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It's only rock 'n' roll...

...but we like it. Ben Patey falls for a princess and gets into the Aladdin panto spirit at the Everyman

Published on November 29th 2007.

It's only rock 'n' roll...

Think about pantos gone by, and then make a wish list, for your genie, of what you want - as an adult - from a performance.

Nothing too taxing for the old brain is a must. You'll want catchy songs to sing on the way home, and, admit it, some cheap laughs and plenty of cheeky double entendres. Oh, and lots of opportunities to hiss, cheer and shout. A fetching, Disney-style Princess Jasmine, or Prince Charming, wouldn't harm either.

There was plenty for the little 'uns to laugh at: Fun effects, dazzling lights, interesting sets... and farting sounds – surely comedy gold in any child's eyes.

First reality check at the Everyman's rock 'n' roll panto, Aladdin – Genie in the Sky with Diamonds : Princess Jasmine is called Princess Willow. Secondly, the setting isn't China, or Arabia, but ancient Fazakerley.

Therefore, it is instantly apparent to the Everyman audience that Sarah Nixon and Mark Chatterton's adaptation of the Arabian Nights tale isn't going to follow Disney's, or anyone else's, too closely, if at all. No Abu the monkey, and don't expect to hear Peter Andre and Jordan singing A Whole New World either.

"Oooh, I do like to see a man playing with his instrument," announced Sergeant Pepper, as the band went into their first number. Cue laughter from the adults and slight bewilderment from the kids.

But there was plenty for the little 'uns to laugh at: Fun effects, dazzling lights, interesting sets... and farting sounds – surely comedy gold in any child's eyes.

Now, panto is supposed to be over the top, overacted and exaggerated, but there were still moments where cheesy old Aladdin (played by Sam Bloom) could have been a bit edgier. Someone that the lads could look up to as well as the girls, someone with a bit of Fonz cool, perhaps.

I had to have a word with myself when a little girl looked at me in dismay, after my audible boos at our hero reached her innocent ears. However, I couldn't stop my developing distaste towards him, and my increasing love for Willow (Emily Grace) was not helping matters. Aladdin could certainly sing though. In fact, all the cast were exemplary on a range of instruments, effortlessly swapping between acting and playing.

As the evil Abanza (Phil Corbett) entered the stage to a chorus of catcalls, Aladdin sang James Blunt and I was dreaming of a different kind of boos.

But there was only respect for the multi-talented cast: The Genie (Steve Simmonds) played a mean guitar, Nicky Swift, as Fairy Nokia, possessed a voice that was divine, and the Princess's flute playing was heavenly.

Meanwhile, the camaraderie between Sergeant Pepper (Adam Keast) and Dottie Twanky (Francis Tucker) was inspired - their banter providing the foundation for many a saucy punchline.

By the end, the audience members, including yours truly, were booing, cheering and doing all the actions to a song about wigwams which was complete with tent erection gags, of course.

To anyone thinking of going to see this show – don't think. Go. Before it sells out.

Ignore my comments about Aladdin. The whole night is a hoot and, as I walked downstairs to the Everyman Bistro, singing the wigwam song, I had to admit, rather begrudgingly, that even he was fantastic.

But after watching him for nearly two hours, I needed to go to the bar for a stiff one - as the bishop said to the actress.

Aladdin – Genie in the Sky With Diamonds
Friday 23 November to Saturday 12 January.
Tickets £10-£19. Family tickets £30.

Box office: 0151 709 4776. Book here

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Peter Coyle

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