19 December to 29 January 2017
Reviewed by Katy Nettleton and Stacey Lamb
So, we presume you are aware of the great British tradition of visiting a pantomime around Christmas with double innuendo jokes and shouting “he is behind you”? Well this is no different – except the stakes have been raised, the pantomimes are no longer cheesy laughs but full belly laughs and tears from hilarity, a hysterical production (or afternoons entertainment) which has been brought into the 21st Century.
You may not think 21st Century when you see the headlining acts John Barrowman, The Krankies (who must have been around for the past+ years), Steve McFadden, Matt Slack, Jodie Prenger; an eclectic group of performers who have many years’ experience in show business but this was new, refreshing and entertaining – panto at the best. There was modern music (as well as older music), brilliant singing, 3D effects (we won’t give too much away on this as it was a “surprise element”), dancing, entertainment and new “compere” (AKA Matt Slack as Idle Jack). Matt Slack was brilliant, he was more than his character and for us he was the star of the show, engaging the audience, making silly “mistakes”, talking to children and generally a very funny character bringing different scenes together.
As far as the story goes Dick Whittington is always a good story and it has been adapted to accommodate the cast. It did feel like Alice was overshadowed and that the production team focussed on John Barrowman, and The Krankies rather than the gruff King Rat (Steve McFadden) who we feel could have a stronger presence in the show. Although the introduction of spectacular staging, creatures and backdrops added a certain quality to the production is often overtook the show itself (especially in the second half). This may be a preference, but for us the 3D experience, was not necessarily required as the audience was already eating out of the hand of the cast and enjoying the scripted shenanigans and the odd “blips”. The performance was brilliant, and at the start you felt that the “blips in the script” were true mishaps but towards the end of the pantomime you started questioning them as they blended in seamlessly to the show.
I know we all think we know what you get from a panto, but for us this is the “blueprint” of a pantomime, fun, laughter, mishaps and most of all the audience were enthralled throughout. The 2 hours (of show time) passed by without a blink of an eye.
In our humble opinion, there was a lot of “showy bits” and less story, and to take this pantomime onto a new level there needs to be a bit more story. Saying, all this John Barrowman (as expected) was brilliant and read the audience brilliantly with all characters being played expertly, singing beautifully and providing a pure evening of entertainment.
It would be hard to go and see another pantomime now, and we will definitely be taking our children in the New Year! Although we do worry about them (aged 6) if they would be able to get all the jokes and keep up with the story as it is broken down quite a bit to enable the “stars” to take centre stage.
We give this 4.5 out of 5, and think it is definitely worth a visit.
Tickets cost from £15.50 (booking fees may apply).
Dick Whittington is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until 29 January 2017. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 0844 338 5000.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Hurst St, Southside, Birmingham, B5 4TB | 0844 338 5000