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Review: Aladdin at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, starring Marti Pellow

By Chris Price

A pop star with one of the biggest hits of the 90s. Check. A 3D cinema show. Check. A set with giant animatronic monsters and flying a carpet. Check.

The Orchard Theatre's panto has been cementing its place as one of the biggest in west Kent for many years.

So what better way to make sure you're keeping your place by kicking off the show with Abanazar, played by star Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet fame, talking about his villainous plot for supreme power with a giant - and I mean giant - motorised King Kong?

Ricky K and David Robbins are in Aladdin at the Orchard Theatre
Ricky K and David Robbins are in Aladdin at the Orchard Theatre

"I will rule the whole word," bellowed Pellow with a sharp Scottish vigour that evoked Sean Connery at many stages. "And maybe even Gravesend."

For this year's show, Imperial China is the scene for Aladdin's quest to win the heart of Princess Jasmine, played by Stephanie Elstob, who has appeared in films Beauty and the Beast and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Enter Ricky K, of Britain's Got Talent fame, whose redcoat-style humour sets the tone for a night of - at times brilliant - slapstick comedy as Wishee Washee.

He bounces off panto dame David Robbins, playing Widow Twankey, Aladdin's mother.

His previous career as a theatre "wiggie" designing costumes and props is put to brilliant work with his series of increasingly outrageous outfits as the night goes on. Who knew knobbly knees could be so funny? Trust me on that one.

Despite his villainous part, Marti Pellow shows a comic touch, particularly in a superb scene between the three stars as they discuss their search for a missing shirt - with the talent of the greatest she-sells-sea-shells-on-the-sea-shore recitalist.

After making his way to the cave, Aladdin, played by Alexis Gerred, finds the genie - another giant prop - who proudly proclaims with an east-end twang that he hails from comparatively leafy Chislehurst.

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Returning to China as a prince rich beyond his wildest dreams, Aladdin's brother Wishee replies "now we can move to Bexley".

No panto is complete without a bit of magic, which unsurprisingly is delivered by a magic carpet - twice.

Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet is starring in Aladdin
Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet is starring in Aladdin

After helping Aladdin get back to China from the cave in a show-stopping sequence to end the first part, it returns in 3D cinema form to transport the audience to Egypt where Abanazar has taken Princess Jasmine.

Cue snakes, dragons, rats and spiders reaching out from the stage to the goggle-wearing audience in a scene which felt more like an episode of I'm A Celebrity than a panto.

It prompted huge screams and might have seemed quite scary to smaller theatre-goers. In the car park after the show, one mum looked at her daughter and jokingly asked "what will you be dreaming about tonight?"

The night would not have been complete if Ricky K had not got in his superb Britain's Got Talent rendition from 2014.

He manages to squeeze in the inevitable nod to Baby Shark, the YouTube sensation which has gripped toddlers this year, managing to avoid dwelling on it for too long as many parents feared.

Yes this show is big on production but Ricky, Marti and co do a great job of keeping it panto, with buckets of faux giggling, double-entendre and physical comedy.

To book for the show, visit orchardtheatre.co.uk or call 01322 220000.

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