HELEN MUSA’s weekly arts column features opening concerts and shows in Canberra
RECOMMENDED for ages 6 to 99 years as they say in showbiz, Leisa Keen’ s traditional pantomime production of “Aladdin” is a breath of fresh air.
‘Traditional’, I say because, the elements of the old English panto are mostly there – David Cannell as Aladdin’s overdressed mum the Widow Twankey, Max Gambale’s much put-upon Genie in a very extraordinary set of pyjamas, Amy Dunham and Tim Sekuless as the young lovers (though having Aladdin played by a real boy WAS a departure from tradition) and Michael Moore’s larger than life wicked magician Abanazar eliciting boos and hisses from the clever young audience right from the outset.
Ian Croker’s delightful painted backdrops, too were traditional, with princess’s garden a highlight and Keen’s own costumes added colour and fun.
On the non-traditional side is the loud, up-to-date pop music on all kinds of subjects but mostly money (you know all those songs) and a pretty fair fine rendition of “Gangnam Style” aided by the talented, leggy dancers from Michelle Heine’s Legs Dance. They made it look easy, but you can be sure that a great deal of rehearsal went into this production.
Also non-traditional was a partly-digitalised flying carpet, created by the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Watson, which took us on a strange geographical journey from the Arabian Desert via Paris, London and the Sydney Opera House and back to Peking – all good fun. Throughout were contemporary jokes (Donald Trump references etc.) for mums and dads, but not too many, and all mercifully clean. Above all, this production successfully communicated itself to the very young, with adult clapping and laughing just a desirable add-on to keep the parents quiet.
Most successful of all in this production were the call and response sessions (“look behind you”) with the young audience. At one point the wicked magician attempted to convince everyone that today was ‘yes means no day’ and quick as a flash, the kids changed their responses, outsmarting both the magician and Aladdin’s not-too-bright brother Wishy-Washy, played by Fraser Findlay in the stand-our performance of the show.
All performers in Keen’s production are at the top of their game as musical theatre and comedy actors – in other words, the message is loud and clear that young people are worth just as good a show as adults. At the end those performers met the kids in the foyer for a chat and to wind down the illusion.
This production is indeed highly recommended for ages 6 to 99–and beyond.