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A caricature of Osama bin Laden appearing in panto in New Zealand has caused a bit of a kerfuffle by bursting into a rendition of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York, the New Zealand Herald reports.

The musical Ozzie appeared at the end of the Southern Stars Charitable Trust's version of Aladdin, provoking one parent to complain to the Trust that his inclusion was "callous", and a "calculated political statement". He recalled: "We had gone expecting a bit of escapism in the afternoon. It was meant to be real kids' stuff ... then Osama bin Laden started singing New York, New York. It was unbelievably offensive and inappropriate. There was just a stunned silence."

Panto director Director David Coddington defended the inclusion of al-Qaeda's head honcho as "just an aside joke at the end that parents would catch on to". He claimed that the choice of song "was not intended to have any relevance to September 11" and was "very much tongue in cheek". He added that bin Laden had appeared in the panto two years previously, without attracting comment.

A spokeswoman for the Southern Stars Charitable Trust confirmed that it had received a single complaint about the play - which had generated NZ$71,500 for a kids' hospital in-house radio station. "I'm so upset about this," she told the Herald. "We are trying to do something for a charity and do something good. I think in the context it would have been funny." ®

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