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ALADDIN (article first published : 2007-11-28)

The extremely talented duo of Steven Stead and Greg King of KickstArt in association with the Playhouse Company, continue their recent tradition of presenting a splendid holiday season pantomime suitable for all ages, having produced Cinderella, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Sleeping Beauty over the past three years.

The current production doesn't disappoint and brings new delights. As one has come to expect from this duo, the sets, designed by Greg King, are astounding and the new script adapted and written by Steven Stead, who also directed the production with his usual flair, has some nice twists although it sticks in essence to the well-known story. There are the - de rigueur for pantomime - classic jokes, sing-a-longs, popular songs - and many new ones written by Steven Stead - messy slosh scenes, mercifully short and clever rather than the usual slapstick (well done, Steven Stead), all to keep the children delighted and the accompanying adults thoroughly entertained and even mesmerised.

Carol Trench is an ebullient Aladdin with a wonderful singing voice. The jovial Bryan Hiles continues to amaze with his energy and gives a sparkle to Wishee Washee, the inept employee in Widow Twankey's laundry. The Widow is the Dame in the pantomime, of course, and who better to fill the role than the (not so) old stalwart Peter Court? Darren King is a suitably malevolent Abanazar, the Grand Vizier of China. These two almost steal the show being so deliciously larger than life. Not to be overshadowed by these very experienced actors is a delightful performance by a fairly new actress, Ntando Cele, as the Genie of the Ring. Completing the cast are Frances Currie as Princess Jasmine and Danielle Perlman as Dar Ling, her Lady-in-Waiting.

Completing the cast is a singing and dancing chorus of Julie Grant, Josette Eales, Danielle Mann, Evashee Pillay, Sanele Mzinyane and Sibusiso Ngidi who appear as citizens of Peking, courtiers, soldiers, jewel spirits etc. and do full justice, as do the leads, to the imaginative choreography by Josette Eales. The relatively small cast achieves as much as a much larger cast would do.

The lighting, from before the curtain rises at the start, deserves special mention - well done, Dylan Heaton. Unfortunately, the sound was not as impressive, the opening by Abanazar being over-miked and the sound in general being too loud - a pity, as it was rather jarring at times. However, Musical Director Evan Roberts, who also created the backing tracks, was faultless.

Complementing the brilliant sets are the costumes which are something to behold, flamboyant, numerous, colourful and imaginative, with one surprise after another. These were designed by Peter Court as well as by Terrence Bray and Kit Reading, with additional costumes courtesy of The State Theatre, Pretoria - no expense was spared! I thought Aladdin's costume was far too feminine for the traditional female as the Principal Boy.

Expect to see a flying carpet, a five metre high Genie of the Lamp which talks, magic tricks, a Willow Pattern Finale and a sparkling Cave of Wonders full of jewels and dragons. Children of all ages cannot help but be entranced.

Aladdin runs at the Playhouse Drama until December 30, with shows Tuesdays to Saturdays at 14h30, evening shows Fridays and Saturdays at 19h00 and Sunday performances at 15h00. Tickets R80 (R65 for children) booked through Computicket. The show deserves full houses. Maurice Kort




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