BWW Review: North Carolina Theatre's ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH Pays Homage to Panto Tradition and Roasts Raleigh in a Fun, Knockabout Kind of Way
Cute costumed kids filed into The Duke Energy Center Thursday night to see Lythgoe Family Panto production of ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH. The show marks the first of a three-year partnership between the Lythgoe family and North Carolina Theatre and the first foray into the Christmas show market for North Carolina Theatre.
While this isn't the Disney version of ALADDIN, the story is essentially the same. A street rat with a dream meets a princess, gets trapped in a cave, finds a lamp, meets a Genie, makes a wish, buys a laundromat, makes it snow, and lives happily ever after. And by all accounts, the kids in the audience loved every minute of it.
And why shouldn't they? This show is 100-percent for the kids. From the minute they enter the theater, they are completely engaged with pre-show activities in the lobby, including face painting, arts and crafts, and even a princess photo op. Before the show begins, they are even instructed to cheer and boo on cue, which they enthusiastically do throughout the production.
The production itself also has enough material to keep it somewhat interesting for the grownups. There are a lot of local references and inside jokes specific to audiences here in the Triangle. There are also some references to Broadway shows and movies, including LES MISERABLES, WICKED, and JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT that will tickle avid theatergoers. Movie aficionados will also enjoy the references to RISKY BUSINESS, XANADU, and GREASE, and there are a lot of GREASE references in this show. That's because here the Sultan is played by Barry Pearl, best known for his role as "Doody," one of the T-Birds, in the 1978 movie.
And Pearl is joined by a talented, capable cast, including Jason Gotay (Aladdin), who croons a fine rendition of "You Don't Know Me," Josh Adamson (Abanazar), who is delightful as the devilish baddie, Jeff Sumner (Widow Twankey), who is hilarious as the cross-dressing dame, and crowd favorite Jonathan Meza (Wishee Washee). In true panto fashion, Adamson, Sumner, and Meza all revel in physical and slapstick comedy and seem to be quite comfortable with the genre, having performed in many Lythgoe Family Panto productions. Notable too is Ty Taylor's funky interpretation of the Genie. Even Raleigh's first family of viral videos, Penn Holderness and crew, make a rather amusing and entertaining cameo appearance.
Seemingly less comfortable with this genre is Nia Sioux as the Princess. She is a beautiful performer best known for her dancing ability and pop music videos but unfortunately isn't given the opportunity to show off her skills adequately in this production.
Some of the popular music selections also don't quite work and feel a little strained at times. However, because the songs are familiar tunes and take a backseat to the over-the-top performances and comedy of the piece, it's inconsequential and the audience didn't seem to care.
Despite its flaws, ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH is fun family fare and the enthusiasm of the kids in the audience is infectious. Kudos to Lythgoe Family Panto and North Carolina Theatre for trying something new and celebrating our community in such an unexpected, knockabout kind of way.
For more information visit: https://nctheatre.com/shows/aladdin-winter-wish%20.