REVIEW: Aladdin the Rock’n’Roll Panto, City Varieties Leeds

After a record-breaking run of six successful Rock’n’Roll pantomimes, City Varieties rotated back to 2011 to reinvent their version of Aladdin. The highly anticipated show fused the plot with audience participation, outrageous gags and a playlist full of chart-toppers from throughout the ages. 

Like the traditional plot, the show tells the story of Aladdin and his quest to marry the Princess, despite the ploys of evil sorcerer, Abanazer. However, it wouldn’t be a Christmas pantomime if the show wasn’t embellished with additional characters and humour.

Widow Twankey, played by Justin Brett, brought plenty of slapstick silliness to the show (pun intended), along with an endless supply of innuendos that were enjoyable for children and adults alike. It was great to have such an energetic and likeable character dominating the panto. He was accompanied by the equally hilarious Kenny Davies as Wishee Washee, who had the clumsy gene. The pair added comic value to the show and the sound effects enhanced their antics.

The talented troupe of actor-musicians seamlessly swapped between both roles, providing all the music themselves. It was especially impressive to see a saxophone playing monkey in the limelight. However, at points, the abundance of songs played one after another got a little tedious. Perhaps if the ratio of acting to songs was to be amended, it would help maintain the attention of the younger members of the audience.

Although some of the rock’n’roll songs were predictable, that just meant everyone was ready to singalong. No one was surprised when Hannah Price as Genie began singing James Brown’s, I Feel Good, after Aladdin had asked how she was. Nonetheless, it was a soulful and sassy performance that had everyone tapping their feet.

After his success playing the baddie in last year’s Sleeping Beauty Rock’n’Roll Panto, Dan Bottomley returned to play villain, Abanazer. He was creepy, but he wasn’t all that scary. Regardless, his costume made him look the part, he had a menacing laugh and he was great on bass.

The real stars were Aladdin and the Princess themselves. Alex Wingfield perfectly acted out cheeky chappy Aladdin, who had a retro 60s style voice and showcased some lively dance moves. The audience were rooting for him to get the girl, and it takes talent to get them on side so early on in a show. Grace Lancaster as Princess Lotus Blossom had facial expressions and gestures fit for pantomime, and her vocals were astonishing.

Aladdin the Rock’n’Roll Panto used a lot of tactics to keep it interactive. The legendary Leeds ‘boulder fight,’ was as epic as the name suggests. It saw giant inflatable balls ricocheting through the crowd and onto the stage. It was better than the average battle scene as it broke down the forth wall and got everyone involved.

The whole room was on their feet when it came to the closing number, dancing away in the aisles in time to the music. The feel good show left everyone in high spirits and kicked off the Christmas season in style.

City Varieties Music Hall holds the record for the longest running music hall in the country.  Therefore, this Leeds tradition is one that won’t be coming to a halt any time soon. Oh yes it will, oh no it won’t…

Aladdin the Rock‘n’Roll Panto is at City Varieties Music Hall from Friday 24th Nov 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018. Tickets are priced from £15.50 to £26.50. (Prices include a £1 booking fee. Where applicable, a £1 charge for postage will also be payable.) Book online or call Box Office on 0113 243 08 08.

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