The moment you pass under the enormous smoking genie’s lamp at the Empire’s entrance, you know something special is coming. With a superb, confident cast clearly enjoying themselves, lavish sets and a sprightly live band, Susie McKenna’s show succeeds in nearly every respect.
Clive Rowe’s Widow Twanky steals the show – his outrageously costumed dame is cheekily camp and he plays the audience expertly. As Aladdin, Nikki Stokes is hammy to the hilt, a dubious quality that works happily in this context but her voice is excellent, often carrying other cast members in the numerous singing interludes.
Kat B’s natural charisma makes his acrobatic Wishee Washee a winner with the kids, while Tameka Empson’s narky, streetwise Genie of the Ring single-handedly provides the best comic moments of the night. Tony Timberlake’s hackneyed, and indeed ‘Hackney-ed’, Abanazer works the boos with a suitably dastardly flourish of his cape.
Stand-out moments include Frank Thompson’s excellently choreographed dance and fight scenes, while the costumes by Lotte Collett and big-budget sets are superb – most memorably the flying carpet and creepy cave scenes.
Jam-packed with cheesy local references, risque humour for the adults and slapstick comedy routines for the kids, this is a show that blends the best from panto tradition with well chosen modern songs. A quality production.
Hackney Empire, London, December 3-January 8
- Susie McKenna
- Hackney Empire, Tell-Tale Productions
- Cast includes
- Clive Rowe, Eva Alexander, Tameka Empson, Kat B, Nikki Stokes, Tony Timberlake
- Running time
- 2hrs 30mins