The Wokingham Paper

REVIEW: Aladdin shines at Theatre Royal Windsor

Basil Brush Aladdin
Basil Brush in Aladdin Picture: Jack Ladenburg/Theatre Royal Windsor

Theatre Royal Windsor
Until January 12, 2020
01753 853 888

Dancing elephants, a hoard of mummies and a giggling fox, this year’s panto at Windsor has it all. 

Fast-paced, funny and packed with laughter, it has audiences leaving the auditorium with massive grins on their faces. 

The show this year is Aladdin, the classic tale of Arabian Nights, forbidden love, magical lamps and one man’s greed. 

The script is written by Steven Blakeley, who also stars as Widow Twankey. It sparkles with wit, has plenty of topical gags and moves at a fair lick. There are no pacing problems: a comic routine is followed by a stunning dance. And if that isn’t your cup of tea, there’s some drama and intrigue just around the corner. 

It opens with some great comic work with Paul Nicholas’ evil, scenery-chewing Abanzar duelling not just with the beautiful Billie Hardy as the Slave of the Ring, but his Alexa. Modern technology fused with an ancient story … what could possibly go wrong? 

This neat prologue, getting everyone booing and hissing, gives way to a stunning opening number, one of several that showcases the talents of Joe Thomson-Oubari as Aladdin. A terrific voice and great stage presence, he makes a truly believable street urchin. 

Steven Blakely and Kevin Cruise in action Picture: Jack Ladenburg/Theatre Royal Windsor

Kevin Cruise is back for his 10th Windsor panto and stars as Wishee-Washee. Hilarious and entertaining he has the audience eating out of his hand while dishing out sweets, holding an impromptu pool party and generally keeping the action going. 

His Dirty Dancing routine with Steven Blakeley (also returning) brings the house down – it is hysterical. 

Less successful is their 12 Days of Christmas, which is either very well organised chaos or just simply chaos. That’s being churlish: the audience were having a real beezer of a time throughout and my junior reviewer named it as his highlight of the show. 

Blakeley is terrific, and forms a formidable act with Cruise. In some ways a restrained dame, it is his dialogue and sublime dresses that are over the top, rather than his acting, proving that you don’t need to over-exaggerate or have an edge to get belly laugh after belly laugh. 

Marti Webb as Empress Huawaei Picture: Jack Ladenburg/Theatre Royal Windsor

Marti Webb as the Empress Huawai has stunning stage presence and an amazing voice, it is a pleasure to watch her graceful movements. 

Aladdin Windsor
Joe Thompson-Oubari and Rhiannon Bacchus in Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Windsor Picture: Jack Ladenburg/Theatre Royal Windsor

Making her panto debut is Rhiannon Bacchus as Princess Jasmine. Her expressive face lights up the auditorium far more than many hands ever could. Working deftly with Thomson-Oubari, they totally sell the romance and have a look of love. Her voice is beautiful. One to watch. 

Duane Gooden is the Genie of the Lamp and sparkles from his beard downwards. He has star quality and plenty of glitter. 

Completing the main cast is Basil Brush, as the Royal Bodyguard and General Foxbury. Let no one be in any doubt, he is showbiz royalty. From his Elton John-inspired debut through to his role in helping defeat Abanazar, he sparkles, shines, jokes and boom booms his way through every line of dialogue. This is one fox who knows how to work the room. 

Paul Nicholas
Paul Nicholas as Abanazar in Aladdin Picture: Jack Ladenburg/Theatre Royal Windsor

The show itself is a rollickingly good night out. The gags are funny. The dancing sublime and the action never sags. 

If one wanted to be curmudgeonly, some of the big action scenes feel slight: the denouement of Abazanazar felt slight rather than a big climax, and the messy slosh scene was light on slosh and mess, but these are quibbles in what is witty show. 

Let there be no doubt: this is a terrific evening of entertainment that shines from the opening moments, never lets up for a second and wows and delights all ages. The perfect Christmas treat and a truly brilliant night out for all the family.

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