Tuesday, November 28

Dick Whittington – Bristol Hippodrome

What better way to say goodbye to a torrid 2020 and begin 2021, than being able to watch a spectacular theatrical treat, (albeit virtually), and that is just what Dick Whittington is!

‘The Shows Must Go On’ YouTube channel has been a real godsend during 2020, keeping audiences entertained from the comfort of their own living rooms, whilst raising much needed funds for important theatre charities. Dick Whittington, which was performed December 2014 to January 2015 is streamed by ‘The Shows Must Go On’ and presented by First Family Entertainment and is raising much need funds for the Inner-city arts charity. You can go to https://inner-cityarts.org to find out more about this charity and you can also donate to this charity on the website.

This Glitzy, Glamourous, festive family treat was both visually and theatrically stunning. As someone who has been performing in a large-scale pantomime for 16 years, it was really warming to see writer and director Eric Potts stick true to the traditions of Pantomime with goofs, gags and throwbacks to yesteryear. Potts, who also starred as Dame Sarah, The Cook, has got the art of being a dame down to a T! His costumes are hilarious, glamourous and vibrant all in one go, but Potts owns it rather than letting the costume own him. I certainly want to see more of Potts as Dame.

Potts is backed up by a stellar cast with returning Hippodrome favourite Andy Ford as the lovable, brilliantly funny Idle Jack. CBBC’s Ben Faulks as Dick Whittington, Britain’s Got Talent star Ashleigh Jade Butler as Alice Fitzwarren and her trickster dog Pudsey. They are joined by X Factor star Brenda Edwards as Fairy Bowbells, Lara Denning as Queen Rat, Ben Goodridge as Alderman Fitzwarren/Sultan of Morocco, and Hayley Jane Goold as Tommy the Cat.

You can see just why Andy Ford is a returning family favourite. Ford knows just how to work up an audience and he has them in fits of laughter and has them held in the palm of his hand from his first entrance singing Megan Trainor’s ‘All about the bass’ wearing an inflatable suit.

Ben Faulks is spritely as Dick Whittington and has good on-stage chemistry with his Co-Star Ashleigh as Alice Fitzwarren and also with the acrobatic Hayley Jane Goold as Tommy the Cat. Faulks and Butler demonstrate strong vocal ability when harmonising during their multiple Musical numbers.

X Factor star Brenda Edwards is beautiful as Fairy Bowbells and performs well with her soulful voice and is given several moments to display her belt but doesn’t quite reach the levels that Brenda is capable of. (I’ve been lucky enough to see Brenda perform live and she is incredible).

The standout in this wonderful production is Lara Denning as the feisty Queen Rat. Her character is devilishly wonderful, and she oozes on stage presence, captivating the audience with her effortless vocals.

Overall, this pantomime was everything it should have been, fun for all the family. My favourite scene was the hilarious baking scene and in particular Andy Fords gag about separating the eggs set up by Eric Potts.

Special mention must go to the ensemble. Very rarely do you see a large ensemble in a professional pantomime production, but this large ensemble proved why EVERY production needs one. The Ensemble contained both adults and children and they livened up the colourful sets with leaps and tricks and incredible dancing. The young ensemble doubled up as the ratlings. I must also mention the impressive 3D shipwreck scene. Which was colourful, wonderfully done with a mix of 3D effects and live actors.

Music was very well chosen with an equal mix of Ballads and upbeat pop songs. My favourite was the Go West/In The Navy Medley which was interspersed with a rendition of Good Ship Lollypop by Dame Sarah and I was also a huge fan of the London is London/Lambeth Walk Medley. Malcom Forbes-Peckham and Steve Power must be congratulated for Musical Direction and Musical Supervision respectively. Praise also to Production Designer Terry Parsons for Production design.

I was privileged to sit and watch this and was glued to the screen from start to finish. I only wish I could go back six years and sit in the packed auditorium and lap up every minute.

A real treat!

Reviewer: Chris Hanlon

Reviewed: 2nd January 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★