Review: ‘Aladdin and His Winter Wish’ a fun ride at Pasadena Playhouse


Snowflakes hit the Sahara in “Aladdin and His Winter Wish,” now turning the Pasadena Playhouse into a surefire seasonal oasis. Although this second annual holiday romp from Lythgoe Family Productions (“A Snow White Christmas”) is again a broadly drawn merger of English panto, theme-park show and Nickelodeon special, its critic-proof formula is polished scimitar-sharp.

Written and directed by Kris and Bonnie Lythgoe, respectively, the scenario essentially follows the timeless “Arabian Nights” plot, albeit with ample liberties. Our tour guide, Wishee Washee (the energetic Ben Giroux) is younger brother to the streetwise title hero (Jordan Fisher, lithe and appealing), source of concern to their mom, Widow Twankey (Bruce Vilanch, having an ad-libbing field day).

Twankey’s dream of owning her own Laundromat is but one of “Aladdin’s” many loopy anachronisms. Glendale gets its knocks, as do certain teen icons, but the ribbing, sight gags and groaners are more integrated than before, and the sweet-natured approach proves irresistible.


PHOTOS: Hollywood stars on stage

Once more audiences are encouraged to boo villainous Abanazar (Josh Adamson, suitably grandiose); cheer Aladdin and his proto-feminist Princess (Ashley Argota, full-voiced and charming); get down with the mega-hip Genie (an assured, savvy Ben Vereen); and more, right through to the festive finale.

Along the way, musical director-arranger Michael Orland and choreographer Spencer Liff bring an impressive finesse to retooled pop standards whose sources range from “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Lawrence of Arabia” to Ray Charles and Bruno Mars. The splashy designs approach Radio City Music Hall levels, particularly Chris Wilcox’s spectacular lighting and the witty costumes by Albemarle Productions, and everyone onstage exudes magic-carpet buoyancy.

It might be nice to have that equine scene-stealer Little Man, appear longer than a house-rocking surprise bit, and the lack of obvious verbal play on Wishee’s name when he encounters a washing machine is curious -- though the resulting visual joke is delirious -- yet these are quibbles.

Besides the aforementioned principals, Richard Karn as a hypnotism-prone Sultan, powerhouse dancer Vanessa Nichole as the Slave of the Ring and the giddy handmaidens of Lauren Decierdo and Morgan Larson stand out amid an affable cast that has an old-fashioned blast.

So will you, maybe even more than the kids.



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“Aladdin and His Winter Wish,” Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena. 3 and 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 11 a.m., 3 and 7 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m., 3 p.m. Sundays. Also, 3 p.m. Dec. 24. Ends Dec. 29. $25-$75. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.