ReviewBH Dick Whittington 2019
From West End via EastEnders Dick Whittington is Bristol star
Dick Whittington opened at the Bristol Hippodrome this week and on Tuesday night, December 10, I sat in the stalls with two grandchildren aged eight and eleven.
It was a spectacular seasonal production with all the usual ingredients only bigger and better than ever before and the children loved it, vocalising approval throughout.
The cast led by Shane Richie are superb – over-the-top humour, all-singing and all-dancing.
But as a granny I took exception to being the butt of many jokes about smelly old ladies and their plentiful bottom pops.
I can’t imagine how the parents felt of the children on stage being asked ‘who do you love most mummy or daddy?’ (twice) when the mom won both times.
And how could you pretend to a four-year-old there weren’t enough goody bags for everyone and his stint on stage was likely to go unrewarded.
The child, I will add, was completely nonplussed.
Pantomime in the true traditions of music hall isn’t PC and for modern ears some of its cringe-worthy jokes are sic(k).
However, having said that I laughed – sometimes out loud, others sniggered and guffawed while the family of the youngsters who named their favourite parent displayed nothing but pride.
It was difficult to work out whether the mishaps were deliberate or not. Was the wig supposed to have fallen off? Was the curtain supposed to fall down exposing half-naked cast members getting ready for the next scene and trapping the lead actor in the wrong zone? Was the piece of apple spat out by Mr Richie supposed to get stuck on Captain Cockles (Peter Piper) cheek?
I don’t think the stage spotlight was supposed to come off in Mr Richie’s hand but who knows he is such a professional that the old adage ‘it will be all right on the night’ seemed superfluous.
The show opens under an arch of Bow Bells against a twinkling skyscape as we are introduced to the ‘rat race’ when baddie Queen Rat (Cbeebies favourite Jennie Dale) plots with a monstrous King Rat (think of the creature from The NeverEnding Story film only an evil version with red-eyes and gnawing teeth) for world domination.
Hoping to thwart their plans is golden girl Shona White as the goody goody Spirit of Bow Bells although she hasn’t a trace of a Cockney accent and appears to have been born north of the border.
While we were on the edge of our seats for the monster to return it was a static one-off appearance.
Then enter with gaudy gaiety Sarah the Cook (David O’Reilly). She is a terrific panto dame who wears a new outrageously colourful costume on every appearance and plays the part as a cross between Barbara Windsor and Melissa Ann McCarthy, of Bridesmaids fame, in funny frocks.
Rhyming slang linked ‘wooed’ with ‘rude’ and Dick fans were encouraged to shout out ‘we love Dick’ every time Mr Richie came on stage, groan.
Some wags managed a ‘we love Alfie’ and there were a several EastEnders references during the evening.
Love interest Alice Fitzwarren (Christine Tucker), Kitty Cat (Blair Cameron) and the ship's crew (The Acromanics) along with the babes from The Bristol School of Dancing complete the star line-up.
Using the audience as its stooge we were told ‘Bristol is famous for two things – rugby and beautiful women- and some poor woman in a front row seat was asked ‘what position do you play?'
It poked fun at all the isms.
I loved the front-of-stage tongue twister scene about the shoe shine shop and sushi bar; the sweet shop dancing to the tune of Flash, Bang, Wallop, YMCA in the navy routine with the sailor mannequins with Sarah in ‘ducky’ dress and lighthouse headgear and the Benny Hill theme tune gym aerobics – fab-u-lous.
Oh and the rat in a fez and sunglasses when the ship goes down…flushed away on Love Island in fat suits and the misreading of a birthday card to Maureen aged 111 which should have been a get well note as she is ‘ill’ – hope that isn’t too many spoilers.
Need to mention the flying double decker London red bus and junior dance corps fan-tas-tic.
All in all, it is a spectacular slapstick show telling the ultimate rags-to-riches story of Dick Whittington led by the soap-sensation and musical theatre star Mr Richie with maybe some loose ends.
Dick Whittington ‘borrowed’ or should that read ‘inherited’ the set, costumes and staging from the London Palladium adding a new script to make this a first-class off-West End production.
Despite the incommodious humour it is a great family night out.
Based on folklore the much-loved story of Dick Whittington outwitting King Rat, winning Alice’s hand in marriage and becoming Lord Mayor of London is brought to life with comedy, spectacle, live music (Nailsea's Ben Waghorn was in the orchestra pit) and plenty of audience participation.
Mr Richie has won numerous awards and millions of fans for his portrayal of Albert Square’s loveable landlord Alfie Moon in EastEnders and his other television credits include Oliver Twist, Skins, New Tricks, Minder and What We Did on Our Holidays.
Dick Whittington plays until Sunday, January 5, replacing the previously advertised production of Robin Hood - all tickets previously purchased for Robin Hood remain valid for Dick Whittington.
For tickets from £13 and more information click HERE or call 0844 871 3012.