Aladdin At Buxton Opera House Review


Reviewed by Alexander Wilde

It’s officially Christmas – panto season returns with a production of Aladdin at the incomparable Buxton Opera House! As charming and resplendent as ever, this North Derbyshire gem is the quintessential venue in which to enjoy the magic and marvel of pantomime.

It was a crisp December night and the evening was full of festive cheer as family and friends were greeted warmly by the staff and troop of volunteers that keep the Edwardian theatre thriving. As always, there was a buzz in the air as we settled into our comfortable seats and waited for the curtain to rise.

Welcoming us to Old Buxtonia in ancient Peking (possibly!), the glittering fairy Belle introduced us to the spectacle. Very much a 21st century sprite, Ciara Ford, set the scene – this was not the Aladdin of Disney lore, but a cheeky nod to the folk tale of old. Magically appearing throughout the show, she was a digital delight.

As all good pantos do, it began in the town square. Playing the titular star, accomplished actor and musician, AJ Jenkins, serenaded us with his guitar. The first of a number of stirring solos which showcased his breadth of talent. A chance meeting with Princess Willow, played by the sensational Annalise Liard-Bailey – very much an up and coming ‘triple threat’. They both lit up the stage and the chemistry between the two leads was effortless. They invested a great deal into their roles and will undoubtedly be leading musicals for many years to come.

Along for the ride, Aladdin’s brother Wishy Washy (Matthew Jay Ryan) was the energetic compère for the evening. A stage stalwart and an incredibly talented performer with impeccable coming timing. Very much a character for the children, his high-energy quickly established a strong bond with the audience for the inevitable back and forth exchanges.

The lovestruck leads were from very different families. Princess Willow’s maniacal mother, The Empress (Polly Smith), was one half of a villainous duo out to sabotage love and claim the magic of the lamp for themselves. Polly was decadently despicable, clearly relishing and deserving every booing she received. Her odious other half was Abanazar and it is worth making a well deserved special mention to Oliver Way, debut and ensemble actor, who stepped into this role at the very last moment. Equally strong vocally and on his feet. A brilliant understudy.

As for the matriarch of Aladdin’s family… the delightful dame James Holmes! Returning to Buxton as Widow Twankey. Once again, playing a bawdy babe brimming with double entendres and filling every scene with a physical and side-splitting comedy. And the costumes – wow! Purely puntastic in every way a favourite of young and old alike.

Overall, the scene changes and musical interludes were punchy and perfectly balanced for the audience age range. The narrative flowed easily and we were left wanting more. Superb writing and direction, with high production values.

Complementing the cast throughout the production were a brilliant line of local talent. The young people were fully invested and enjoying their part in the extravaganza; singing and dancing their hearts out. Definitely some future stars in the making! Furthermore, extraordinary recognition goes to the orchestral and technical team – as always stunning staging and costuming, uplifting tunes with perfectly timed sound and visual effects too. Each year is better than the last – the Caves scene was incredible.

My only wish is the night could have lasted longer; it was simply magnificent! Board that magic carpet because panto season is back and not to be missed! Aladdin at Buxton Opera House is a wonderful Christmas treat for the whole family.

Rating: Five magical stars

Running until 1st January 2022, with tickets priced from £12 to £25, book online Aladdin | Buxton Opera House, visit or call the Box Office on 01298 72190.

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