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Aladdin

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    If anyone invents a gold standard for pantomime, this show would get close to reaching it. It's not just the dazzling bling of lavish sets and exquisite costuming. Everything in Eric Potts' script shines like an Aladdin's lamp: the love theme, strong characters, good triumphing over bad and the swapping of old panto jokes for new - or at least polishing them to appear new.

    Jane Joseph's production zips along, with exhilarating production numbers lighting up the Empire's large stage - including a blazing Step in Time from Mary Poppins and a joyous version of Pharrell Williams' Happy surely now the national anthem of pantomime.

    Naturally, there's an umbilical link to Liverpool - most of the principals are Merseysiders, who make so many local references that outsiders probably need to take a degree in Scouseology beforehand.

    Setting the happiness level for the entire show, Ray Quinn is on top song and dance form as Aladdin, a born entertainer in complete control of the audience. And well-executed comedy generates explosions of laughter, with Claire Sweeney's genial Genie of the Ring injecting cheeky one-liners and Roy Brandon's excellent Widow Twankey adding dashes of sauce.

    The show has struck extra comic gold with newcomer Ben Engelen - a natural comedian who plays Wishee Washee as a big, lovable, Liverpudlian lummox.

    • Empire Theatre, Liverpool
    • December 12-February 4, PN December 16
    • Author: Eric Potts
    • Director: Jane Joseph
    • Design: David Howe lighting, Orbital Sound Ltd sound
    • Musical director: Andrew Hilton
    • Choreographer: Beverley Norris-Edmunds
    • Technical: Richard Llewelyn company stage manager, Graeme Reid deputy stage manager, Laura Guthrie wardrobe mistress
    • Cast includes: Roy Brandon, Adam Curtis, Leanne Campbell, Pete Price, Ray Quinn, Joe Speare, Claire Sweeney
    • Producer: First Family Entertainment
    • Running time: 2hrs 20mins
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