Poor weather conditions, and the fact that the show hadn’t been up and running long, may have gone some way to explaining the disappointing half- empty house that greeted the cast of PACE Theatre’s Aladdin when they took to the stage in Paisley the night I turned up.
Which is a shame because this is one of the company’s best productions yet and hopefully word of mouth will soon see local Buddies turn out in their usual high numbers.
As one woman leaving the auditorium said: “I used to go to the Pavilion. But I think you should support your ‘ain. And this is just as good.” While not advocating Paisley punters boycott the Pavilion, on this showing the lady's got a point.
There was a time when youth theatre groups like PACE were a byword for amateurish awkwardness and audiences solely made up of mums and dads eager to see their kids grab their five minutes of jazz hands fame.
But PACE founder David Wallace who once again writes and directs this year’s show, and takes his usual star spot as Dame, has injected a real sense of energy into the company. And it shines through to great effect in this vibrant production which features a mix of professional actors and young wannabes.
Chief among the show’s many merits - which includes some fine visuals for the Genie’s first appearance from the lamp and a strong narrative thrust to the script that means it isn’t just a backdrop for gags and you really become involved in the class divide romance being played out (think Middleton/Windsor in reverse) - is an incredibly strong songbook by musical director/composer Alan Orr.
There really are some cracking musical numbers on show here, with Megan Hair, making her professional debut, as the Princess, a particularly adept musical performer and charming to boot.
Orr also turns in a fine comic performance as Wishy Washy, with his ad lib on the night that Aladdin must have studied "interpretative dance at Reid Kerr College” to be able to understand where the silent, tutu clad, fairy of the ring was taking him, had me in stitches.
He’s backed up by an excellently hissable Ross Stenhouse as the baddie Abanazer, and Tom Duncan as ‘filthy wash-house rat ‘ Aladdin, who I imagine will have every young teenage girl drooling. Even if I’m not entirely sure they had hair gel a long, long time ago, in a far away land.
Aladdin, Paisley Arts Centre, until Dec 31