BWW Reviews: DICK WHITTINGTON, Lyceum, Sheffield, 9 Dec 2014

The annual Sheffield Lyceum pantomime this year is Dick Whittington. It stars Samantha Womack (best known as Ronnie in EastEnders) as Fairy Bow Bells, Andy Day (CBeebies) as Captain Crabstick and perennial favourite Damian Williams (in his seventh Lyceum panto) as Dolly the Cook, along with John Barr (King Rat), Gemma Sutton (Alice), Jo Parsons (Dick), Patrick Clancy (Alderman Fitzwarren), Craig Garner (Tommy the Cat), Tramaine Wright (Sultan) and a cast of supporting performers.

The production (a Sheffield Theatres/Evolution Pantomimes co-production) ticks all the boxes you might want in a pantomime: calls and responses, cheering and booing, dozens of jokes - good and bad, song and dance numbers to reworked contemporary favourites (including the likes of Taylor Swift's 'Shake it Off', Pharrell's 'Happy' and a couple of 'Frozen' tracks), fabulous costumes, fireworks, a slightly daft-and-oft-deviated-from tale and a wee smattering of local humour.

How much you enjoy this production will probably depend on your tolerance for pantomime as a form - but if you're up for joining in with the shouting, happy to groan as much as laugh, and you're not offended when the charismatic villain is defeated by the slightly bland heroes, then you'll have a great time.

Some of the gags are very funny, both the visual gags - such as an exploding pie or Dolly's many spectacular outfits - and the jokes in the dialogue. Some of them were pretty filthy but mainly in a way that would go over the heads of children present. One of the highlights for locals is probably a (slightly overlong) sketch around road signs and place names, although what non-Sheffield residents made of it, I don't know. Some of the jokes rely too much on repetition - and whilst you have to expect that in pantomime, occasionally sketches were either dragged out a little too long or repeated once too often.

The song and dance routines are competent and vibrant - John Barr's King Rat probably gets the pick of the solos, which led to a conflicted audience response whereby the adults were all clapping and the kids were booing - still, I guess that's the sign of a good villain! The rest of the cast deliver their songs well, deliver their gags with a twinkle in their eye and, in Samantha Womack's case, deliver lines and songs whilst flying around without looking like she might throw up, which is some achievement given how much time she spends in the air.

Special mention should also be given to the live band whose input throughout in the form of comedy noises, sound effects and fanfares, as well as during the musical numbers, really makes the action work.

All the kids present seemed to be enjoying themselves-my eight year old companion said 'everything' was her favourite part, which is probably a good sign. The production is possibly a tad long and would benefit from some more judicious pacing within scenes (the scene changes were pretty swift) but it overall delivers the panto goods and is a good way to get into the spirit of the season.

Dick Whittington is at the Lyceum, Sheffield until 4 January 2015.

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From This Author Ruth Deller

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