Aladdin * * *
at the Birmingham Hippodrome
Review by Andrew Cowen

It seems to be a trend with the big panto productions: a move away from traditional seasonal entertainment towards something more resembling a stadium rock show or Hollywood blockbuster.

Production values are everything, while the plot often plays second fiddle. In Aladdin, Paul Elliott uses all devices at his disposal to batter down our senses. One almost expects the kitchen sink to come flying on to the stage. 

With 21st century pop culture so full of reference points and younger audiences so steeped in materialism, perhaps there's no point in subtlety when you can throw in references to Doctor Who, Disney films and pop.

I blame the High School Musical phenomena myself. This is a show that will leave you exhausted, your ears ringing and your eyes bleeding. As a spectacle it's amazing, with awesome sets, stunning costumes and state of the art effects.

The songs aren't particularly memorable and serve to punctuate rather than drive the rickety plot.  Don Maclean has surely cornered the pantomime dame market and his Widow Twankey is one of the top turns here. He has the bustling cross-dressing routine down to an art.

The Grumbleweeds have been round long enough to do this kind of stuff in their sleep, their traditional clowning something of an anachronism in this modern setting. However, they got the required laughs.

It was all eyes on John Barrowman then, a popular hero as Captain Jack from Doctor Who and a judge on a TV talent show.  This smooth, camp American is made for this sort of stuff, relishing every moment and every cheer. Quite what Daleks, the very acme of evil, were doing in a panto is beyond me. Maybe they need the dosh having been overlooked for the Doctor Who Christmas Special.

So, it's Mr Barrowman who really makes this show, a true star in flesh and blood. His background in musical theatre shows.

For all the 3D spectacles and grand finales, there's little to actually remember after the final curtain has fallen. When asked what they liked best, my two young 'uns both declared "the Daleks". Nuff said.

*Until January 27.  Running time: Two hours 30 minutes.