North WestPantomimeReview

Dick Whittington – Opera House, Manchester

Director: Michael Gyngell

Reviewer: Matthew Forrest

It seems an odd pairing, that of John Barrowman and the Krankies:  one forging out a career in Hollywood, the others light entertainment stalwarts delighting crowds for over 50 years. They make for strange but successful bedfellows together as this is their third outing together performing Dick Whittington, having previously taken the show to Glasgow, Birmingham and now, it is the turn of Manchester.

You may be familiar with the plot of this festive favourite, however, this latest version has a few plot twists that you don’t see coming: Dick Whittington (Barrowman) arrives in London to seek his fortune, it is here that he meets Councillor Krankie, Jimmy (The Krankies) and the Councillor’s daughter Alice (Lauren Hampton). It is here that Whittington learns of London’s rat problem. The rats, led by King Rat (Phil Corbitt), plan on taking over not just London, but Manchester and later the rest of the world as well. Can our hero save the day and win the girl of his dreams in the process?

The word best used to describe this show is bizarre. It is a show packed full of fun, energy and a hefty dose of innuendo, so much so that if the Carry On team hadn’t got there first then this would have unquestionably been called Carry on Dick. Our introduction to Dick Whittington sees Barrowman fly down from the rafters using a rocket pack and sporting the tightest pair of trousers possibly ever seen on stage, which pretty much sets the tone for the evening: silly, camp in-your-face fun.

This is very much a show of two halves: during the first half, we get to see the unquestionable chemistry between Barrowman and Janette Krankie (Janette Tough). The two bounce off one another: adlibbing and throwing just enough smut our way. It’s bawdy and at times near-the-knuckle, but this is a panto and somewhat expected. The two are not dissimilar to the class clowns egging the other on to see who can get the biggest laugh, when the pair do go off script, you have Ian Krankie (Ian Tough) on hand to reign them in.

Following the interval the notion of reigning it in is firmly out of the window, it is pretty much more of the same, only more risqué and if honest a little bit crass. A song based around The 12 Days of Christmas gets out of hand and demonstrates just how going off script isn’t always a good idea. Any sketch that contains outdated stereotypes and blow-up dolls has no place on the club scene, let alone a family pantomime. By the end of the show you’ll have heard every ‘willie’ double entendre imaginable, and whilst it may fly over the heads of some young children in the audience, one can foresee some parents having quite awkward conversations with older children.

The supporting cast work their socks off. Corbitt is underused as the villain but plays his the role well. Jacqueline Hughes as The Spirit of Bow Bells and Lauren Hampton add a touch of glamour to the show and certainly get into the swing of things: both do a great job with the musical numbers they are involved in.

However, this undoubtedly is the John Barrowman and Janette Krankie show, with both proving game for a laugh and pretty much up for anything. Krankie’s turn as Madonna towards the end of the show is something that will long live long on in the memory and not for all the right reasons!

One area this show does excel in is its high production values. There are two sequences involving a sleigh and a shark which are really top draw and certainly add a spot of magic to the proceedings. In addition there is a 3-D video sequence that is simply mind-blowing and as good as anything I have seen in any Hollywood blockbuster. It may be a little scary for some youngsters but it had everyone in the audience screaming and laughing in equal measure.

Overall this a good silly fun night out, the younger members of the audience seemed to lap it up, for the adults it reminded me of an episode of Mrs Brown’s Boys only without the swearing,  if that’s your thing you’ll love it. if it wants to be a classed as a show for all the family, then it needs to tone down some of the smut and take itself just a tad more seriously, because if it doesn’t do so no else will. I’m just glad there are no “He’s behind you” moments in the show lord knows what Barrowman and wee Jimmy would have done that!

Runs until the 7th January 2018 | Image: Contributed


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Needs toning down

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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  1. This has to be the funniest pantomime we have seen – the chemistry between John Barrowman and Jeanette really shines through. Everybody around me, of all ages, laughed from start to finish.

  2. This should not be listed as a family show. I have been to many pantomimes at the Opera House. A level of inuendo is expected, but the afternoon show on 12.12.17. went too far. The children around me said this is really rude. It is not acceptable to be fondling a woman’s breasts, to expose Jeanette’s bottom in a thong style costume, to show a man in bed with a ‘boy’ discussing what they can feel under the covers, imitating a penis sticking out of clothes and this doesn’t include what was actually said ( I can assure you it was not what was quoted on Good Morning). Had I been with my own family I would have left early. This is the first time I have ever complained about a show. I lodged a complaint with the Opera House yesterday and have yet to receive a reply.

