Writer &Director: Eric Potts
Reviewer: Iain Sykes
Dick Whittington, Manchester Opera House’s Christmas offering, is a Christmas cracker of a pantomime, packed with energy, a fast paced, brilliantly delivered script, written by Eric Potts, and enough jokes to keep the smiles on the faces of young and old from start to finish.
This great telling of the story is played out on Terry Parsons’s sumptuous, sparkling imagining of old London town which isn’t the only thing to shine as the whole cast seem to be in a contest to be the brightest thing on stage. Chief cheerleader for the vocal audience is Manchester panto regular, Tam Ryan. Back for the fourth successive year, his Idle Jack is a lovable fool, as hyper as a child on Christmas morning who’s already finished off the chocolate selection box. His scenes with the ever fantastic Eric Potts as Sarah the Cook are among the best treats of the night. A traditional kitchen scene with an overcooked sausage is one of the great scenes that appeal to all ages. Potts, ever the consummate pantomime dame has the audience eager with anticipation on each entrance as to which creation Sarah will be wearing. Usually an over the top frock and occasionally, something a lot more daring.
Samuel Holmes has a ball as the villainous King Rat, easily bringing forth the boos and hisses from the enthusiastic crowd as well as enjoying a rocking version of Going Underground and Jodie Prenger as his nemesis, Fairy Bowbells gets numerous chances to showcase her considerable vocal talents in among the rhyming couplets. Ben Faulks is an engaging hero in the title rôle and Hayley Jane Goold makes the most of her pantomime debut in a gymnastic performance as Tommy the Cat. Ashleigh, one half of the nation’s most famous girl and dog double act, proves to be a beautifully waif-like Alice Fitzwarren in her scenes without Pudsey but it’s the canine half of the act that effortlessly steals the scene and the hearts of the audience every time he appears on stage, whether it be dancing around on his hind legs or even just standing there.
It’s an all round excellent cast with Anthony Houghton’s Alderman Fitzwarren and Ben Goffe’s streetdancing ship’s captain also backed up with a team of dancers bringing Sarah Dean’s sharp choreography to life. Add a gorgeous, colourful and action packed 3D film section into the mix, that has the audience laughing and screaming in equal measure, and this pantomime is as close to perfect as it’s possible to be.
With a sharp, funny script packed with fast moving jokes, double entendres and perfectly choreographed set pieces performed by an amazing cast, this Dick Whittington is a Christmas treat not to be missed.
Runs until 5th January