Reviews of the 1996 Production of Aladdin



New Zealand Herald
14 September 1996

Pantomime's a rip-roaring winner
by Rowan Wakefield

Synchronised swimming, zombie robots and a man-bashing princess--where else could you be but at the Watershed's school holiday pantomime?

Michael Hurst has done it again in his hugely welcome return to the Auckland stage with a swashbuckling, rip-roaring all-action version of the traditional pantomime favourite, a most fitting and long-overdue follow-up to his fabulous first panto effort, "Jack and the Beanstalk" Once again, Hurst wrote, directed and stars as the ultimate in dames, this time as the winsome Widow Twankey.

Right from his show-stopping entrance, Hurst is just magic--shamelessly hamming up the part for all he is worth and in the process completely stealing every scene he is in.

Surrounding him are a uniformly terrific cast, including Claire O'Neil as Aladdin, Neill Duncan as the sad-faced Wishee-Washee and Willy de Wit as Bevan, the most impressively bejewelled genie of the lamp (who just happens to be an aspiring stand-up comedian). Best of all, or so my young sons thought, was Alison Wall in her dual roles as the deliciously evil impostor Uncle Abenazer and Deidre, the Dragon Empress.

But big people in the audience loved the wonderfully sly writing, peppered with jokes aimed just at grown-ups...

"Aladdin" gets it just right--slapstick humour, groan-inducing puns, loads of audience participation, an eager hero (hooray!) and a nasty baddie (boo-hiss!) and just the right amount of scary bits without terrifying sensitive youngsters too much.

It may pay to warn your children beforehand, though, that this is not a stage version of the Disney movie. Mine spent half the show waiting for the entrance of Jafar and the pet monkey. Go see it while you can--"Aladdin" just may be the best school holiday entertainment on offer.


The Sunday Times
22 September 1996

Singing the praises of Aladdin
by Patrick Smith

EEE, that Widow Twankey is daft--falling down like that and showing 'er knickers. I 'aven't laffed so much since grandma died.

Looking and sounding like Ken Dodd in a frock, Michael Hurst's Widow Twankey is a marvelous dame who, as well as being Aladdin's mum, is MC of this great little holiday stage show.

Hurst is obviously relishing being on the boards again after the grind of the Hercules TV series and it's great to have him back in this piece of good-natured silliness, which he wrote and directed himself.

All the good old panto elements are here: Music, songs, awful jokes, pratfalls, fantabulous costumes and glittery sets (with a few props from Hercules and Xena), romance, fights, and a really happy ending.

There's a comic dame, a dumb sidekick, a princess, a wicked empress, policeman, robots and, of course, the Genie of the Lamp.

Hurst has assembled a great cast for this bright and lively, over-the-top spectacular: Claire O'Neil as a classic Aladdin; Min Windle as the lovely Princess Sharon; Willy de Wit as Bevan, the overdressed Genie of the Lamp (whose secret ambition is to be a stand-up comedian); wicked Alison Wall as the nasty Uncle Abenazer/Dragon Empress of the Yellow Sea; Neill Duncan as the fey (and terribly wishy-washy) Wishee-Washee; and Grant Bridger as (the inexplicably Mexican) Omar the Sheriff. Oh, and not forgetting Jason Smith as Yehudi, "musical maestro and flim-flam controller".

I took eight and 12-year-old boys along with me and they both enjoyed themselves mightily, although they weren't too keen to join the littlies and their parents performing that magical Arafi Song. I had to do that one.

"Ah ram sam-sam, Ah ram sam-sam, Coolie-coolie-coolie-coolie-coolie . . ."

Aw, come on, sing


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