GRADS Pantomime - Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp. A Rambling Review by Alicia Smith (c) 2014
Gee, what with the disappearance of the the Theatre Australia website, I don't really have anywhere to post my theatre reviews where the cast might see them. Oh well, I'll just have to find out if there's anywhere to put it besides my usual haunts.
Tonight some of us went to see GRADS production of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp, written by Stephen Quinn and directed by Stephen Lee. Produced by Arnold Wong who was bravely wearing a tshirt proclaiming "I wanna be a producer" on opening night. Mr Lee resplendent in a very fine tux. "The name's Lee. Stephen Lee."
This runs from December 6th to the 20th - go to http://grads.org.au/ to find out about matinees and evening shows. It's at the Playlover's Hackett Hall, in Draper Street in Floreat.
Tonight was opening night, and while there had been a performance earlier the cast had lost no energy. Very catchy songs, great delivery and new jokes for old - as well as some old jokes that, when given some special polish, emitted a genie's worth of laughs.
This is a very engaging pantomime! Oh yes it is! The Chung Wah Association has lent the production some lovely dancers to assist with our magical visit to Old Peking.
We also have several sets of engaging characters, who are being played by actors who are thoroughly enjoying themselves which add its own magic to a show.
Also a good mix of in (and out) jokes, but not overwhelming, and some very cute subtle humour in the background on occasion.
Some great dance numbers!
The heroic Aladdin is played by Melissa Kiiveri whose command of expression and earnest delivery gave us just the right impression of our hero. Her grace of movement a pleasure to watch.
Balroubadour the lovely princess was played by Grace Edwards and was fantastic. She gave us beautiful emotive speeches and a whole cadence of diction, movement and emotion.
Lovely singers both of them.
Abanazar the evil wizard was played by the indefatigable Grant Malcolm. Pantomime villains are hard to play - it requires incredible focus, energy and sensitivity to the audience feedback. You might laugh but scenery chewing is a fine art, and that's what Abanazer needed. You need to speak through the splinters of the set afterwards. 10 out of 10 on the hissometer.
Jarod Buttery played Widow Twankay for us on opening night and a finer Dame never there was - the right mix of earthy humour, pathos and the certain (and uncertain) gravitas the role requires. Again, a role which requires focus and energy and enjoyment which Jarod had in spades.
Wishee Washee, Aladdin's gormless brother was played by James Parker whose hilarious command of ineptitude takes a master's touch. Physical humour is hard. The pie stealing scene is one of the best I've ever seen.
Ping and Pong, a brother and sister police officers are played by Judd Millner and Jennifer van Den Hoek whose teamwork here make them an extremely entertaining watch with their good cop/bad cop antics and exceptional singing ability.
So Shi, the handmaiden was one of my favourite characters, straightforward, down to earth common sense and magnificent expression and body language - she hardly needed to say anything because you could just tell what she was thinking just by looking at her face. She was played by Lis Hoffmann.
The Grand Vizier's Jonathan Beckett had full command of pomp and ceremony - he reminded me of the Impressive Clergyman in The Princess Bride - very stately, and with some great lines which he really enlivened!
The Empress of China was played by Kerri Hilton and she was magnificent. Menacing, imperious and exuding power, she did not drop out of character for an instant.
And the wonderful genies of the lamp and the ring were played by Kate O'Sullivan, who was all singing all dancing and great fun to watch.
Add this to the chorus of "The children and people of Peking" - David Raeburn, George O'Doherty, Sharon Malcolm, Felix Malcolm, Eliza Malcolm, Blynis Best, Barie Beidatsch, Andre Beidatsch, Mercy Anthony, Julia Anthony, Rebekah Andrews, and Naomi Andrews all of whom gave us highly entertaining singing and dance numbers and a lot of amusing background incidents and you've got 2 hours and 15 minutes of non stop fun.
But wait, there's more! A glittering cave of magic - beautiful cave, wonderfully done! Topical references! Really beautiful costumes! A group of wonderful monsters that we are uncertain, even in a panto that Aladdin will escape! The monster scene was maybe my favourite bit. Very cute werewolf - but Dr Frankenstein, Dracula, the zombies and everyone else were great too. I don't have your names, but I loved you all.
Also not to forget Wendy Lui's super choreography of The Chinese Dancers danced by the Chung Wah Dance Group which was a real treat. Grace Chen, Evelyn Chew, Jen Nie Chong, Mona Fan, Valerie Lai, Wendy Liu, Agnes McKay, Gweneth Ng and Raeann Ng were lovely and having them was a great touch. It was a bit of a shame that they couldn't have had a bigger stage, because some of the dances felt a little bit cramped, I felt they could have stretched out a bit, but the stage wasn't quite big enough to be as extravagant as they could have been.
But they were lovely, and worked fantastically - all of the cast, particularly the dancers, within the limitations of the small stage.
Great set design, really cleverly composed - Stephen Lee is responsible for it and Jonathon Beckett put it together.
All of the production team must have been working so hard - aside from a trivial missed sound cue or two - which is nothing for opening night, nothing bad happened that I noticed. Lighting was tightly controlled and it was just magnificent.
Audience left energised and happy just as we'd been throughout the entire production.
My ribs are still hurting from laughing.
9/10 most enjoyable, and finding an actually funny joke and worthwhile prize in my Christmas cracker on the Sid and Nancy Scale.