2004 / 2005 West End Pantomime starring Ian McKellen

2012 London Pantomime starring Lily Savage

2016 West End Musical - Disney's Aladdin

2004 / 2005 West End Revival with Sir Ian McKellen

Previewed 17 December 2004, Opened 18 December 2004, Closed 23 January 2005 at the Old Vic Theatre
Previewed 7 December 2005, Opened 16 December 2005, Closed 22 January 2006 at the Old Vic Theatre

The return of Billie Brown's pantomime Aladdin in London starring Sir Ian McKellen, Roger Allam and Frances Barber for a strictly limited Christmas season.

Aladdin is one of the more famous tales from the celebrated collection of stories the Thousand and One Nights. The story of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp was the source for the first stage version at Covent Garden in 1788. The famous down Grimaldi played in it in 1813, and in 1861 Widow Twankey made her first appearance as a character. Since then Aladdin has been a permanent feature of the English pantomime scene.

This new version by Bille Brown with original score by Gareth Valentine was originally seen at the Old Vic Theatre last year and is freely adapted from the celebrated translation by Sir Richard Burton of the Thousand and One Nights. Containing all the popular characters and pantomime ingredients, it's being staged at Christmas time as a tribute to the more raucous, pre-Shakespearean era at The Old Vic Theatre. It includes the additional song 'I Believe in You' with music by Elton John and lyrics by Lee Hall.

The cast for Aladdin in London features Ian McKellen as the Dame, 'Widow Twanky' and Roger Allam as 'Abbanazar', who are both reprising their roles from last year. Joining them this year will be Frances Barber as 'Dim Sum' along with Marina Abdeen, Madelena Alberto, Gary Amers, Alistair David, Steve Fortune, Kate Gillespie, Paul Grunert, Emma Harris, Victoria Hinde, Tee Jaye, Neil McDermott, Stuart Neal, Zak Nemorin, Daniel Redmond, Leah Shelrick, Andrew Spillett, Matthew Wolfenden. Directed by Sean Mathias with choreography by Wayne McGregor, set designs by John Napier, costume designs by Mark Bouman, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Fergus O'Hare. The cast for the original 2004 Christmas season featured Ian McKellen as the Dame with Roger Allam, Maureen Lipman and Sam Kelly and had lighting designed by Mark Henderson.

Sir Ian McKellen says regarding pantomime that "I think everybody has some ideal about what a pantomime should be, and it's probably the first one they saw. I went to many of them in my childhood, at first with my parents, who had to hold me back when children were invited up on the stage, and then by myself. I've always thought it a wonderful form, because it can include anything the theatre is able to give a welcome to. For years I kept asking myself why I wasn't playing in one. The answer was, there was no opportunity. Eventually I realised I'd have to create my own... It's all a bit of an adventure for me. In a pantomime there's a wider variety of pure theatre than you get even in Shakespeare.

"There ain't nothing like a dame, but, believe me, there really ain't nothing like our most senior theatrical knight, that most eminent Shakespearean, Lord Gandalf von Tolkien - otherwise known as Sir Ian McKellen - in a figure-hugging, Abba pantsuit and gold platform boots. The lip-smacking relish, gusto and, indeed, serious application McKellen brings to the sublimely silly role of Widow Twankey in Aladdin at the Old Vic suggests that this is a part, as is King Lear, for which he has been honing himself for almost five decades. For, as any Shakespearean knows, the ripeness is all. Like Lear (who McKellen plays next year), this complex character demands such experience, such maturity, such technical skill, such breasts, such pouting, and such prancing that it can only be truly inhabited by a fully mature thespian... McKellen is a joy, delivering terrible jokes with spot-on timing and responding to double entendres with a marvellous mixture of innocence and knowingness. He's the star of an otherwise hesitant, under-rehearsed and bland show. Roger Allam as the villainous Abbanazar rolls out the Blunkett jokes like the pro he is, but Maureen Lipman is wasted in the underwritten role of dimwitted Dim Sum. The rest of the cast bored me witless." The Mail on Sunday

"Conceived by Ian McKellen and commissioned by Kevin Spacey, Billie Brown's ramshackle script is actually a sophisticated panto facsimile, lovingly restored by a theatrical aristocracy who treasure the form as a staple of British theatre, not a seasonal holding pen for soap stars. The sets might be shaky, but this is high-class lowbrow... This Aladdin is a valuable opportunity to reconnect with indigenous stage traditions. More importantly, it shows that one of our great theatrical knights has a smashing pair of legs and no shame whatsoever." The Sunday Times

