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Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Aladdin: A Musical Panto
People's Light
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule

Also see Rebecca's reviews of Every Brilliant Thing and The Craftsman


The cast of Aladdin: A Musical Panto
Photo by Mark Garvin
People's Light brings the traditionally British holiday panto to the Main Line, and it just might be the best thing you see this holiday season. Written by Samantha Reading and Pete Pryor with original music and lyrics by Michael Ogborn, Aladdin: A Musical Panto has something to make everyone happy. There are prat falls and candy for the kids, upbeat songs and gaming humor (Minecraft fans will be particularly tickled) clever enough to make a pre-teen crack a smile, and enough political jabs and bawdy one-liners to keep the adults well entertained.

Aladdin: A Musical Panto loosely follows the story from "One Thousand and One Nights" and the 1993 Disney movie. Aladdin (Camilo Estrada) is a poor youth with big dreams, an honest heart, and a crush on the sultan's daughter Mai Tai (Samantha Funk). In this version he is also a computer programmer designing a new video game with his best friends Manny the Monkey (Peter Danelski) and Morris the Mantis (Zach Aguilar). The sultan's chief adviser and greedy land developer Fu (Christopher Patrick Mullen) plans to use Aladdin to obtain a magical lamp, but Aladdin ends up with Fu's powerful ring and the magic lamp instead. When Aladdin accidentally releases the genius and genie inside, things get complicated. Aladdin adds to the classic tale with many conventions of the holiday panto including original songs, slapstick comedy, dancing, gender-crossing actors, topical humor, and loads of audience participation.

The format may be more relaxed and whimsical than a traditional musical, but the ensemble working under Pete Pryor's skillful direction is top notch. Estrada plays the lead role with youthful exuberance and sings a rendition of "Despacito" that will make you want to stand up and dance. Funk shows off her vocal talents and considerable charm as princess Mai Tai. Of course, any tale is only as good as its villain, and Mullen is marvelously sinister as evil wizard and gaming master Fu. Kim Carson's jovial turn as the gluttonous Sultan and Nichalas L. Parker's bombastic performance as the Genie of the Lamp are also highlights. Mark Lazar goes over-the-top camp to get big laughs as Aladdin's mom, the Widow Twankey.

Costume designer Rosemarie McKelvey has created some extraordinary looks for Lazar and keeps the whole cast shimmering in a seemingly endless array of sparkling turbans and bedazzled suit jackets.

Aladdin: A Musical Panto is a fantastic entertainment for the entire family and a terrific addition to the productions of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol that proliferate this time of year. There are a few tweaks that could make the production even better (all of the characters involved in the gaming and programing are male and some of the jokes about the size of Mantis's family are just not that funny), but this is a rare bit of theater that will delight children and their parents equally.

People's Light Aladdin: A Musical Panto, on the Leonard C. Haas Stage in Malvern through January 7, 2018, at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern PA. For tickets, call 610-644-3500 or visit peopleslight.org.

Cast:
Widow Twankey: Mark Lazar*
Aladdin: Camilo Estrada
Mai Tai: Samantha Funk*
The Nurse: Susan McKey*
Sultan: Kim Carson*
Manny the Monkey: Peter Danelski
Fu: Christopher Patrick Mullen*
Morris the Mantis: Zach Aguilar*
Genius of the Ring: Tom Teti*
Genie of the Lamp: Nichalas L. Parker*
Michael the Intern: Mike Dorsey*
Moesha the Intern: Marissa Barnathan
Mel the Intern: Emily Kaye Lynn
Male Swing: Adam Howard
Female Swing: Tori Lewis (appeared in the reviewed performance for Emily Kaye Lynn as Mel the Intern)

Production Team:
Director: Pete Pryor
Set Designer: James Pyne
Costume Designer: Rosemarie McKelvey
Lighting Designer: Paul Hackenmueller
Sound Designer: Lucas Fendlay
Music Director: Thomas Fosnocht III
Assistant Director/Choreographer: Samantha Reading
Production Stage Manager: Kate McSorley Fossner*
Dramaturg: Gina Pisasale
Line Producer: Abigail Adams
*Member, Actor's Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors & Stage Managers


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