Panto isn’t exactly where you’d look first for a great night out, unless under the age of 12.
Well, prepare, to be amazed. Aladdin, A Wish Come True starring Lily Savage (by kind permission of Paul O’Grady) and ex S Club Seven member Jon Lee as Aladdin – who more recently has popped up as Frankie Valli in musical hit the Jersey Boys – is the full spectrum of a night’s entertainment. There’s comedy (yes, dirty double entendres but genuinely funny ones) dancing, some belting musical numbers and oh the costumes… We almost wanted to take some of these beautiful, glittery, colourful creations home with us.
The story of Aladdin is familiar. Set in China, in old Peking (which Lily wittilily, oops wittily, likens to the O2, ‘like a massive upturned wok’) scenes zip by, as if told in a giant story book, with each new page another entrancing world of colour and interest. There’s a starry sky, a gloomy graveyard, a chaotic Chinese laundry world, a pimped out Chinese laundry when Savage comes into some money and a romantic garden with an argumentative baby elephant. Most of the scenes were handpainted, floor to ceiling in rich detail (the O2 theatre is about 20 metres high mind) which warms our hearts thinking of all the talented London artists employed.
Kids will like the bit where Aladdin floats, seemingly magically (we’re such kids ourselves it really was hard not to be fooled, where were the ropes?) in the air on his carpet. They’ll also enjoy the super soakers and the policemen’s slapstick routines (oh dear, so did we again!). But the humour is really for adults. Turning on a washing machine, rubbing the lamp, even widow Twankey’s dead husband’s name, Mustafa Twankey, were all milked for their innuendos. Savage goes off script a lot – giving Aladdin the giggles (giving us the giggles) for a full five minutes.
Only quibble here is the audience really, who could have been a touch more lively. The involvement is all part of the experience in panto.
A treasure trove found in the unlikely venue of the O2, Aladdin will brighten up any seasonally jaded or partied out soul. Take a warm jumper, the pop up theatre venue was a bit cold. Taking kids, however, is optional.
Aladdin, a Wish Come True runs until Saturday 5 January 2013 at the O2 at the Greenwich Peninsula. Performances: Tuesdays–Fridays, 7.30pm; Wednesdays at 2.00pm; Saturdays at 1.30pm & 5.30pm; Sundays at 2.00pm. Tickets: £19.50-£49.50. Box Office: 0844 856 0202.