Review: Aladdin: A Wish Come True (O2 Arena)

When you take a trip to London’s famous O2 Arena, it is not every day you would see a mechanical baby Elephant, a flamboyant Christmas dame and a rather impressive flying carpet. But that has all changed this festive season with it being the home to the pantomime Aladdin: A Wish Come True in a pop-up 1900 seat theatre.

We wish we could say that the experience at the O2 is a pleasant one, but the seating is extremely cramped and the heating is certainly lacking, but with all that being said the show does allow you to forget about all that, just about.

The show opens with a funeral, how very unfestive I hear you say. But the newly Widowed Lily Twanky and son Aladdin are banished to Old Peking, where she sets up a delightful appearing laundrette. The set is something to be admired, as is the large orchestra in the far right corner. The same can’t really be said for the poor plot and the musical numbers. Although there are some classic showstoppers, Chicago’s ‘When Your Good To Mama’ and P!nk’s ‘Get The Party Started’ are both enthused with energy and Christmas cheer. Yet, original numbers are far too cringeworthy and lacklustre, even for a pantomime. The standard audience participation is present for the children and families, even if Twanky mentions “slapping it out” of the chilly audience. The show isn’t just for families either. The jokes do have innuendos that only the dirty minded would appreciate, particularly one towards the end involving ‘acute angina’! However the closing number, Take That’s ‘Shine’, really disappoints as a finale with it simply not working and failing to create any energy or excitement.

Lily Savage as Widow Twankey and Jon Lee as Aladdin. Credit – Alastair Muir.

The cast as a whole is quite strong. The choreography is on the majority extremely remarkable and the ensemble vocals fill the pop up theatre. Issy Van Randwyck is a comical Slave Of The Ring with a powerful voice, and Jon Lee, of S Club 7 fame, surprises with an extremely impressive, if quite musical theatre vocal performance, although with the script his acting fails to light up. Matthew Rixon and, in particular, Andy Spiegel as PC Ping and Pong make a delightful comical pairing, bringing energy and hilarity to every scene, look out for the ‘laundry delivery’ scene – hilarious! Sadly, Marissa Dunlop is a disappointing Princess Jasmine, with a dull and un-magical performance.

But the real scene stealer is, of course, the headline act, Miss Lily Savage. Everything about Widow Lily Twanky is perfection from the big, flamboyant numbers to the sharp, confident and comic attitude. There are many times in which she also interacts with the audience, to which a poor audience member named Pauline received the most abuse, in particular her “cheap looking neck tattoo”. The laughs come thick and fast when Savage is on stage, to which even the other cast members can’t quite contain themselves with her quick wit.

The show has enough there to make it watchable and enjoyable, besides the lacking script, bad songs and occasional limiting character depth. The festive spirit is certainly raised at Aladdin, and the whole experience is one that should be carried out. It may not be the best panto around but to see Miss Lily Savage in action should be just about enough incentive to take the trip to the O2.

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