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Aladdin, IMOG – Ingatestone Musical and Operetta Group

Guest Reviewer - Michael Gray

Burns Night, and a late entry in the Panto stakes – a good traditional Aladdin from IMOG in Ingatestone Community Theatre, directed by Denyse Donnell.
This version, by prolific panto playwright Ben Crocker, has everything the audience expects, with one or two original touches, like the Kung Fu fighting Princess Jasmine [Kirsty Elliott] and Nobby the naughty Panda [Jill Kitson].

The music ranges widely through genres and eras. George Formby, briefly, our Gracie, Eartha Kitt’s I Want to be Evil for Jeremy Martin’s hammy Abanazer, a sand dance, Bruno Mars’ Count on Me for the love duet, and for the Widow, Cos I’m A Woman and Big Spender. And for the inevitable singalong, a weird piece about Chinese takeaway to the tune of a now almost forgotten Max Bygraves nonsense song. Most warmly received on opening night was that old Gang Show favourite If I Were Not Upon the Stage, very neatly choreographed with nurse, referee, ballerina and the rest [almost] perfectly synchronised. Some splendid dance routines throughout, notably I Got the Magic in Me at the end of Act One, the toilet brush backing trio behind the Peggy Lee anthem, and the big production number I’m Still Standing.
The panto vibe is sustained well, especially by two solid, highly professional performances from Aladdin and his Mum.

Mike Spall-Hancy is the principal boy [gender equality boosted elsewhere by the Chinese policemen, Sue Elliott and Emma Dyos, and Deborah Fisher’s Northern Wishee Washee]. He gives a lithe, effortlessly engaging performance, with excellent timing and an impressive talent for song and dance.

Twankey is Steve Critchell, a little bit cheeky at times, interacting confidently with the audience, picking on Steve in row E, giving his all in gold lamé for the Shirley Bassey number. Robert Brett’s Emperor has possibly the best costume, though Aladdin runs him a close second, especially in the second act. The two Genies, Ring and Lamp, are spectacularly done by Olga Rogers and Juliet Ware.

Have-a-Banana and Aladdin lost the light and the words outside the cave, and rest of Act One was gamely played out in the beam of just one lantern. And the appearance of the genies – blinders, blackout and smoke – should have been slicker. Some static dialogue, but for the most part a lively, sharp pantomime, with laundry routine – a shrinking Panda and an old-fashioned mangle – and the ghost routine – Anne Horemans’ Mummy with a disconcertingly unconventional ending – all heartily appreciated by the audience, particularly the enthusiastic Rainbows in the front rows.

And after the walk-down for the weddings, a heartfelt “Happy Chinese New Year!” to send us back from Peking to Ingatestone.
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