Review of Disney's Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire: The show is a bundle of fun and energy

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A top-notch family show - with a magic carpet

It can't be denied that Yeukayi Ushe as the Genie steals the show. Picture by Deen van Meer.It can't be denied that Yeukayi Ushe as the Genie steals the show. Picture by Deen van Meer.
It can't be denied that Yeukayi Ushe as the Genie steals the show. Picture by Deen van Meer. | 3rd party

Disney's Aladdin, currently playing at the Sunderland Empire Theatre, has standards of production and professionalism that must be seen to be appreciated.

This pertains to the music, lighting, choreography, costumes, costume changes, magic carpet and, of course, performances. The lot really.

As stage musicals go, Aladdin is one of the biggies and further underlines the value of the Empire to Sunderland. There simply aren't many UK venues capable of staging a show on this scale.

Based on the 1992 Disney film, the musical was first performed relatively recently, in 2011. Yet it manages to be both modern and traditional. Some numbers are pure Jazz Age.

The main parts are played with uniform excellence, with Gavin Adams in the title role and Desdemona Cathabel as Princess Jasmine, Aladdin's love interest.

Although there are definite pantomime elements, with goodies and baddies clearly defined, there is no deviation from the script. The whole production is militarily run, but still enormous fun.

All the main characters, as per the film, have American accents with the exception of grand vizier Jafar, who is so thoroughly evil that he has the obligatory English accent.

Jafar is played beautifully by Sunderland-born Adam Strong, who thoroughly earned the good-natured booing that all the best stage wrong 'uns receive when they take their bows at the end of a show. The bows, incidentally, were made to a quite ecstatic audience.

But there is no doubt who steals the show. Indeed, most audience members know who will steal the show before they even take their seats and that's the Genie, played with uncontainable energy by London actor Yeukayi Ushe. To merely watch him is quite exhausting.

The audience expects their Genie to be an incorrigible show-off and were duly obliged by Mr Ushe. Imagine a combination of Eddie Murphy, Rik Mayall and forked lightning.

Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire is about as spectacular as stage musicals get.Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire is about as spectacular as stage musicals get.
Aladdin at the Sunderland Empire is about as spectacular as stage musicals get. | 3rd party

The Genie is central to the musical's best known number Friend Like Me, performed just before the interval; perhaps not coincidentally as all involved would require a short lie-down afterwards. It's that demanding and your archetypal show-stopper, but far from the show's only highlight.

Aladdin Runs at the Sunderland Empire Theatre until Sunday, March 10. Tickets are from £20.

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