REVIEW – Aladdin, Sunderland Empire

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WHEN a life-sized baby elephant dances onto the stage during a musical, you tend to wonder how that can be topped.

Yet 20 minutes on, topped it was when Aladdin (Stu Martin) and Princess Jasmine (Danni Yeo) climb aboard a magic carpet and soar 20ft in the air while singing A Whole New World.

Centre Stage impressed many with its production of Beauty and the Beast last year and they have certainly kept the standard amazingly high for this fun, vibrant and entertaining take on another Disney classic.

The catchy score is full of showstoppers from the opening number Arabian Nights (beautifully crooned by Chris Richie) to the spectacular Friend Like Me by Shaun Crosby’s very funny Genie and featuring a chorus-line of identical Genie dancers.

Also in the cast is Paul Mariner as the amusingly bumbling Sultan, a wonderfully energetic Jessica Green as the Magic Carpet and a very cute Abu the monkey played by Ricky Lundy.

No Disney story is complete without a villain and this one has several.

Mark Clegg is clearly having a wonderful time as the wicked (and hilarious) Jafar and is ably assisted by the repugnant Razoul, played by Matthew Lowry. My favourite, however, was Nathan Clegg who stole every scene he was in as the sarcastic parrot Iago.

The rest of the large cast are equally talented and all are supported by breath-taking scenery and stunning costumes.

The high production values are impressive and no expense has been spared in bringing this magical story to life. The entire show has a polish and vitality that is rarely seen.

Disney’s Aladdin is at Sunderland Empire today and tomorrow with performances at 2.30pm and 7.30pm on both days. Ticket prices start at £12.50. Tel. 0844 8713022.

Linda Green