Quirky / theatre

Aladdin versus Jack

21 December 2023

This week me and our 6-year-old, Beth, have been to not one but two Croydon pantomimes. Oh yes we have. Sunday night was spent watching Aladdin at Fairfield Halls and Wednesday evening was Jack and The Beanstalk at Stanley Arts. After interviewing various members of cast and crew in both team Aladdin and team Jack over the last couple of weeks, it was great to see everyone in full festive action.

But how did they compare?

The dames

Obviously a panto isn’t a panto without a dame and both Widow Twankey in Aladdin and Mama G in Jack didn’t disappoint with their costume changes and their exuberant personalities.

Richard J Hunt’s performance of Widow Twankey was fab (his first dame role as well), whereas Mama G is so much more than a dame in Jack, as her character glues the whole story together. Their styles were both so distinctive that I couldn’t rate one over the other.

One all.

The villains

We had Eastenders actor Davood Ghadami playing the evil Abanazar in Aladdin, whereas in Jack it’s not the giant who’s the villain, but the cow (played by CBBC Andy and the Band’s star Holly Mallett). I couldn’t fault Davood’s performance but I very much enjoyed having a cow (or to use her character’s official name Cow Pat) play the villain in Jack which was a surprisingly pleasing deviation from the traditional story. We also had to shout ‘moo’ rather than ‘boo’ when Cow Pat came on stage. 🙂

One to Aladdin, Two to Jack.

Favourite characters

For Beth: Wishee Washee in Aladdin and Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk because ‘they were the funniest’.

For me: I’d have to agree it was Wishee Washee in Aladdin as his humour really powered the show, but it had to be the villain Cow Pat in Jack and the Beanstalk for her uniqueness (and drumming!).

One all.

The jokes

Both Aladdin and Jack were pretty pun-tastic which I love. Beth laughed along at a lot of the jokes (loads of fart jokes with Cow Pat in Jack). There was a decent peppering of political humour for adults, and obviously some groans, but some very funny one-liners in both that made me laugh.

One all.

The costumes

Aladdin is very glittery with lots of costume changes and some fabulous sequins, plus all the dancers match the scenes which is always a nice detail. I particularly enjoyed Wishee Washee’s tree costume. Jack is much more paired back with costumes, considering there are only four main characters, and a youth dance school to accompany them. They don’t scrimp on Mama G’s costumes (she turned up wearing an inflatable eagle suit at one point complete with gold heels), and even Jack had a sparkly version of their costume at the end.

So all in all, one all.

The sets

Aladdin had fireworks, a slide (in Widow Twankee’s laundry) and projections to emulate Aladdin flying on his carpet through the sky. Jack is much more low-fi, but they are cleverly created to complement the story. I’d say Aladdin tips the scales in this category though.

Two to Aladdin, One to Jack.

The songs

My favourite song in Aladdin was when the Dame did a take on the Barbie movie song, but there is a whole range from serious and sad to silly and upbeat. With Jack the songs are quirky (including some rap) and are integral to telling the story.

Very different, so one all.

The usuals

‘We’ll have to sing it again then, won’t we’ appeared in both pantos. It took the form of a bench routine in Aladdin where the characters sang the song, whilst a mummy walked around the back of the stage with the audience shouting ‘it’s behind you’ to the oblivious characters. A similar scene happened in Jack, but with a spider dropping from the ceiling.

Both shows also had balloon ballets – I didn’t realise this was a ‘thing’ in panto, but now I’ll be on the lookout forever more. Beth has made me try and reenact the balloon ballet dance routine several times at home since. Lucky me!

One all.

The verdict

If you want a more traditional panto with glam costumes, sets and songs, then Aladdin is for you (not to say that it’s not without its modern twists). If you’re looking for something a little more quirky, intimate and low-fi, with a completely unique story, then book those tickets to Jack. Or why not try both.

Aladdin versus Jack: draw.

Aladdin runs until 7 January 2024 at The Ashcroft in the Fairfield Halls, Croydon. You can book tickets here.

Jack and The Beanstalk runs until 27 December 2023 at Stanley Arts, South Norwood, Croydon. You can book tickets here.

Aladdin photos courtesy of Fairfield Halls, by Jane Hobson, Jack photos courtesy of Stanley Arts by SJKnight Photography. 

Posted by Julia (with help from Beth)

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