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Tags: Liverpool_Theatre, Aladdin, Adam_Keast, Francis_Tucker, Sarah_OHara, Sara

Review: Aladdin - It's Raining Zen!

(c) Topher McGrillis

I must admit that I truly love pantomimes. Yes at times they may be cheesy, you might not always want to laugh at those one liners (I try to resist and fail miserably) but almost certainly they are a fantastic night out. An original Liverpool Everyman Playhouse production, this brilliantly barmy show was what pantomimes are all about - fun.


Everyone knows the story of Aladdin - Boy finds lamp, Genie grants wishes and everyone lives happily ever after. Wasthis production just a simple retelling? Well...no. There’s Aladdin and the Princess plus an evil sorcerer but the rest is a different story entirely - and I loved it. Like a cross between the Mighty Boosh and Morecambe and Wise with a little dash of disco magic and rock stardom, Aladdin: It’s Raining Zen is no panto you have ever witnessed...in a good way.

When the evil Scarabmanga and villainous Empress Morgana Beezlebub try to get hold of the magic lamp, their attempts are thwarted by the mysterious blue ninja. Low and behold however; poor Aladdin is framed for taking the lamp away from them and only he can try to retrieve it to prove his innocence. Along with his mother’s old flame Monty, and the help of characters including Candy and Gene the Genie, they go on a wild ride underwater, over land and into the depths of the world.

Ah yes, Monty. Played by the exceedingly fabulous Adam Keast, Monty is quite literally one of the funniest characters ever to have graced a Playhouse Panto. Every moment onstage was an absolute pocket of theatre gold; bounds of energy and a remarkable voice that hit every note with ease and precision. Hats off to Adam for his hilarious one scene change from Gene the Genie back to Monty, which only goes to cement his performance as one of the pantomime greats.

Of course you cannot mention Monty without talking about Lottie Longbottom. For anyone who has seen the show already, you’ll be silently singing a particular melody whenever you hear the name Longbottom! If you haven’t seen it yet then you have a sing-along treat in store. Francis Tucker’s Dame can be compared to Rising Damp’s Rigsby (something of which on the night was played up to, with amusing results!), with fabulous Python-esque characterisations, particularly when reminiscing on lost love Monty. His on-stage chemistry with Adam is evident in the quick back and forth banter between the two, which during the show even made the two giggle just as much as the audience. To see the cast have fun made the show even more enjoyable and I really didn’t want the ride to end!
(c) Topher McGrillis
Apart from the humour and the characters, what really made this panto different was the multi-talents of this extraordinary cast. Instead of singing to pre-recorded backing tracks the cast showed their musical prowess by accompanying each song with a live onstage band. Visible throughout the show, their Commitments style rock ‘n’ roll had my feet tapping, my body grooving and my hands clapping - it was like one big panto party. You never know - the next rock ‘n’ roll panto star could have been in the audience, inspired and eager to pick up an instrument themselves…

So what music did the show entice us with? Cleverly working through decades of music that would appeal to young and old, there was just about everything - Queen, Blondie, Olly Murs, the classic ‘Come fly with me’ and a beautifully harmonised ‘Mr Sandman’. It was an absolute thrill to hear the magnificent ‘Forbidden Colours’ theme from Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, one of my favourite pieces of music that I have rarely ever heard in panto. It was like my own wish had been granted when the theme graced the auditorium. One of the true stars of the musical numbers however was the encapsulating Marianne Benedict, whose powerhouse voice blew me away with every belt. Deviously good as Morgana Beezlebub and a phenomenal performer she is definitely what singers are made of - stage presence, soul and an enigmatic personality.

There are only three words to sum up this panto - magnificent, hilarious and unique. Full of songs and dance numbers to get you involved (we were absolutely loving the audience participation!), the show is a non-stop magical carpet ride from start to finish. It’s so good that I cannot wait to see what this year’s pantomime will be! Now where’s my magic carpet...
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    Sarah's posts By Sarah O' Hara
    @TheLowdownMag


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