Aladdin ****

‘It’s the Gerard Kelly Show, starring your favourite comedic genius and master of ceremonies: Gerard Kelly!!!’ Cue the Audience Applause sign.  ‘Tonight, starring along with Gerard is Karen Dunbar!’ Again, cue sign.  ‘Featuring Keith Jack, Gavin Mitchell and a production budget of over £1 million.  Cue excited ‘Ooooohhhhhs and Aaaaaahhhhhs!!!’  And now, on to the show.’  Cue more whoops, screams and applause from the willing audience.

Okay, so the King’s production of Aladdin doesn’t begin with such an opening, but it might as well do because calling it Aladdin is a bit of a cheat.  It really is the Gerard Kelly Christmas Show with the plotline of Aladdin conveniently threaded around it.  This is actually a good thing.

Because, unlike a lot of Christmas shows out there, this has no delusions as to what it is.  It is an extravagant excuse for lots of songs, dance numbers and elaborate clowning and mugging to elicit as much mirth from the audience as possible, and it works splendidly.  The audience (myself among them) ate the whole thing up and had an absolute ball.

There are a number of very good performances.  I rather liked Bryan Lowe and Mark Prendergast as the cops, John Ramage had some great comedic moments as the Emperor of China and Nicola Roy had some really strong laughs as So Shy.  Keith Jack may not be the best actor on stage but he can certainly belt out his songs (and actually acts very well in song), and his duet with the charming Frances Mayli McCann as Jasmine of The Climb was a musical highlight (and anyone who questioned Simon Cowell’s choice for this year’s X-Factor song need only have heard every under-14 year-old singing along with them to know why he went with it).  Gavin Mitchell completely relishes in chewing the scenery as villain Abanazar and Karen Dunbar is a pure delight whenever she’s onstage as Widow Twankey.

But this is Gerard Kelly’s show, and he completely owns the stage as Wishee Washee.  The man knows how to make the audience eat from his hand, and yet one never doubts that he’s having as good of time onstage as we are in the audience.  I could list a number of the shenanigans of his that I liked, but that would be cheating.  All I will say is that the man constantly made me laugh.

Is it high art?  Of course not.  It isn’t even a good version of the story of Aladdin.  But for sheer entertainment value, it’s hard to find fault with this production.  I laughed hard throughout the whole performance and even find myself smiling at the thought of some of its moments a fortnight after the fact.

Aladdin performs at the Kings in Glasgow until January 17, 2010.


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