: Keith Pattison

Julian Clary, Lee Mead and Matt Slack in Aladdin. Pic: Keith Pattison

Their pantos are on a spectacular scale – last year they had a fighter jet that roared out over the stalls and the year before that it was a fearsome giant dragon, so I rushed along to see what they’ve come up with now.

Well, this year even before you get into the theatre proper there’s a virtual magic carpet ride to try out in the foyer, but the show itself beats even its own record because what’s on offer is quite simply entertainment on a massive scale.

This sumptuously dressed production boasts a cast who make sure any seasonal “Bah, humbug” tendencies are blown away at once on a gale of laughter producing an atmosphere of sheer unadulterated enjoyment that just gets better and better filled with singing, dancing and sheer silliness.

Marti Pellow is a delightfully sinister but knowing villain Abanazar who doesn’t take himself so seriously he can’t step hilariously out of role occasionally, while Lee Mead is a robustly charming Aladdin who can sing up a storm.

Andrew Ryan as his mother the Widow Twankey is a highly engaging dame whose dizzying costume changes are a show in themselves, ably supported by Emily Shaw’s charming Princess Jasmine and Landi Oshinowo’s impressive Empress of China.

Julian Clary is a bracing presence throughout with a quite a few gags which mercifully soar straight over the heads of the tinier tots but of course, in my book there’s always a star and here it’s Matt Slack as Wishee Washee coming into his own kingdom at last as one of the country’s greatest comedians. Over the last few years he has assumed the mantle of one of Britain’s foremost up and coming jokers with his perfect timing, anarchic joie de vivre and charm. For sheer physical comedy he is unchallenged, but here he takes control in a way that marks him out as a genuine star performer who carries the show into the comic stratosphere.

I mustn’t forget to mention the general non-stop knockabout fun, or the 3D interlude that had the audience screaming in mock-terror in this shout-out funny show.

This Aladdin is pure entertainment, sheer pleasure from start to finish.

Aladdin runs at the Birmingham Hippodrome until January 31. For tickets phone the box office on 0844 338 5000 or go online at www.birminghamhippodrome.com.

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