Writer: Eric Potts
Director: Russell Labey
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
It’s behind you! Well, actually it’s not, but yes it’s that time again! Dick Whittington the panto has arrived at Milton Keynes Theatre.
Dick Whittington and his trusted feline friend, Tommy, set off on their fun-filled quest for fame and fortune in London where, in a slight retelling of the traditional story, they hope to find the streets paved with gold. Will Dick win the hand of the lovely Alice Fitzwarren, a merchant’s daughter whose brother has given him employment? Not if the wicked Queen Rat has her way. It is a classic tale of good versus evil, the essence of all great pantos and the story naturally involves pop songs, silly fun and laughter for all the family, interaction with the audience and more.
Samantha Womack, in the role of Queen Rat, delivers a superb performance, really going for the baddy touch and what a singing voice. Her version of Feeling Good has real power and a nice jazzy touch. She gets the best out of the audience. Stacey Solomon, X Factor finalist, takes on the role of Fairy Bowbells and, although a little unsure at times, she certainly adds some fairy magic to the panto with her strong, soulful voice, her Essex charm and that winning smile. She settles into the role in the second part of the show, bringing out the humour and clearly enjoying herself.
Kevin Orkian, now a regular in Milton Keynes panto, brings us Idle Jack and does so with his usual energy, sass and easiness. Yes, there may be some repetition of last year’s jokes, to which he alludes, but he is great at the ad libs and equally so at working and interacting with his audience. He and Sarah The Cook, a rôle performed with style by Kevin Brewis, banter well and there are lots of risqué jokes relating to Dick which manage to stay within acceptable bounds and have the adult members (pardon the pun) in the audience in stitches. The sausage pie skit is hilarious. Brewis is a young pantomime dame but pretty much manages to pull it off. One of the funniest moments is the panto version of The Twelve Days of Christmas, involving Jack, Sarah The Cook, Bosun Bill and plenty of fun with the audience, including a showering. Enough said.
Hannah Ponting and Chris Jenkins, as Alice and Dick Whittington respectively, give very solid performances, both exhibiting powerful voices and lots of stage presence. Marc Pickering performs the two roles of Alderman Fitzwarren and Sultan in a quietly understated way but it works and provides a contrast to the other loud (metaphorically and literally) characters.
The 3D section is fantastic but no spoilers here. Sets and costumes are dynamic and colourful, particularly our pantomime dame’s. Some of hers have to be seen to be believed. Choreography by Sarah Dean is spot on and there is some beautiful dance, especially in the Morocco section to Cake By The Ocean. The children of the cast are wonderful dancers.
With a very pacy second act, this a panto that whizzes its audience along on a roller-coaster of fun. Just how panto should be.
Runs until 15 January 2017| Image: Contributed