Aladdin (Review), Theatre Royal, Brighton 

A magic carpet flying over the West Pier? It sounds strange, but then again what should you expect from this version of Aladdin, starring feisty Eighties pop icon Toyah Willcox and X-Factor finalist Chico? 

With so much to choose from during the pantomime season it's difficult to decide on a particular show, but panto veteran Willcox, who plays the Genie, reckons this production has it all. 

"It's such a spectacular production I can't make up my mind about what my favourite moment is," she says. "That will come when we start performing. Panto audiences are great fun and at the moment they are the only missing ingredient." 

The successful mix is spiced up by Chico, who, as readers of the tabloids will know, has been romantically linked with the show's choreographer Suzanne Mole. 

"Chico's absolutely brilliant," says Willcox. "He's exactly what you see on telly, he's incredibly positive and very conscientious. People are very perceptive of whether you want to be there or not and his enthusiasm makes him perfect for the role. I think he will be offered pantos for the next 30 years." 

The story takes place long ago in the Middle East and follows street urchin Aladdin in his quest to free the Genie of the Lamp and win the love of Princess Jasmine, played by Jennifer Hubilla from the West End's Miss Saigon. 

Director Richard Baron, whose CV includes the Hound of the Baskervilles at the Nottingham Playhouse, has created an all-singing, all-dancing, traditional family pantomime with big production values to match. 

Expect plenty of brightly-coloured costumes and a special performance of Chico's crowd-pleaser It's Chico Time, which knocked Madonna from the top of the charts earlier in the year. 

"Because all of us are actors who've been in the business for many years, we can take it much further than a panto normally goes," says Willcox. "It's running very much like a comedy. In fact, it's like a big Morecombe and Wise sketch and it's very funny indeed." 

The Argus
14th December 2006