"Ian McKellen makes a startling apparition when he first bustles on stage in headscarf and curlers, heavily rouged, beaming away, radiating a sense of pleasure it would be hard not to share. His very nose seems to have acquired a comic quality. He quickly reveals his music-hall skills, too. He delivers his gags with panache; he echoes the variety stars of his youth. And as the story progresses he dolls himself up in a succession of outrageous outfits, each one more lurid or fluorescent than the last... In the end, despite McKellen, the show feels like an exercise in something that doesn't come naturally. It is fitfully entertaining, but it fails to achieve the authentic pantomime glow." The Sunday Telegraph

Pantomime Aladdin in London at the Old Vic Theatre previewed from 17 December 2004, opened on 18 December 2004 and closed on 23 January 2005 returned previewed from 7 December 2005, opened on 16 December 2005 and closed on 22 January 2006.

2012 London Revival with Lily Savage

From 7 December 2012 to 5 January 2013 at the O2 Theatre in London

Lily Savage will dust down her theatrical muses and throw on the guise of Widow Twankey for a rare and unique stage appearance in a strictly limited season of the pantomime Aladdin A Wish Come True in London at The Theatre at The O2.

Aladdin is one of the more famous tales from the celebrated collection of stories the Thousand and One Nights. The story of Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp was the source for the first stage version at Covent Garden in 1788. The famous clown Grimaldi played in it in 1813, and in 1861 Widow Twankey made her first appearance as a character. Since then Aladdin has been a permanent feature of the English pantomime scene.

The cast for Aladdin in London stars Lily Savage (Paul O'Grady) as 'Widow Twanky' along with Jon Lee as 'Aladdin', Issy van Randwyck as the 'Slave of the Ring', Darren Bennet as 'Abanazer' and Marissa Dunlop as 'Princess Jasmine'. Paul O'Grady performs as Lily Savage playing Widow Twanky. Paul O'Grady's West End credits include Prisoner Cell Block H The Musical at the Queen's Theatre in 1995 and playing Miss Hannigan in the musical Annie at the Victoria Palace Theatre in 1998.

"If you're a diehard Lily Savage fan you may still have a ball because O'Grady's drawling dame from Birkenhead is undoubtedly in her element here, playing an old scrubber in a Peking launderette for cheap laughs without lathering up too much in the way of smutty innuendos. Sporting a cartload of gorgeously silly costumes and dispensing barbed wisecracks like confetti, this Widow Twankey pounces on any hint that we're finding it a greater drag than she is. 'Do I have to come down there and slap an answer out of you?' she rasps. She even does a droll, parodic turn as Marlene Dietrich. No question, the old trouper earns his/her keep. I'd think thrice before inflicting this on kiddies, though, because elsewhere - aside from a lovely flying-carpet sequence that whooshes Jon Lee's tattooed Aladdin out over the auditorium - it's a sumptuous but curiously spiritless affair... David Morgan, who first staged this production at the Southampton Mayflower two years ago, directs and choreographs his hard-working company competently enough but A wish come true? It really isn't." The Daily Telegraph

"Many theatrical crimes are committed each year in the name of panto - more than a few of them among the supporting cast here - but one thing this show mercifully doesn't do is disappoint with the star name. Widow Lily Twankey is the best thing about the evening, not least because, confident in her persona and role, she is prepared to banter with the audience... There are no physical pranks, no slop scene and no audience singalong; whoever wrote this piece obviously never read the Panto Handbook. There is, however, a delightful animatronic baby elephant, with an expression containing more emotion than anyone else's." The London Evening Standard

