Review: Aladdin Jr performed by HATS - Youngsters bring Disney magic to stage

YOUNG HATS, the youth section of Herstmonceux Amateur Theatrical Society, did not confuse Easter with Christmas and this production was not an out-of-season pantomime.

Instead, Aladdin Jr was a spirited Arabian Nights story based on the Disney film of Aladdin which memorably featured the voice of Robin Williams as the Genie.

In the show’s programme, Jo Stevens, making her directorial debut, generously paid tribute to the support she had received from HATS stalwarts, especially co-directors Jo Carlton and Chris Thompson, musical director Linda Thompson, and choreographer Hanna Huggett.

Nevertheless, bringing together 36 school-age youngsters who had been rehearsing since January for three nights on stage was no mean feat.

With a colourful kaleidoscope of appropriately Middle Eastern costumes and a backdrop painted in exotic colours cleverly replicating Disney’s animation, this was a triumph of youthful exuberance and all-round local amdram co-operation.

Without the seasonal juxtaposition several of the main roles were not in panto tradition.

Aladdin was played by a boy, Oliver Stevens, whose confidence and stage presence belied his years.

The same attributes applied to Lauren Noya, in the key role of the Genie. Hayley Huggett as charming Princess Jasmine, Tom Fox as the imperious Sultan, Alex Stevens as scheming Jafar, and Hattie Pemberton as Iago the parrot, his cocky companion, together with five Narrators, helped keep the story moving.

Aladdin and Jasmine singing A Whole New World, as they sat together on a believable magic carpet, was a powerful duet of young voices which thoroughly deserved prolonged applause.

There was no “he’s-behind-you” but plenty of “cool” and “like makes wishes an’ stuff”, when describing the magic lamp.

This was a vibrant production firmly rooted in today’s language or, as Aladdin would say, “awesome”!

Roger Paine