REVIEW: Wayne Sleep shines on stage in Aladdin, the Cambridge Arts Theatre’s best pantomime to date

PUBLISHED: 09:49 05 December 2018

Wayne Sleep plays Abanazer

Wayne Sleep plays Abanazer

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If you only see one pantomime this year make it Aladdin at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

Matt Crosby plays Widow Twankey at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH.Matt Crosby plays Widow Twankey at the Cambridge Arts Theatre. Picture: RICHARD HUBERT SMITH.

Combining the modern with the traditional, this delightful reimagining of the classic fairytale story is an all-singing all-dancing laugh-out-loud production.

Full of hilarious one-liners, lovable characters, eye-popping innovative costumes, vibrant set designs and a truly magical 3D-like carpet ride, it’s the perfect festive treat for all the family.

While there’s plenty of the traditional slapstick humour that everyone expects from a pantomime - corny one liners, oh no he didn’t’s and constant slipping over in the laundry room - it’s the distinctly 2018 touches that really make this year’s performance stand out.

The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.

Incorporating popular culture from throughout the year: within the first 30 minutes we’ve already been encouraged to sing and do the hand actions for Baby Shark every time Wishy Washy (played brilliantly by Max Fulham, who also shows his talent as a ventriloquist) arrives onstage with his best - and only - friend Gordon the monkey.

Musically, it’s spot on: there’s songs from everyone’s favourite movie musical The Greatest Showman, Widow Twankey doing the laundry to ABBA’s pop classic Dancing Queen and Aladdin falling in love with the Princess to the soundtrack of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe...

And that’s before mentioning the brilliant cast: let’s start with Wayne Sleep, who it seems was born to play a panto villain. He shines as the evil yet charming Abanazer, wearing a glittery floating black cape and with his face painted white, he immediately looks the part. Delivering his lines vindictively yet never taking himself too seriously the professional ballet dancer really is a delight to watch - especially as he taps his way across the stage.

The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.

Returning in the role of the panto dame, Matt Crosby has it down to an art: from the incredible outfits (the flower pot is our favourite) to his flirtatious portrayal, Widow Twankey gets the most laughs.

Former X Factor star Andy Abraham is great as the eccentric genie in the lamp, too; singing several solo numbers and making reference to his former life; “why does everyone want to be rich, not a bin man?” he asks at one point with knowing wink.

Holly Easterbrook, who is no stranger to leading roles having played Jack in the Jack and the Beanstalk last year and Dick in Dick Whittington the year before, returns in the title role of Aladdin - once again showcasing her impeccable vocal talent and impressive acting, it’s no surprise she’s back at the venue again.

The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.The cast of Aladdin, which is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6.

Liza Goddard (The Empress), Suzie Mathers (The Princess) and Rosalind James (Aura, Spirit of the Ring) complete the main cast, each delivering great performances.

The choreography is just as impressive; even the youngest cast members never put a foot out of place. An, as ever, the jokes are on the money: whether the cast is poking fun at punting, Brexit or Cambridge itself, the send ups are well timed and expertly delivered.

Even the little missteps here and there felt as if they were a part of the show; adding more humour to each scene. And the crowd really got involved throughout, making sure the gala night performance was full of fun and interaction.

Max Fulham as Wishy WashyMax Fulham as Wishy Washy

The Cambridge Arts Theatre has once again outdone itself: this year’s pantomime really is the best we’ve seen.

Aladdin is at the Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday January 6. For performance dates and tickets visit www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/whats-on/aladdin

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