Review: ★★★★ Dick Whittington, The Panto Paved with Gold: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Review:  ★★★★ Dick Whittington, The Panto Paved with Gold: Wolverhampton Grand Theatre

Dick Whittington at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is a traditional pantomime bursting with sparkle and slapstick. If you’re coming to the theatre for a night of festive entertainment, you will not be disappointed. With the commemoration of the Wolverhampton Grand’s 125th birthday, an atmosphere of fun-time celebration is the lasting impression of Dick Whittington at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

Star performances of the night include those by Aaron James as Idle Jack and the notable Su Pollard as Queen Rat. James entices the audience immediately with his quick wit, impressive impressions and likeability – an ideal fit for the comic lead. Pollard’s recognisable humour is lovable and creates a natural bond with adults in the audiences; quickly sharpened by an evil voice and wicked humour in her role as the pantomime antagonist, Queen Rat. There is an unexpected surprise for those who know Pollard from Hi-De-Hi at the end of the pantomime – making it a real crowd pleaser. Fellow Hi-De-Hi cast member Jeffery Holland plays Alderman Fitzwarren, he captures the essence of a loving father perfectly and interjects with some funny moments, certain to entertain. Jordan Ginger as Tommy the Cat is agile in his movements and has a strong sense of character which is peppered with light-hearted jokes, the ‘purfect’ companion for Dick. Ryan Thomas as the titular character, Dick Whittington fulfils the hero role well, although the focus of this version of Dick Whittington is on the cheeky comedy of the stock characters. Therefore, Ian Adams as director, writer and the pantomime dame is what this pantomime is all about! This larger-than-life acting characterises the entire production.

The Choreography is a high point. Julie Paton doubles as actor and choreographer; playing Fairy Bow Bells with some stunning vocals and endearing narration of the pantomime, engaging all the children in the audience. Paton fulfils the celebratory tone of the pantomime through energetic choreography for the ensemble. The movement of the rats in Pollard’s musical numbers show off the technical ability of the performers as they slink around the stage, using ballet to convey their evil power. Overall, Paton produces a high energy, showbiz, glitz and glam feel via dance in Dick Whittington.

Dick Whittington is a real treat for the eye. High production values are evident throughout, matching the renowned Victorian Theatre architecture of The Grand Theatre itself. The costumes are dazzling – especially those worn by Ian Adam as Sarah the Cook – the highly anticipated pantomime dame. Every scene sees her entering the sage in a new dress and wig, my particular favourite is her shipwrecked look as she appears washed up on the Moroccan shore for the infamous ‘behind you’ scene, with an octopus and fishing net in her spangled skirt. Huge set pieces are used to create the Fitzwarren Store, the Moroccan Shore and most spectacularly the Sultan’s Palace; communicating a clear shift in geographical location. Unfortunately, among the plentiful gags the story line of Dick Whittington is lost and the set is the only aspect of the production which helps keep you on track. This being said, the writing by Ian Adams ensures the panto is up to date, including topical references to Boris Johnson, original jokes and gags.

The Visual Special Effects by The Twins FX in combination with Lighting Design by Tom Johnson and Ben Harrison’s Sound Design produce a ginormous evil rat towering over the actors and audience alike – certain to give even the adults a fright!

For the 125th anniversary, it must be mentioned that the audience were treated to a guest appearance of Jimmy Tarbuck. Hearing about his impressive life and career in the industry as well as being re-laid some classic jokes. A real icon and crowd pleaser, such a delightful surprise.

Dick Whittington at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is a fabulously festive family evening out.

Dick Whittington runs until Sunday January 12th 2019.

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