Writer and Director: Paul Hendy
Musical director: Andy Booth
Reviewer: Janet Jepson
“There is nothing you can name, that is anything like a Dame” – so goes the famous lyric, but in Dick Whittington at The Lyceum Theatre in Sheffield this rings so true! Damian Williams is an excellent dame in the guise of the coarse, raucous Dolly the Cook. He has no feminine pretensions, no high heels, he’s just a rude guy in a silly frock, who has the audience roaring with laughter, and when he appears in a bikini … well, there’s no words …!
However there is no suggestion that Dolly carries the show at Sheffield, because everything else about the performance is just as engaging. Samantha Womack flies in very skilfully as Fairy Bow-Bells and recites her rhyming couplets in both Cockney and Yorkshire accents – but maybe a few less Eastenders references might have been appreciated? Andy Day playing Captain Crabstick is a wonderful find for the younger members of the audience, being a children’s television presenter in ‘real life’. Jo Parsons and Craig Garner in the rôles of Dick and his Cat come over as a lovable pair of characters who well deserve to find those gold-paved streets in the capital, and their victory over King Rat (aka John Barr) and his plague of minions is applauded enthusiastically by all the audience. The dancers too must be mentioned, because from the smallest little girl to the most professional artiste, they all look genuinely happy to be there, and enjoying themselves immensely. It is good too to see the youngest dancers actually having speaking parts in the show.
The set and costumes are lavish as befits the grand Sheffield Lyceum. The stage appears to have been extended out to give more space, and the orchestra is relocated to the boxes at the sides of the theatre – a new touch, which works very well, especially when King Rat joins the keyboard player in his box to be better able to rant at Dick. The scenery is enchanting, and the underwater scenes are particularly magical – it feels as if the sea monster with its eerie lighted eyes might crawl right off the stage and totally exterminate the first six rows of audience!
Music is always a large part of panto, and Dick Whittington does not disappoint here either. As well as the usual popular songs sung by the main characters, we get a taste of the West End musicals with Who am I? from Les Miserables, and Memories from Cats, not to mention a snatch of Meat Loaf’s Bat out of Hell from King Rat.
Yes, it’s worth taking the kids, and your granny, to see Dick. It is a somewhat different story from the usual pantomimes, which are fairytale-based, since Richard Whittington was a real person and he did seek his fortune and end up as Mayor of London, but that aside, it’s pure fun in Sheffield. This performance has all the magic of real pantomime at its best, with visual and musical treats, fun gags, smutty jokes just for the grown-ups, and of course the traditional happy ending to crank up the Christmas spirit. Although there is unusually no call for a couple of young watchers to go up onto the stage, there is plenty of chance to shout at the top of your voice, sing loudly, or even get up to dance in the aisles. And of course, you might be lucky enough to catch a sweet that Dolly hurls into the stalls, or even get a soaking from the giant water pistols!
Runs until: Sun 4 Jan 2015