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BrumHour saw Aladdin at the invite of Wolverhampton Grand.
By Eleanor Lawson twitter.com/Elle_Lawson
Review: Aladdin at Wolverhampton Grand
⭐⭐⭐⭐The way forwards for modern pantomime.
Written and Directed by Will Brenton
Panto season is now in full swing and this year it’s Aladdin’s turn to grace the stage of the Wolverhampton Grand.
Forget your preconception of Disney princesses, as this production blends classic panto tropes with modern sensibilities. We have familiar skits that have existed in panto for decades such as laundrette slapstick, alongside a headstrong Jasmine who mostly wears trousers and Converse and is held up as a mirror to Aladdin. This juxtaposition of old and new appeals to all demographics, and is clearly the way forwards for modern pantomime.
Our cast includes Pop Idol and West End leading lady Zoe Birkett as the Spirit of the Ring, EastEnders and The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes actor Michael Greco as the evil Abanazar, as well as CBeebies favourite Ben Cajee as Aladdin.
Returning favourites Tam Ryan as Wishee Washee and Ian Adams as Widow Twankey, joined by Wolverhampton’s own Sofie Anné as Princess Jasmine, West End star Duane Gooden as the Genie, and panto legend Ian Billings as The Notary – the richest man in town who is the character equivalent of the Sultan.
Zoe Birkett overflows with charm as the Spirit of the Ring, enchanting as the good-hearted spirit whilst also remaining deeply grounded and very ‘girl next door’. Her vocals are quite frankly astounding and she absolutely nails a rendition of Defying Gravity. Duane Gooden is also brilliant as the Genie, giving a bombastic, hysterical performance as the granter of Aladdin’s wishes. Michael Greco is the epitome of sinister as the scheming Abanazar while Ian Adams is a pitch-perfect Widow Twankey.
And while the production is called Aladdin, it should really be called Wishee Washee, as Tam Ryan gives an exceptional performance and has the audience in stitches. It’s no wonder he won a national award for his performance in the Grand’s Cinderella last year.
Panto has always been embedded firmly in the Grand’s annual line-up, with Adrian Jackson, chief executive and artistic director, saying:
The Grand Theatre has a rich history of producing pantomime, from the theatre’s opening season in 1894, panto was placed firmly at the heart of the annual programme. It has been my intention to return to in-house pantomime, and this year the ambition has become a reality.”
On the row in front of me, two young girls were having the time of their life watching Aladdin, screaming along, laughing, and dancing at the end. What better feedback could you get?
Aladdin is at Wolverhampton Grand until 7th January 2023. Book tickets here: grandtheatre.co.uk/whats-on/aladdin.