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Aladdin review at Manchester Opera House – ‘big laughs’

Ben Adams in Aladdin at Manchester Opera House. Photo: Phil Tragen
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Apart from big sets, big production numbers and the dame’s big bottom, there’s one other thing that always sticks out in these lavish First Family Entertainment shows – they get the audience buzzing with excitement ages before the curtain rises.

So when John Thomson’s darkly urbane Abanazer arrives claiming to be the world’s greatest sorcerer, the kids are already primed for mass booing. And once Ben Adams’ cool Aladdin launches into a bouncy Can’t Stop The Feeling and Neil Henry’s Wishee Washee magics a live dove from nowhere, everyone is happy to be led anywhere in Old Peking.

Yet despite a thoroughly engaging plot mixing the usual Chinese laundry capers and lamp-rubbing with the usual local references and chronic jokes, a flattish first act just about manages to keep everyone on course, with Eric Potts’ roly-poly Widow Twankey providing a solid comedy anchor.

A faster, fun-packed Act II is a different story. Sherrie Hewson’s scatty blonde Genie of the Ring gets more involved, and the spectacle takes off when Aladdin soars on his magic carpet followed by Potts reaching the heights of hilarity in a balloon ballet that has nothing to do with the poor-boy-makes-good adventure and everything to do with fine art of raising big laughs.

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Verdict
Though it takes a while to warm up this lavish pantomime soon rises to the occasion
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