‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp – a Christmas Pantomime’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by December 22, 2014

‘Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp – a Christmas Pantomime’ is the ultimate in high quality entertainment for all the family, written by skilled writer, Stephen Quinn it is filled with double entendres. Written on two levels, one for the kids and another for the adults it is an established English pantomime.

This GRADS production, under the eye of producer Arnold Wong, is two and a half hours of traditional fun. It begins at 7.30 pm at the Playlover’s theatre in Hackett Hall, Draper Street, Floreat; the season runs until December 20th.

 

Stephen Lee and Jonathan Beckett designed the sets, which are brightly painted in primary colours. The street scene has a couple of shops, one of which is Widow Twankey’s laundry. Then there is the treasure cave scene that produces the magical and opulent effect required. Finally, the Royal Palace has balcony and several pedestals with Ming vases sitting on top. Again this set is quite sumptuous, with good artwork by Jenia Gladziejewski.

 

          China Town’s laundry owner, Widow Twankey (Jarrod Buttery alternating with Barry Park) lives with her two sons, the handsome and talented Aladdin (Melissa Kiiveri) and her waste-of-space son, Wishee Washee (James Parker). Aladdin’s long lost uncle is Abanazar, the Evil Wizard (Grant Malcolm), who has re-appeared after many years, kindly offering to exchange old oil lamps for new.

        Nearby, live the sadistic, cold-hearted Empress of China (Kerri Hilton) and her beautiful daughter, Princess Balroubadour (Grace Edwards). A sexually frustrated cougar, So Shi (Lis Hoffman), attends The Princess. The Empress’s head adviser is the wise, Grand Vizier (Jonathan Beckett), but the Empress rarely listens to his advice.

        Peking has two law officers, the strict policeman Ping (Judd Millner) and the easy going, Pong (Jennifer van den Hoek), neither of whom seems to do their job particularly well.

        It become clear that whoever owns the magic ancient lamp also gets the Genie of Lamp (Kate O’Sullivan), a beautiful servant that will carry out the owner’s every command.

 

Every pantomime should open with a high-quality, lively number and musical director, David Harries, ensured this. The opening sequence included plenty of good, well-synchronised choreography (Seanne Sparrow) from the village children. Although aged from about 5 to 10, they all seemed to have great stage presence. They smiled, performed acrobatics and yet never lost a beat with their singing. Often in pantos, there is the odd little stage-struck youngster who just lives on another level, but here the whole team were focused, and performed beautifully. (The town’s inhabitants were Naomi and Rebekah Andrews, Julia and Mercy Anthony, Andre and Marie Beidatsch, Eliza, Felix and Sharon Malcolm, George O’Doherty and David Raeburn – with a special appearance by the stage manager Glynis Best).

Various primary schools appeared in each show, these included St Norbet, MLC, Darlington, Sawyers Valley and West Byford. By having a different school each night, meant that the children do not tire too easily and that all of their relatives guaranteed a full audience every evening.

Wendy Lui’s Chung Wah Dance Group brought an authentic Chinese act to the show by performing a complex ribbon dance. Very impressive.

John Woolrych’s exceptional lighting design was operated slickly by Cedric Beidatsch. The sound called for several split second cues and numerous sound effects, all co-ordinated perfectly by Richard Kalukal.

There are several points that should appear in all of the traditional pantomimes and renowned British Director, Stephen Lee, ably assisted by Sarah Courtis, conquered them all. The leading ‘boy’ slapping his thigh and swaggering (well done Mel K), a colourful simple minded Dame (Jarrod nailed it on the night I saw the show), an evil person for us all to hate and boo – but who can work the audience up into a frenzy with their nastiness (Grant Malcolm captured the part perfectly), and some fine singing from Mel K, Kate O’Sullivan and Grace Edwards. Kate showed how lithe she was, by performing a wonderful piece of Genie magic, mysteriously appearing from a box on a table. Kerri Hilton’s portrayal of the Empress was wonderfully pan faced and creepy as she carried out her wicked deeds, inviting even more boos and hisses.

The musical background had many catchy tunes, even a sing-along in Cantonese!! There was the usual collection of Christmas cracker quality jokes, but the audience love to groan and shout back. Stephen’s script linked the Chinese life to the present day audience with numerous references to the ‘lousy script’, and ‘what do you expect for $25?’

A very strong cast, who all gave the audience what they came to see, fun, frolics, audience verbal participation and a smile to go home with. A fast paced, well-rehearsed performance, well above standard. A great show.