Following on from their tremendously successful 2013 pantomime, Jack and the Beanstalk, the Connaught Theatre and Paul Holman Associates are continuing their very fruitful partnership for this year’s production, Aladdin, starring S Club 7’s Jon Lee.
From the moment that Abanazar (Joe Connors) takes to the stage to unveil his dastardly plan for world domination, and makes the most of his chance to threaten the audience as well, we know that we are about to witness a traditional pantomime in the very best sense of the word.
Sarah Jameson, one half of Britain’s Got Talent opera duo Kieran and Sarah, arrives in a puff of smoke as The Slave of the Ring and, in no time at all, show off her superb singing voice and her surprisingly good comic acting skills as well.
To get the audience interacting with the show, Terry Gleed takes the role of Aladdin’s brother Wishee Washee and he soon has the audience shouting, singing and, on command, performing a Mexican Wave as if it was the most natural thing to do while watching a show.
No traditional pantomime would be complete without it’s Dame and Stephen Richards, better known as his drag persona Lola Lasagne, is just right to step into a series of amazing frocks and wigs and, as well as delivering the comedy that is expected from a Dame, he also shows off an accomplished singing voice.
PC Ping and PC Pong are played by Heart Radio’s breakfast show presenters Tom Evans and Jack “the Lad” Hayes who have appeared in Worthing’s pantomime for a few years now and, as I mentioned in my review for Jack and the Beanstalk last year, they get better and better every year.
It is amazing to think that they continue to present their radio show from 6.00am every weekday and still manage to cope with the relentless pantomime schedule and even more impressive that they are able to offer up the very best comic song, and the most complicated comic scene, in the show with the skill of the very best professional actors.
In act two we finally get to see, and hear, the other half of Kieran and Sarah, Kieran Sutcliffe, who, like Sarah, is also a very natural comic performer and a superb singer. In the wedding scene their version of Nessun Dorma is one of the showstopping moments in this pantomime.
The cast is completed by Jade Chaston and Darren Clewlow as Princess Jasmine and Emperor Chop Suey the Third, the young performers from the Glendale Theatre Arts School and six of the hardest working members of the cast – Christina Gray, Dominic Le Brun, Alice Rourke, Laura Kate Thomas, Amy Walsh and Harry Morley – the Pantomime Dancers.
The star of the show, with his killer smile, youthful good looks and tremendous singing voice is West End star and S Club 7 member Jon Lee who, as this is his third time playing Aladdin, is incredibly comfortable and natural in the role. Some producers might have been tempted to continually reference Jon’s music career in the show but, with just one (unscripted) reference to the recently announced reunion tour and one chorus of S Club 7’s massive worldwide hit, Reach, the producers of Aladdin have acknowledged but not overblown his superstar status.
Worthing’s pantomime gets better and better every year, with the emphasis on telling a traditional tale in a very entertaining way while still making sure that the cast are talented enough to carry it off and, with the fantastic talent on display this year, they seem to have got it just right.
From curtain up to the finale, Aladdin is everything that you would expect from a traditional pantomime – an all singing, all dancing festival of festive fun.
**** Four Stars
– The Sussex Paper