REVIEW: Aladdin, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until January 3.

Aladdin, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. SUS-151214-105311003

Aladdin, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton. SUS-151214-105311003

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Joe Pasquale is pure panto gold in a glittering Mayflower panto, complete with 3D genies, flying carpets and plenty of laughs.

Aladdin always seems the weakest/least appealing of the panto stories, but Pasquale turns it all into the Joe Pasquale show, and thank goodness for that. Pasquale offers endless oomph in a bundle-of-energy tour-de-force showcase which all but brings the house down. There’s no doubting it: Pasquale really is the complete panto performer, the whole thing giving him the perfect platform for all his various, wonderful, completely-bonkers skills, whizzing from fart gags to comedy songs, from all kinds of slapstick to general mayhem, all in his characteristic, warm and engaging, squeaky-voiced style.

Pasquale is the heart and soul of the show, its life blood. For a good panto to become a vintage one, the rest of the cast need to follow suit.

Duncan James does all that he can with the slightly-colourless role of Aladdin, and in fact he does well. But Ceri Dupree isn’t there yet as Widow Twankey. Ceri is clearly a natural in a frock, and he wears a huge range, each more outrageous than the last. But Twankey is surely all about a mumsiness which is so far lacking here.

Also just a little disappointing is the choice of music, with too few songs you’ll go home humming; the show looks great at every moment, but it doesn’t quite seem to have the big, dancing chorus numbers the very best pantos rely on. More worrying perhaps is the gratuitous appearance of a car plastered with the name and number of a local dealer... the thin end of a troubling wedge. Product placement should be kept to the foyer and the programme. And maybe just a couple of the gags are just a little bit too blue...

But none of that detracts from Pasquale’s panto brilliance. He carries the show - and it’s impossible not to let him carry you along with it.

Phil Hewitt

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