Aladdin review at the Charter Theatre, Preston – ‘never really soars’
When it hits the right notes, this Aladdin is quite entertaining, but there’s plenty that’s off-key. The music is not a high point, except when we get A Whole New World and You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me borrowed straight from the Disney film.
Unfortunately, where Disney had the talents of Robin Williams, Preston has a lumbering, masked Genie of the Lamp (uncredited) who sounds like Kermit the Frog.
Carl Tracey is a pleasant enough Aladdin, with a decent singing voice. Stacey McClean (ex-S Club Juniors) as Princess Jasmine is given very little to do except smile. Paul Zenon is fun as baddie Abanazar, but the best thing – by a long way – is Jonathan Mayor’s enjoyably camp Slave of the Ring.
The biggest problem with this production is that it’s just not funny. Written by, directed by and featuring comedian Phil Walker, it feels like a missed opportunity. The story may be nominally set in China, but surely we can do better than jokes about Hung Lo, Sum Ting Wong and Yoo So Dum in 2017.
Walker as Wishee Washee, Marvyn Dickinson as PC Pong and Jeffrey Longmore as Widow Twankey all comment that their jokes are falling flat. If you can’t make an audience of primary school children laugh at a fart joke then something’s gone wrong.
Walker’s cumbersome script is almost eclipsed by Nicky Figgins’ exuberant choreography and the impressive special effects, including an actual flying carpet. The cast are working extremely hard, but this Aladdin never really soars.