Sassy genies and a bunch of laughs make up for lame songs in Centerstage’s panto “Aladdin”

Tacoma News TribuneDecember 10, 2013 

Casey Raiha and Terry Edward Moore star in Centerstage's "Aladdin."

MICHELLE SMITH-LEWIS

Some folks say humor doesn’t translate, but after eight holiday pantomimes the folks at Centerstage Theatre, Federal Way have proved that they’re well and truly bilingual. This season’s offering in that madcap, joke-a-minute genre is “Aladdin,” and while the songs are entirely forgettable (except for the covers) the set, costumes, choreography and sheer hilarious fun combine for an evening that’ll have you laughing for a week.

The first thing to know about pantomime, for the uninitiated, is that it’s as English as Monty Python and Charles Dickens thrown together in a musical blender. Every year at Christmastime Brits flock to theaters big and small to see this quirky branch of theatrics that combines the same funny elements in different silly scenarios: a vain old woman played by a man, a male lead played by a girl, spoofs of current songs, local references (the royal death penalty is a night out in Fife), slapstick sight gags (custard pies, anyone?) and gratuitous tap dancing. Oh, and did we mention the audience participation? While it’s fun to boo the villain and scream hysterically when the hero makes an entrance, sitting in the front row is not for the faint-hearted.

“Aladdin” delivers all this and more with a confidence built over eight years of pantomimes. The cast is uniformly excellent: Casey Raiha bringing a smooth, 5th-Avenue stage presence to his boy-next-door Aladdin, Kate Alden doing a sweet Princess Jasmine (though with uncertain soprano), Anna Marie Clausen very perky as the expectorating P.C. Pongo. But of course the comic characters steal the show (as they should): Terry Edward Moore as the dastardly mwa-ha-ha sorcerer Abanazar with theatrical pretensions, Brynne Geiszler sassy and Josh Williamson groovy as the two genies, Dale Bowers as the bumbling Emperor and veteran Alan Bryce playing the laundry lady Widow Twankey with perfect, deadpan comic delivery. Voices are good, dancing is better, and the sets (Steffon Moody) and costumes (Deb Skorstad) go far beyond the usual community theater standard, especially the “Cats”-style oversize laundry lines in saturated pastels.

British writer Paul Hendy has packed the script full of good jokes, groan-worthy puns and double-entendres (but don’t worry, parents, this is truly family entertainment), and the genie version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” (did I mention custard pies?) is one of the funniest parts. But otherwise the music is forgettable, verging on lame, and that’s a pity when there’s so much else that’s good about this show. There were also miking problems last Saturday night, which didn’t help some of the weaker voices.

Overall, though, this is the funniest show you’ll see around town these holidays. And it’s probably the only one where you’ll get squirted with water pistols halfway through. (See, I warned you not to sit in the front row…)

“Aladdin” runs 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 22. $28 adults/$24 seniors, military/$10 ages 25 and younger; 253-661-1444, centerstagetheatre.com.

Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 rosemary.ponnekanti@thenewstribune.com

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