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    A spirit of celebration pervades the press night of Aladdin, with a special presentation marking 25 years of unbroken appearances by Belfast’s favourite dame May McFettridge.

    It concludes an evening which scores high marks for visual spectacle and special effects but which is dispiritingly thin in narrative content.

    Here and there are glimpses of the timeless tale of a magic lamp, a genie, a poor boy and his washerwoman mother in old Peking. But filling the gaps is a big variety show, featuring a ventriloquist, an elephant, a couple of singing pandas and a hideous giant ape.

    Mark Doughertyâ??s score, played live, fairly rattles along, comprising an assortment of pop anthems and original songs. Gasps of wonder are elicited at Aladdinâ??s Aaron Hayes Rogers magic carpet ride, soaring out over the audience. As usual, McFettridge singles out individual audience members for gleeful verbal abuse, while she and her old sparring partner Paddy Jenkins combine toilet humour patter with ad hoc larking as Widow Twankey and her paramour Emperor Paddy Fields.

    Earl Carpenter stamps strong vocal ownership on the role of Abanazar, crafting a pleasing moral dual with Faye Tozer’s Scheherazade. There is catchy music, a romantic ending and everyone goes home happy.

    • Grand Opera House, Belfast
    • November 29-January 18, PN December 2
    • Author: Alan McHugh
    • Director: Jonathan Kiley
    • Design: Mark Clutterham lighting, Nick Sagar sound
    • Musical director: Mark Dougherty
    • Technical: Matt Jones production, The Twins FX visual special effects, Ciaran O’Grady fight director, Paul Johnson company stage manager
    • Cast includes: May McFettridge, Faye Tozer, Jimmy Tamley, Jayne Wisener, Earl Carpenter, Paddy Jenkins, Aaron Hayes Rogers
    • Producer: Qdos Entertainment
    • Running time: 2hrs 30mins

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