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 Any sketch that contains outdated stereotypes and blow-up dolls has no place on the club scene, let alone a family pantomime.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