It’s so much of a fixture now that, if Keith Simmons didn’t do the daft gag where he stamps down an imaginary flight of stairs, there would probably be a riot at the Assembly Rooms. Ian Good (Widow Twankey) is an old favourite in Derby too, and Neil Morrissey’s popular return also contributes to the show’s cheerful, ad-libbing familiarity. This is a cast very much at ease with itself.
But it’s the villains who are outstanding in this particular Aladdin. Gareth Davies’ powerful Abanazar gets a huge response when he roars out “Let me feel your hatred,” and Paul Arden-Griffith makes an equally impressive contribution as the Emperor of China. He speaks in thrilling tones, but it’s his singing voice that stills the place. When he bursts into Nessun Dorma, the venue feels temporarily transformed into an opera house.
His presence and prominence account perhaps for the very flesh-and-blood Princess Jasmine (Vicky Hoyles), a role so often reduced to the sidelines. This Jasmine wants democracy, Ugg boots and an iPhone, and you only hope that Luke Roberts’ young and callow Aladdin is going to be a match for her.
Slick movement from the Pantomime Dancers and lively numbers, such as Colour My World and Rockin’ All Over the World, make the whole thing go with a swing. Even the old Formby chestnut, Mr Wu, sounds fresh. Simmonds writes, directs and performs in a double act with his son, Ben, and that’s really what makes it all hang together so well.
Assembly Rooms, Derby , December 8-January 9
- Keith Simmons, Ben Simmons
- Keith Simmons
- Paul Holman Associates
- Cast includes
- Neil Morrissey, Ian Good, Keith Simmons, Ben Simmons, Gareth Davies, Vicky Hoyles, Paul Arden-Griffith, Luke Roberts
- Running time
- 2hrs 45mins