Lily Savage: My Rug Hell! Paul O'Grady's Got Me A New Job and It's A Right Pantomime! Are you ready for the ride of your life with some magic carpet action this Christmas? Oi behave! I'm talking about Aladdin in London at the O2, with me, Lily Savage. It's the fantastic new pantomime spectacular and perfect family treat that'll have you crying with laughter this Yuletide. That's right, I'm back on stage, by kind permission of that Paul O'Grady fella, playing Widow Twanky (that Twanky with a 'T' thank you very much!) alongside the amazing Jon Lee as my son, Aladdin, and Issy van Randwyck as the Slave of the Ring in this fantastic, updated version of the classic pantomime. They're making me tart myself up, try on a load of new frocks and parade around like a total diva - turns out wishes really do come true!
So if you're looking for a wonderful evening packed with hair-raising adventure, shifty villains, a dose of romance and a whole load of laughs (sounds like my local chippy on a Friday night) then there's nowhere better in London this Christmas. And joining Jon and me will be Darren Bennet as the dastardly Abanazer and Marissa Dunlop as the lovely Princess Jasmine. I'm sure they'll be looking to me for some acting tips, poor loves, but I'll look after them.
The producers are them lot behind the acclaimed smash-hit musicals Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Irving Berlin's White Christmas the Musical, so you know it's going to be an amazing, fun-filled family show with incredible sets, costumes and scenic wizardry that'll be more fun than a trolley dash around Oddbins. And with a full orchestra playing some of the best known musical tunes of our time, all in a brand-spanking-new 1,900 seat theatre built especially for me under the canopy of The O2, this is going to be an evening of theatrical magic! A full orchestra eh?... sounds dead posh! I'm feeling festive and the gin's already out of the bottle, I mean Genie. So come on down to The O2 for the biggest party in town. Bring the family and let's have a very special Christmas together!

Paul O'Grady said: "Lily Savage had such a great time playing Widow Twankey last time in Southampton that I am delighted she gets to have another go and that this will be in her very own, brand new purpose built theatre at The O2 - which will be filled with the magic of Old Peking!!"

Aladdin in London at the O2 Theatre from 7 December 2012 to 5 January 2013.

2016 West End Revival - Disney's Aladdin

Previewed 27 May 2016, Opened 15 June 2016, Closed 24 August 2019 at the Prince Edward Theatre

Disney's new smash hit Broadway musical Aladdin comes to London

Featuring the timeless songs from the classic Disney animated film including A Whole New World, Friend Like Me and Arabian Nights along with new music especially written for this live stage production that promises to take audiences into a world filled with beauty, comedy and breath-taking spectacle.

Note: This production was originally scheduled to close on Saturday 31 August 2019, but the closure was brought forward by one week, to Saturday 24 August 2019.

Aladdin features music by Alan Menken and lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin. The show has been adapted for the stage by Chad Beguelin. Directed and choreographed for the stage by Casey Nicholaw.

PLEASE NOTE: This is not a pantomime, it is a fully staged musical based on the Disney animated film of the same name. Disney recommends this show for ages six and up. Children under the age of three will not be admitted into the theatre. All persons aged 16 or under must be accompanied by an adult and may not sit on their own within the auditorium. All persons attending this show, regardless of age, must hvae a ticket.

When this production opened here at the Prince Edward Theatre in June 2016, Paul Taylor in the i newspaper explained "there are some breathtaking special effects, but the production, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, has an old-fashioned feel as it attempts to combine Broadway razzle-dazzle, the vibe of a Bob Hope/Bing Crosby 'Road' movie and the stream of cheeky, self-referential humour that flows from Chad Beguelin's script." Michael Billington in The Guardian said "imagine a Christmas panto minus the dame and with a budget of zillions and you get some idea of this musical extravaganza. At first, I resisted the corporate zeal that has taken the 1992 Disney animated feature and turned it into a live show, but I gradually found myself won over by the blend of spectacle, illusion and a greater supply of corn than you will find in the Kansas wheatfields... It is all nonsense but it is done with conviction by Casey Nicholaw, the director and choreographer, who bombards us with business." Henry Hitchings in The London Evening Standard said that "the main reason to see this glitzy Aladdin can be summed up in three words - Trevor Dion Nicholas. As the Genie he is show-stealingly brilliant in this lavish Disney adaptation of the beloved early Nineties film.... on the whole this is a show with a well-judged air of mischief and spectacle." Quentin Letts for the Daily Mail described it as being "a no-expenses-spared stage version of the 1992 kiddies' cartoon film. The backdrops and costumes are as madly colourful as the acting is two-dimensional. Welcome to Planet Disney - spangles, sequins, soupy storyline... Although the music is depressingly bland, designer Bob Crowley comes up with a series of amusingly over-the-top sets... But look, it's Disney, not Chekhov. It's pink and white, with little between." Ann Treneman in The Times thought "it's not so much a musical as a spectacle." Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph asked: "Yet isn't this opulent stage version of the 1992 film really just panto in disguise?... At root it does exactly what the British pantomime does - takes an old folk tale and drapes it in the tinsel of cheery comedy, cutesy romance, colourful designs and lively song-and-dance routines," adding that "there's ample opportunity to see where the money has been spent: a department store's worth of costumes, a circus-load of performers. Little registers emotionally, though. The combined talents of the constituent creatives should have made Aladdin 'fly' as a musical. But, for all the visual splendour, spry, yearning-filled lyrics and syrupy sounds, it barely rises above the generic; a cynic's idea of Disney 'magic' at its blandest." Neil Norman in The Daily Express wrote that "too often this production comes across like panto on a big budget. The love story is pretty wet even for Disney and the characters, with a few exceptions, are unmemorable. However, the wonderful Friend Like Me number is an entire show in itself. And the magic carpet scene in which Jasmine and Aladdin are whisked around the stage with no visible means of support brings gasps from the audience. At moments like these, you'll believe in magic." Ian Shuttleworth in The Financial Times commented that "you can't reproduce a film onstage, much less an animated film where the only limit is the makers' imagination, So when writer Chad Beguelin, director Casey Nicholaw and designer Bob Crowley can't give as much, they give oodles more elsewhere. A slightly underwhelming magic carpet ride, but a sumptuous Cave of Wonders, several quick-change whizz-bangs, and of course big production numbers for the Genie... You get a lot of show for your money. And that seems to be the guiding principle behind the enterprise: lots to ooh and ahh over, lots to whoop at and just generally lots."