  3. This is what you get when you team up The Wonderful Krankies who have learnt their beautiful craft over 50 years and the production. We loved it from start to finish. My children were in fits of laughter and us adults lapped it up even more. The best Panto at the Opera House for years although we did miss Tam Ryan. Well done to everyone at last a Panto That Manchester deserves.

  4. Absolutely brilliant! Me and my family laughed from start to finish highly recommended for all ages ! Well done everyone:)

  5. Just home after a brilliant night out, very funny. 2 adults and children 9 and 10..As earlier comment be nice if Tam returned. Best Panto in Manchester since Jim Davidsons in the 90s.
    Children shocked that Krankies are 70 year old married couple. X

  6. Utterly fabulous – My age range was from young teens to octogenarian and no-one was offended in the slightest. John Barrowman is so brilliant and how anyone can demand this show be shut down is beyond belief- Happy Christmas!

  7. Briiliant show, 2 grandparents and 2 children (10 and 8), laughed from start to finish – including the briiliant 3D effects where the whole audience screamed and loved it. The rapport between John Barrowman and The Krankies was superb.This is traditional panto at it’s very best….singing,dancing,slapstick,innuendo, audience participation and sheer enjoyment. Our 2 youngsters asked can we go again .

  8. it was funny, visually spectacular and had everyone involved. Yes the show has double entendres, yes it refers to a humour which could be deemed from the past but this is John and The Crankies, this is what they do and have for many years. It was a great true panto that had all years in roars of laughter. GO GO you will love it

  9. I’ve seen it and yes it is ruder than the average panto but it was hilarious and I was sober! The jokes are innuendos so go over most young children’s heads, it’s light hearted Christmas Panto at its funniest. If you’re easily offended don’t go, if you want to laugh at panto style humour with a cast that perform well together, spectacular set, amazing costumes get yourself down there and don’t let the panto police spoil your fun!

  10. Wow the best pantomime I’ve ever seen me and the whole family wife 3 children 13 12 and 10 year old laughed from start to finish absolutely brilliant singing,dancing,slapstick,innuendo, audience participation and sheer enjoyment 3d was brilliant iam still smiling few hrs later and has set my Christmas off massive well done to all the cast the crankies rock

  11. Great – funny on every level – yes adults and teenagers will be entertained too; and what’s wrong with that? By far the best pantomime we have seen in Manchester for years, and we have done the last 16!

  12. Absolutely got to be one of the best pantos we’ve been to. John Barrowman fabulous and the krankies brilliant!! Laughed all the way thru. Good 3d effects and ruddolph in the air. Very funny and entertaining ? my little nephew and 42 year old brother loved it.

  13. An absolutely fantastic show, absolutely hilarious from start to finish, myself , husband and kids aged 10,10 & 7 were laughing ? from the pits of our tums with tears rolling for the majority of the show. The chemistry between John Barrowman and the Crankys shines through it was a pleasure to watch, and our children absolutely loved Jeanette’s character and keep singing her song ‘he’s always picking on me ‘ and giggling ?. Yes it’s a bit raw and the ad libbing is plain to see but that’s panto and that’s what’s makes so, keep it up and don’t change a thing and I hope you team these two up again they are fab together and would definitely watch them again and again !!!!!

  14. Absolutly brilliant best panto ive ever seen, laughed from start to finish hilarious. Didn’t think I liked the Krankies well I do now. great special effects. Next year will have a hard act to follow.

  15. Absolutely FANTASTIC!!! One of the best pantomimes I have ever seen produced by Qdos and everything was hilarious and the special effects were outstanding. I dont understand the fuss by some ‘sensitive’ mothers who seem to hate upon the show but if your children are understanding the jokes which are supposed to go over their heads they, as parents, have clearly exposed their kids at some time to understand the terms and therefore they have themselves to blame. 50/10 would go and watch it again and again!!!! All the cast were on top form and seem as though they are having just as much fun as the audience.

  16. We LOVED the whole show. We came with our 6 year old and although there were innuendo’s they went right over his head. We would come back and see this pantomime in a heart beat. Hilarious with a great cast!

  17. Fantastic pantomime hilariously funny and brilliant special effects. So good that we have booked to see the final performance tonight.

  18. Visited last show of panto and all I can say is that it was absolutely laugh out loud from start to finish, amazing chemistry between John and Jeanette with excellent performances from all the rest of supporting cast members.
    Yes was a little rude at times but this is the 21st century so stop being such boring prudes, name a show that Barrowman hasn’t added a touch of innuendos in so what would you expect even Dr Who is for children….
    Would we go again? Definately! Would we want to see the show toned down? Definately not!!!! 10/10

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