REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2019

 

There is barely time to draw breath when watching Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre. This year’s pantomime leaves you gasping for air between the laughs and gasping in awe at the spectacular flying carpet.

Spare a thought, then, for motormouth comedian Joe Pasquale, whose role as Wishee Washee must leave him puffed out and parched by the interval. Talking a mile a minute, he bounds about the stage with a twinkle in his eye while getting up to mischief with props, his cast mates and audience members. His energetic sense of fun is truly infectious, and he has the entire auditorium creased up.

As a co-director and contributing writer, Joe seems to have had carte blanche to do his own thing in Aladdin and he does it extremely well. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be Aladdin without the earnest, impoverished lad who falls for an exotic princess; is conned by the evil Abanazar; wanders into the Cave of Wonders and releases the Genie from a magic lamp.

Lee Mead (best known for winning the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do and playing Ben “Lofty” Chiltern in the BBC’s Casualty and Holby City) is a class act as Aladdin. He has natural charm and a powerful voice. He pulls off the puns and enthusiastically throws himself into slapstick scenes with Joe. He really is everything you could wish for from a panto hero.

 

Aladdin at Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2019. Joe Pasquale as Wishee Washee and Lee Mead as Aladdin.

 

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REVIEW: ‘Robin Hood’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2018

 

‘Tis the season to be silly and this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre is a cheerfully chaotic take on the famous British legend Robin Hood.

In time-honoured panto tradition, the action-packed show features colourful costumes and sets, reworked pop songs, men dressed (barely!) as women, slapstick comedy and jokes that push the boundaries of innuendo.

Furthermore, in a more forward-thinking fashion to complement the old-school theatrical magic, Qdos Entertainment also incorporates an innovative 3D cinema interlude and uses thrilling technology to add a life-sized dinosaur to the mix. Madness? Yes, but this is pantomime so anything can happen!

 

Robin Hood pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2018

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REVIEW: ‘Cinderella’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2017

 

Panto can be predictable but there are some unexpected highlights in the gloriously excessive production of Cinderella at Milton Keynes Theatre.

Pitched as “The Fairy Godmother of all Pantomimes” this extravaganza certainly conjures up enough seasonal silliness and sparkly spectacle to entertain theatregoers of all ages.

The rags to riches tale of downtrodden Cinders and her life-changing visit to Prince Charming’s Royal Ball is being brought to the stage with no expense spared this time around. The big budget is unmistakably evident in the amazing assortment of sets, props, costumes, special effects and cameo appearances on display amidst the conventional chaos of panto.

 

Pantomime stars Gok Wan, Lauren Hall and Brian Conley in Cinderella, Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2017

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REVIEW: ‘Dick Whittington’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, Christmas 2016

 

The title character in this year’s pantomime at Milton Keynes Theatre walks for miles in search of fame and fortune, strolling to London where he has been told the streets are paved with gold. Fortunately for theatregoers in the new city, Dick Whittington provides panto gold right on our doorstep! Melding magic, merriment and mayhem, the festive extravaganza is packed full of fun and stars a Christmas cracker of a cast.

Penniless Dick is played with warmth and wit (certainly more wit than is often granted to these boyish roles in panto) by actor Chris Jenkins. After packing his knapsack and lacing up his boots, this earnest chap ventures off towards the big smoke (striding “all the way from Cheltenham”), accompanied by his feline friend Tommy the Cat. When the duo finally arrive in the confusing city of Cockney conversation, they are disappointed not to be welcomed by golden paving stones. Completely famished and ready to earn an honest living, they discover that their promised land is overrun with villainous rats. Happily, they land on their feet (“miaow!”) when Tommy proves himself to be a top-notch rat-catcher and secures them both jobs in merchant Alderman Fitzwarren’s shop, Fitzwarren’s Stores.

Kev Orkian is panto personified as the shop’s assistant Idle Jack (swiftly promoted by Alderman to “assistant shop assistant” when Master Whittington appears on the scene!). Returning to the stage in what has become his regular Yuletide gig, Orkian easily proves why he is without question one of the UK’s finest entertainers. As an internationally acclaimed comedy pianist he is well-practised at simultaneously tinkling the ivories and tickling funny bones. With no piano in Dick Whittington (all the fantastic music is overseen by “Uncle Baz”, musical director Barry Robinson), Orkian is free to roam around the stage and has the audience in stitches throughout.

 

Milton Keynes Theatre pantomime Christmas 2016. Dick Whittington. Kev Orkian as Idle Jack, Tommy the cat and Chris Jenkins as Dick Whittington.

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REVIEW: ‘Aladdin’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, December 2015

 

Gags, giggles and glitz galore ensure that Milton Keynes Theatre’s fantastical take on Aladdin is full of festive family fun.

The genie-ously cast pantomime stars singer-songwriter Ben Adams as the love-struck lad from Old Peking, entertainer Kev Orkian as his ridiculously funny brother Wishee Washee and showbiz stalwart Gary Wilmot as their panto dame mother Widow Twankey. Ballet dancer turned celebrity Wayne Sleep and American actress (and, yes, former wife of cultural icon Elvis Presley) Priscilla Presley make wishes come true as the Genie of the Ring and the Genie of the Lamp, respectively.

Complete with spectacular singing, enthusiastic dancing, stacks of silliness and more audience participation than ever before, Aladdin proves once again that the theatre is a place for everyone. In panto anything goes, and this show has all sorts of entertaining eccentricities!

 

Milton Keynes Theatre presents Aladdin with Priscilla Presley Gary Wilmot Ben Adams Wayne Sleep Kev Orkian Mark Pickering Aimie Atkinson and Phil Holden

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