BWW Review: DICK WHITTINGTON, Manchester Opera House
Traditionally, Dick Whittington tells the tale of a man who travels to London to find his fortune. And with infamous showman John Barrowman playing the staring role, Dick Whittington, and a charming Seventies duo, The Krankies, this production has the foundations to be a fantastic show. But despite keeping the audience laughing, there's no real plot, just a series of moments pieced together by songs.
Some of it feels drawn out and long-winded. Particularly, a sea-themed version of The 12 Days of Christmas, which becomes a bit dry towards the end - not literally, however, as Barrowman sprays the audience with water guns. But the children seemed to love every moment, so in that department it works fine.
In parts it can be hard to tell if Barrowman and the The Krankies are sticking to the script or improvising all of the mishaps, especially in the Haunted Bedroom scene. However, the natural chemistry between the trio carries the show along and keeps the audience laughing throughout.
Jacqueline Hughes puts in a delightful performance as The Spirit of Bow Bells, and despite not being on stage much, she truly shines when she is. Even the villain of the piece, Phil Corbitt's King Rat, is not a massively prominent figure. More focus is placed on Barrowman and The Krankies, but that doesn't mean Corbitt lacks in audience engagement, getting everyone to boo him louder and louder every time he appears.
Ian Westbrook and 3D Creations' set design is delightful to look at. It really encompasses the feel of a fairy tale, and is a feast for the eyes. The special effects, by The Twins FX, used to bring mechanical reindeers and sharks to life, are absolutely captivating. It's a particularly exciting moment when Barrowman, and later Janette Trough, are thrust out above the stage.
The ensemble perform fantastically, bringing so much energy to the show with their dance routines and flashy outfits, by Mike Coltman. Once again, the design really brings magic to the night, transporting us from a snowy night to a Moroccan palace with ease and elegance.
One slight concern is that, at times, the jokes border on being too adult for a child-friendly production. There's a fine line between cheeky panto entendres and blatant crudity, and Dick Whittington occasionally falls into the latter. There are also a few questionable jokes dotted throughout the show; the sexualising the female ensemble members stands out the most.
Overall, despite a few plot issues and some cruder jokes, the production is entertaining for adults and children alike.
Photo Credit: Paul Coltas