Disney's other London West End stage musicals include The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre, Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre, and also the seasonal ice skating show Disney on Ice at London's Wembley Arena and O2 Arena.

Alan Menken and Howard Ashman's London theatre credits include the musicals Little Shop of Horrors (Duke of York's Theatre 2007 and Ambassadors Theatre 2007) and Disney's Beauty and The Beast (Dominion Theatre 1997). Tim Rice's credits incude Disney's Beauty and The Beast (Dominion Theatre 1997) as well as Evita (Dominion Theatre 2014), From Here to Eternity Shaftesbury Theatre 2013), Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (Adelphi Theatre 2007) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyceum Theatre 1996). Chad Beguelin's London stage credits include Elf the Musical (Dominion Theatre 2015). Casey Nicholaw's West End theatre credits include the musicals The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre 2013) and The Drowsy Chaperone (Novello Theatre 2007).

"Mine eyes dazzle. Disney's musical, an orientalist fantasy with American accents, is so besequined and decked with bling that you may want to lie down and pull the blackout blinds... Aladdin and Princess Jasmine are almost as depilated as their buff, shiny bodies. The costumes and stage designs range from high-gloss opulence to enjoyably tacky ersatz. There are 'Ooh, look!' moments, but this is overwhelmingly bland family entertainment that nods at panto while jettisoning its subversive powers." The Sunday Times

"Proof, if ever it were needed, that nothing succeeds like excess. Aladdin, the latest musical adaptation of an animated Disney movie, is a bloated, blatant, overblown Broadway panto. It's a visual extravaganza... so smothering and overstuffed with super-slick set-piece dance pageantry that any emotional tremors remain undetectable, and it's so loud and brassy that any witty wisecrackery is rendered inaudible... A show that is shamelessly eager to please, with bevies of bellydancing girls and brawny, chest-baring boys, goes down a treat with an audience shockingly easy to please... While [the] magic-carpet ride to the tune of A Whole New World momentarily enchants, most effects are less special than spendthrift." The Mail on Sunday

"Disney's latest mega musical has been a big hit on Broadway but there is little to love about it in London. Most cast members appear to have been injected with DNA from a merchandise toy, though they are well led by former Britain's Got Talent contestant Dean John-Wilson as Aladdin. He's the 'rough diamond' in a band of petty thieves. As Jasmine, Sugarbabe Jade Ewen has a voice whose power belies her tiny frame, and with it comes plenty of rebellious attitude at her Sultan father. But without Trevor Dion Nicholas's wish-granting lamp-dweller we'd all be wishing we could leave. Maybe the same could be said of the 1992 film on which this show is based, with Robin Williams' stand-out turn as the Genie. This one moves like a butterfly, fires one-liners that sting like a bee. None of this would matter if the humour were more than moderately funny and the characters had some flesh. Still, there's tons of glitter and the Oscar-winning score survives along with Tim Rice and Howard Ashman's lyrics. But go for Genie not Aladdin. The rest is as thin as a princess's veil." The London Metro

Disney's Aladdin in London at the Prince Edward Theatre previewed from 27 May 2016, opened on 15 June 2016 and closed on 24 August 2019