Opera House, Manchester
Until Sunday 7th January, 2018
Following recent productions of Cinderella and Aladdin, the world’s biggest pantomime producer Qdos Entertainment once again returns to the Opera House, Manchester with what is surely the strongest (and filthiest) panto Manchester has seen in years, Dick Whittington.
It may be light on traditional pantomime content, retaining only the most essential aspects of the familiar Dick Whittington plot, and lacking in audience participation, but it is nevertheless a damn good show, and an hilarious star vehicle for the seasoned trio of John Barrowman and veteran panto masters, The Krankies (Ian and Janette Tough).
The absence of both a Dame and a typical Simple Simon-audience friend type character does strike as a rather unusual choice, however it most definitely proves to be a wise one as it affords much greater stage time for the production’s relatively small principal cast. Recent Manchester pantomime’s have seen principal characters such as the princess and baron reduced to mere bit part players, but thankfully there’s no sign of that here.
The core creative team of director, Michael Gyngell, set designers, Ian Westbrook and 3D Creations, lighting designer, Ben Cracknell, and visual special effects artists, The Twins FX, have certainly ramped things up from recent years and deliver a hugely impressive affair, bursting with vibrant colour, big budget visual effects and even a 3D underwater adventure for all to enjoy (3D glasses are provided!). Mike Coltman’s speciality costumes are effective, though the absence of a dame does render lavish, over-the-top costumes less important than in other productions.
As Dick Whittington, Barrowman makes for a solid, charismatic principal boy and gives his warm bari-tenor a decent run out throughout, with The Krankies – Ian as Councillor Krankie and Janette as Wee Jimmy – brining the house down throughout.
Strangely though, Barrowman makes it clear early on that this is very much ‘John Barrowman’ playing ‘Dick Whittington’, listing all the previous pantos he has been part of; an odd decision that does break the panto illusion a little.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the billing, innuendo is firmly cranked up to eleven, with Barrowman and The Krankies clearly relishing the wave of risqué routines and near the knuckle material they have been given. The trio have worked together on a number of occasions now and their chemistry most definitely shines through.
Lauren Hampton and Jacqueline Hughes do lovely work as Alice and The Spirit of Bow Bells, respectively, and Phil Corbitt does a brilliant job as the evil King Rat. The ensemble and local dance academy are both underused, though make the most of the little required of them.
Musical Director Antony England leads the fabulous Opera House Orchestra who give a superb performance throughout.
As previously mentioned, the script is light on traditional pantomime material, with very little audience participation – no “he’s behind you”, no “Oh no he isn’t”, no Ghost Gag – and only one lengthy front of cloth gag, however, if you can forgive that, and don’t mind an extra large dose of adult-friendly sexual innuendo, this is most certainly the show for you. It’s fun, filthy and eye-wateringly funny.
Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes (approx.), including one 20-minute interval.
Final Performance at The Opera House, Manchester: Sunday 7th January, 2018
For more information, and to book tickets, please Click Here.