There was something akin to magic in the air at the Birmingham Hippodrome last night, the hushed murmurs of people talking excitedly created a buzz, that filled it’s open spaces with the feeling of Christmas.
For those of you that don’t know, Dick Whittington is the Christmas Pantomime currently at the Birmingham Hippodrome. It’s the story of a man, who with the help of the spirit of pantomime takes on the rat army, along with King Rat to rid London of the uprising of rats and become Lord Mayor.
Sat in the fourth row, with my 3D glasses in hand, I began to feel dread. Did I just walk into the longest running children’s play I’d ever attended? The short answer? Not even a little bit.
The exceptionally written script was very good at entertaining adults and children simultaneously, using double-entendre’s and mistakes, both choreographed and accidental to evoke raucous laughter from every man, woman and child’s lips. The rhymes were simple and entertaining, and while maintaining the cheesy feeling that you expect of a Christmas pantomime, it also yielded some pretty unexpected gems of talent.
The first, the incredible dancers who performed lifts, dips, and spins with such ease, I was in awe. And I mean, mouth gaping, envy inspiring awe. They littered the entire pantomime with flawless movement to chart-topping pop songs, with altered lyrics. So by the time John Barrowman came on stage, I was already smitten. But it was impossible to overlook John Barrowman’s (who played Dick Whittington himself) stage presence. His personality
shone through the character without over-shadowing it, capitalizing on his quirks fantastically. Singing, dancing and joking his way through the first half, I think I may have fallen in love twice over.
I feel like Steve McFadden (who plays the soap star Phil Mitchell, and took on the character of King Rat) was under-appreciated. His husky booming voice, filled the children with terror as the booed him whole-heartedly, and there was nothing in the show that was more entertaining than to see Phil Mitchell in a wig, selling Haagen Daz and Cornettos.
The legendary comedy duo The Krankies, brought their own brand of crazy, and had me in stitches. But the performance I was most enamored by, was an actor I’d never had the pleasure of seeing before, the talented Matt Slack playing Idle Jack.
His lyrical prowess shocked and then delighted me and his down to earth acting style was a breath of fresh air to cut through all the melodramatic comedy. My favourite number was Andrew Ryan, who played Sarah The Cook’s dating story and Matt Slack with the occasional interruption of DVD titles.
All of this was punctuated by the most realistic props, including a ten foot rat, a thirteen foot shark who’s head protruded off the stage and over the crowd, and the sleigh which turns 360 degrees with John Barrowman inside.
However, It was the 3D display of a journey under the sea that was the true triumph of the show.
There is no denying that Dick Whittington is a perfect way to spend and evening with the kids, but it’s also the perfect place to share drinks with friends and laugh about the mass of inappropriate jokes while
feeling imbued with the spirit of the holiday. GO SEE THIS IMMEDIATELY.
P.S. if you bought tickets in the first seven rows, expect to get wet.
Dick Whittington is running until the Sunday 29th January. Tickets are available from the Birmingham Hippodrome website.