January 21st, 2008

Fishy Circumstances

Aladdin

geesepalace and I have together seen four pantos in London. The first three were when I was 10. The fourth was last year, in Stratford. They were all mediocre at best, boring at worst. None were particularly funny. We have seen one good panto though: it was in York. On the basis of this exhaustive research comparison, he concluded that all the good pantomimes are in the counties. London is not the place to see them.

This weekend, with tickets bought sometime back in June or July, C. and I went to Birmingham to see Aladdin, starring - among other people - John Barrowman. And geesepalace was right. We leave London and the pantos are terrific. This one was the best I've ever seen. It was comedic, it was participatory, it was really funny, it was full of local and national references and insults, and it was full of perky-fun music, only some of which needed to be adapted to suit the occasion. It was a little heavy on Disney Aladdin songs, but those were leavened with "You can't stop the Beat" (Hairspray), a Cher number, and other numbers I'm forgetting for the moment.

Oh, and parts of it were in 3D! With 3D glasses awaiting us on every seat! It wasn't overused, but it was used enough to be satisfying, like everything else in this production. I wasn't terribly excited at having a 3D genie, but the effects worked well for a waterfall and the cave itself, plus the first part of the travel sequence in the second act. The dame was well-acted, the villain was superb, the backup dancers were eye candy, and the incomprehensible emperor was quite funny.* There was a first act finale whose choreography was out of Wicked, there were umbrellas shaped like cocktail umbrellas, there were lots of costume changes. (My only costuming objection: Aladdin's initial Tudor outfit looked really out of place amongst the faux Chinese and entirely modern outfits.) The Grumbleweeds, a comedy duo, played the Chinese policemen, in an effective series of impersonations/disguises.

There was, however, no principle boy. (stonecircle thinks they're dying out, although dames survive.) Instead, we had a Barrowman who was enjoying himself immensely on stage. (Near the very end, he got the giggles and forgot his lines. That was funny too.) Most people I know know him from Dr. Who and Torchwood. I mostly know him from Any Dream Will Do. Aladdin was rich with references to all three shows, but to Dr. Who in particular. It was, as they advertised, the first panto to include daleks. Three daleks. Daleks complete with Dr. Who background music.

It's on for another week. Who knows? Perhaps there are a few tickets left.

* Except for how intensively ironic it was that he sang "Nessun dorma" in the process of marrying off his daughter.