Talented teenagers are once again showing how it’s done.
Yes, Berzerk’s Christmas production is a masterclass in festive shows: a sumptuous set, fantastic lighting, gorgeous costumes, great sound and brilliant direction. They’re all here, but they’re nothing without a fabulous cast.
That’s exactly what you’ve got with the youth theatre’s Christmas production of Disney’s Aladdin.
The Oakwood Centre has been cleverly transformed into Agrabah, the city of enchantment, in this magical tale that includes songs from the 1992 Disney film including Friend Like Me, Prince Ali and Arabian Nights.
If you’ve been to the Oakwood Centre, you’ll know the stage is quite small so squeezing in a three-tier set complete with a flying carpet, magic cave and a palace is a challenge. Add in more than 30 young actors and you’ve got a tight squeeze.
But each of the cast, particularly the townspeople, hit their marks every time. Those complicated all-singing, all-dancing numbers are met with aplomb and not even an over enthusiastic palm tree can stop these teenagers from bringing Agrabah alive.
The play, in case you’ve never seen the film, concerns a street kid called Aladdin (Alfie Bamford) and Princess Jasmine (Millie Broder). A chance meeting in the marketplace is love at first sight, but how can they cross the class divide and live happy ever after?
Thankfully, the answer is down to the evil Jafar (James Woolaghan) who wants to marry Jasmine and oust her father, the Sultan (Ashton Kemp). With the help of his guard Razoul (Travis Whitelock) he arrests Aladdin and sends him to rescue a lamp from a cave in the desert. But the lamp is more than just a light: it is prison to the Genie (Kara Jehan). A battle ensues to prevent Jafar from winning the throne and ensuring Aladdin and Jasmine can marry.
It’s a wonderful tale and, thanks to Disney’s staging, condensed into a fast-paced, action-packed hour of theatre. It’s a challenge for any actor, even more so for Berzerk’s young cast.
However, they rise to it, presenting a superb show for all ages to enjoy.
As always, everyone on stage has a role, even if they are in the chorus. They all shine and they all look as if they want to be there. Credit must go to director Scott Jenkins and his team Sherridan Povey and Charlie Greenaway for encouraging the young talent to shine so much.
Robyn Ayers plays Iago, Jafar’s pet pesky parrot. The bird is a puppet, but she mimics its every move, creating a convincing depiction of a scheming helper to Jafar.
Woolaghan’s Jafar knows when to chew scenery and when to hold on, making a convincing baddie. His role is aided by the stunning make-up he and the Sultan (Kemp) receive.
Millie Broder presents a perfectly innocent and wide-eyed Jasmine, selling the love story with Aladdin so well, particularly during their stunning duet on the magic carpet.
Kara Jehan’s Genie is fantastic. Of all the role from the cartoon film to step into, this is the hardest. How do you take on Robin Williams’ tremendous energy? She brings her own wit and ensures her stage presence is always lively and, crucially, unpredictable.
It is Alfie Bamford as Aladdin that delivers the standout role. In a production like this, where everyone gives their all, it seems unfair to pinpoint anyone, but Bamford has such stage presence and a superb voice. His Aladdin is caring and kind, while also feisty and funny.
Packed with laughs, action and big musical numbers, the hour flies by and leaves you wanting for more.
Bravo Berzerk, bravo.
Aladdin is performed at The Oakwood Centre from Thursday, December 17 to Sunday, December 20.
There’s no rest for the team: on Sunday, January 3, the group is holding open auditions for its next play. In the spring it will perform the National Theatre Connections 2015 project, Citizenship.
It takes place at St Edwards School from 12.45pm and any teenager aged 14 upwards can try for a part. There is a £3 audition fee, payable on the day.
For more details, click here.
Picture: (C) Berzerk Productions