Aladdin – The Panto

It’s a Magic Carpet Ride

The key to a good panto is to engage the kids, and give the adults plenty of laughs, too.  After all, those kids can’t drive themselves to the theatre, so the panto must also entertain mom and dad and grandma and grandpa.  Aladdin – The Panto, now on stage in St. Jacobs, and coming to Grand Bend next June, certainly does that.

The children in the audience have fits of giggles at the silly goings-on, while there are just a few slightly naughty jokes to entertain the adults.  And if it’s all done right, the naughty jokes will sail right over the kids’ heads.

There is also a short nostalgia trip thrown into the mix.  Aladdin summons a genie with a magic ring – and we hear the music of the sixties sit-com “I Dream of Jeannie”, and a Barbara Eden look-alike Jeannie appears. Also on the nostalgia trip is the 1968 Steppenwolf hit song “Magic Carpet Ride” which Aladdin and Jasmine sing while – what else? – riding the magic carpet.  Modern music is included, too:  unexpectedly, we hear Meaghan Trainor’s All About that Bass!Aladdin

Canadian panto writer Caroline Smith has written this family show with something for everyone.  She was also the author of the Snow White panto that Drayton Entertainment produced recently.  She mixes silly puns and clever rhymes for the kids with current satire for the adults.   Director/choreographer David Connolly makes the most of Smith’s witty script.

Jamie McKnight returns as the panto hero, Aladdin, a role similar to the part of the Prince that he played in the Snow White panto last summer.  McKnight has perfected understated, dead-pan humour bringing many laughs to his portrayal of Aladdin.

Favourite Drayton funny guy Keith Savage plays Aladdin’s mom, the Widow Twankey.  She runs a carpet emporium, and flirts with all her male customers.  Savage brings energy along with his comedy to this zany character.

Tim Porter (who was Chop Chop Woody in the Snow White panto) carries on the fun as Aladdin’s side kick Wishy-Washy. (His mom owns a laundromat, he tells the audience.)  The kids love calling out “Splish-Splash Wishy” each time he appears.  Porter also has the job of adlibbing with the kids he invites on stage.  Invariably they give him hilarious answers to his questions and he keeps the laughter rolling.

This panto is graced with two genies.  Lindsey Frazier is excellent as the Genie of the Ring, reminding everyone over 50 of “I Dream of Jeannie”.  She also narrates the story, filling in the plot along the way.   Stephanie Pitsiladis is hilarious as an Elvis-style Genie of the Lamp.

Marcus Nance is the handsome Sultan, singing in his rich deep voice, and Justin Bott is perfect as his evil wizard.  He gets the kids in the audience booing and hissing each time he appears, and they love to hate him. Kimberly-Ann Truong is the beautiful and sweet Jasmine befriending Wishy and charming Aladdin.

The entire ensemble excels in the song and dance numbers, and three rotating Children’s Choruses have impressive dance moves as well.

Costumes are colourful with plenty of sparkles and sequins for the Sultan and Wizard.  Widow Twankey has an impressive carpet-like dress.

Order tickets as soon as possible as this family entertainment will sell out quickly.  Round up the neighbourhood kids and have some fun.

Aladdin – The Panto continues with eight shows a week until December 20 (Extended to Dec. 27) at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Tickets are available by calling the Box Office Toll Free 1-855-372-9866, or check http://www.draytonentertainment.com/

Photo: Kimberly-Ann Truong and Jamie McKnight in Aladdin – The Panto at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse. Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri.

Aladdin – The Panto
By Caroline Smith
Directed and Choreographed by David Connolly
Musical Direction by Steve Thomas
Performed by Ashley Arnett, Justin Bott, Rachel Clark, Sam DiGiuseppe, Jason Franco, Lindsey Frazier, Jamie McKnight, Marcus Nance, Nicholas Nesbitt, Stephanie Pitsiladis, Tim Porter, Keith Savage, Kimberly-Ann Truong, Christine Watson.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
Nov.19 to Dec. 20, 2015 * Extended to December 27
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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