Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Aladdin with Lily Savage

FOR organisers, housing panto Aladdin in a pop-up tent within the O2 in Greenwich must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

However, with tip up plastic chairs on gantry style seating, a severe chill running through said tent and one bar to serve all 1,900 audience members this supposedly good idea must have vanished as quickly as Aladdin's genie appeared from his bottle.

Fortunately, the show has Lily Savage as its star attraction to warm things up and from the moment Paul O'Grady's alter ego came on stage, was greeted by a cheer as loud as the concert playing in the nearby O2 arena.

The story is a familiar one. Lily Twanky's husband has died leaving her nothing more than a launderette in old Peking. To his brother he's left a ring. Lily heads off to Peking with her son Aladdin in tow and it's here he meets the emperor's daughter, falls in love with her and tries to make the feeling mutual. Along the way he encounters the genie, gets locked in a cave and has to defeat the evil Abanazar, brilliantly played by Darren Bennett.

With lavish sets, spectacular costumes, fabulous musical performances and a big cast this was a panto which was as much about style as it was substance and the flying magic carpet was a highlight.

Lily Savage is of course the main draw and she didn't disappoint giving a hilarious mini stand up routine at one point, a few ad libs sprinkled about and an unscripted wardrobe malfunction which left her face down on the floor with her shoes in Abanazar's costume, and the rest of us and the cast crying with laughter.

However, despite all this, it felt more like a West End musical rather than a traditional panto as although most of the classic ingredients were there including a baby elephant in lieu of Dobbin, it lacked the main one for me - laugh a minute silly, saucy jokes. And at three hours it's too long for even the most un-fidgety kids.

That said, Darren Bennett along with Issy Van Randwyck as the Slave of the Ring and Jon Lee as Aladdin put in great performances and it was a real treat to see Lily in all her acidic, bitter, eye-rolling, hilarious glory.

Aladdin is on until Saturday, January 5.

Tickets from £19.50. Call the box office on 0844 856 0202.

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