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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Whisk yourself away with Aladdin

EVER wished of being whisked away to the distant shores of the Far East during these cold, dark winter nights?

Well, wish no longer as a fantasy land of flying carpets, magic lamps and rapping genies is being brought to us at Whitehaven Civic Hall this week.

It’s Aladdin of course, a much-loved tale of forbidden love and the search for a magic lamp in Peking.

Can lowly washer boy Aladdin (Kayleigh Cullen) find true love with the Princess Jasmin (Cassie McCluskey) against the wishes of society – and of the powerful Emperor (Cuth Murphy)?

And can the dastardly Abanazar (Aron Armstrong) trick Aladdin into helping him capture the magic lamp?

But this is Aladdin Whitehaven Theatre Group-style – so it’s done with a twist.

The songs we all know and love from the Disney movie, like A Whole New World – a beautiful duet by Kayleigh and Cassie – are in there, but it’s brought bang up to date with songs from the likes of Adele (Make You Feel My Love) and Olly Murs (Dance With Me Tonight) for a modern take on a traditional tale.

Ever seen Aladdin bringing it ‘Gangnam-style’, or a Princess body-popping to Party Rock Anthem? Me neither!

Credit to director Rachel Denwood then for this successful fusion. And credit too to the performers who gave it their all on Tuesday’s opening night.

Not least to Kayleigh Cullen, who not only plays the lead – extremely well by the way – but also took on the role of choreographer and wardrobe for the show.

And Cassie McCluskey shines as Princess Jasmin; her vocal performance was among the best I’ve heard in local theatre. She took her first lead role in last year’s panto, Cinderella, and has gone from strength to strength in the 12 months since.

They are supported by a strong cast including theatre stalwart Cuth Murphy as the domineering Emperor, Lyndsey Armitage as Notsoshy, Aron Armstrong who has a great evil laugh as Abanazar, and Ann-Marie Hagri and Katrina Donald, both suitably hapless as the police officers.

Mark Rudd’s smooth talking Genie arrives with a bang and entertains in his fleeting appearances, but some of the best lines are reserved for Kate Johnston’s sassy Slave of the Ring, who packs a bucket-load of attitude into her role.

The best laughs come courtesy of Shaun Donald as the tea-drinking worrier Wishee Washee, and Jimmy Morgan’s Widow Twankey, who is partial to an altogether stronger drink!

A high point – in more ways than one – comes with the lads’ rendition of Lulu’s Shout. They had a decent stab at the high notes, but were very much in need of a lie down at the end of it!

So go and see Aladdin – there’s something for everyone. Enough corny jokes to keep the adults amused, and plenty of ‘he’s behind you’ audience participation to keep the young ones entertained. What more could you wish for?

It’s performed until Friday at 7pm, on Saturday at 1pm and 7pm, and on Sunday at 1pm.

Tickets are £8 (£6 concessions) from the Civic Hall in person or on 01946 514960.

Andrew Clarke

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