Writer: Peter Rowe
Director: Paul Hart
Reviewer: Holly Spanner
Writer Peter Rowe and his team at the City Varieties in Leeds are back for another year with their iconic Rock n’ Roll pantomime. This year taking on the story of Dick Whittington, we follow Dick (Tom Milner) and his ever faithful Taffeta the Cat (Claire McGarahan) as he heads to London to find his fortune. Once there, he falls in love with the beautiful Alice Fitzwarren (Liz Singleton) who gets him an apprenticeship looking after Alderman Fitzwarren’s (Jamie Baughan) last bag of gold. But can Dick hold on to the gold AND the girl when the evil King Rat (David Heywood) is intent on snatching Alice for his own?
Doubling up as the onstage band, the cast slip seamlessly between actors and musicians (sometimes both at the same time), belting out classic rock anthems including ‘Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Dead Ringer for Love’, ‘Holding out for a Hero’ and ‘Tutti Frutti’ among a plethora of others. There’s a real party atmosphere both on stage and in the audience, with choreographer Claire McGarahan teaching the audience dance moves in the encore.
Returning to play the Dame after a successful run in last year’s pantomime, Simon Nook is cheeky, outrageous and responsible for many of the innuendos in the show (and there’s a lot). Very excitable, he quickly gets the audience to warm to Sarah the Cook’s antics, with jokes that set off more than one or two groans. David Heywood as the ugly and hairy King Rat appears on stage with a puff of ghastly green smoke, receiving a chorus ofdelighted boos and hisses from the audience. He’s the character you love to hate, while Liz Singleton as Alice Fitzwarren is charming with crystal clarity in her vocals. What a treat to see her in a lead rôle.
Following suite from previous years, dialogue is spoken in rhyming couplets which makes way for more gags and innuendos, while Sean Turner’s set is everything you would expect from a pantomime. Bright and interesting, it features a mezzanine level which is well utilised by the cast and a silver clad King Rat’s Underground Palace giving it little something extra than the ‘painted cardboard’ look you often see.
The production is perhaps a touch on the long side, as several of the songs could be made shorter without losing any of the impact. That said, there’s fun-a-plenty in this pantomime, it may even snow! Watch out for the evil King Rats ploy to keep Alice trapped in his sewers as he sends huge inflatable boulders to reign down on the audience. Dick Whittington is a fun packed family adventure which will entertain all generations.
Runs until: 11th January 2014