REVIEW: Aladdin at Simonside Community Centre
Local Panto Granted Wish of an Enjoyable Family-Friendly Panto
Simonside Community Centre in Westerhope. Newcastle
Thursday 6th - Sunday 23rd December 2018
In his 3rd review of the 2018/19 Pantomime season, Nova Radio North East’s Robert Wilson Baker visits Simonside Community Centre in Newbiggin Hall to review Mendes Management’s production of ‘Aladdin’
A snowy winter’s night in December is the stereotypical ingredient for a magical panto experience and as this pantomime unfolded, the weather gods unleashed a thin layer of snow to highlight the occasion. Inside, this was my first experience of a Mendes Management Pantomime. After their success of last year’s run at the NE6, they have transformed Simonside Community Centre into a bespoke mini-theatre to perform their latest production ‘Aladdin’,
The plot of this production stays quite close to the traditional Pantomime story. We first meet Abanazar (Michael Geddes) who seeks a lamp to gain world domination. Armed with the Slave of the Ring (Janine Leigh) and the knowledge of the only boy who can help him retrieve it, they venture to Old Peking to meet our hero Aladdin (Luke Maddison), his mother Widow Twankey (Steven Stobbs) and brother Wishee Washee (Craig Richardson). The story takes place on the 18th birthday of Princess Jade Blossom (Lucy Marie Curry), who is allowed to leave the palace for the first and longs to find someone who will treat her normally. She is escorted by 2 policemen (Janine Leigh and Jayne Mackenzie) under strict instruction to not allow anyone to make eye contact with her or face punishment. However, temptation leads Aladdin to look at the princess and they instantly fall in love.
Following a police chase and a full royal pardon, Aladdin is found by Abanazar and agrees to help him find the lamp, leading to the typical cave entrapment and wish granting scene from the Genie (Jayne Mackenzie) and her mini Genies (CM School of Dance). The rest of the story follows a typical path, Aladdin becoming rich and winning the princess’ affections, Abanazar gaining the lamp’s power transporting everyone in to the depths of the desert but most importantly, a happy ending (how it happens I won’t spoil).
This Panto does everything that you’d expect a Panto to do: tell a magical story and deliver value entertainment through music and comedy. Dale Meeks has written a well-done script, allowing the actors to perform in the moment whilst still continually advancing the plot. Something clever I quite liked which Meeks did was play tongue and cheek with the production’s stature through a comedy sketch at the top of Act 2, proving that you can have a ‘magic carpet’ regardless of theatre size or budget.
The quality of casting is well documented on stage. Luke Maddison steals the show as Aladdin, easily displaying the lovable rouge with a cheeky smile persona whilst delivering top quality vocals. Equally, Lucy Marie Curry delivers impressive vocal talents, showcasing tight harmonies and good chemistry with Maddison.
Elsewhere Michael Geddes provides a solidly assure and camp Abanazar, not too scary for younger audiences but evil enough to be disliked. Janine Leigh and Jayne Mackenzie work extra hard doubling as the two mystic characters but shine as the comedy policeman duo with their patter and comic timing.
Craig Richardson is an outstanding comic, who is bang on the money with his stage and comedic presence. He also brings a sense of play to his performance which makes grown men laugh, especially with his “whoppsies” in the slop scene and audience rapport in the take-off scene. Equally, Steven Stobbs is a delightful as Widow Twankey providing good vocals, rapport with the audience and physicality, creating a likeable character.
The music was overall well executed and performed well, with a wide variety of older music as well a current hits from the Greatest Showman and Baby Shark (which I was happy when it wasn’t performed in a community song setting!). Kudos must be given to Maddison and Curry, who each pull off at least half a dozen numbers per show with ease.
The production values, despite being a small production, were outstanding. Whilst there was no set, The LED star cloth backdrop and portals helped create the appropriate atmosphere during scenes, aided by well mapped scenic projections. The costumes were equally well designed and could rival any high budget show.
With tickets already on sale from next year’s Pantomime Cinderella, in the new location of the North Shields venue ‘The Exchange’, Mendez Management have provided a tradition family Panto that caters for all the family without breaking the bank or compromising on theatrical values.
Review: Robert Wilson Baker
Aladdin will run at the Simonside Community Centre in Westerhope. Newcastle NE5 4LQ from the 6th - 23rd December 2018
Tickets for Aladdin are available from the box office on 07766 335055 or https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/mendesmanagement