The show is laden with fantastic special effects from the outset, when John Barrowman (Dick) is lowered down onto the stage by a jet pack. Whilst this of course, may not be in keeping with the traditional story of Dick Whittington, it was certainly visually spectacular. As the show continued, we found that the whole pantomime differed somewhat to the old folklore tale, but this didn't matter at all, as the stars of the show provided an outstanding and laughter filled story from the very start.
The opening song and dance sequence had all the audience clapping and singing along and we were gradually introduced to all the characters. These included the villainous King Rat (played by Phil Corbitt), the beautiful Spirit of Bow Bells (played by Jaqueline Hughes), Alice the Councillor's daughter (played by Lauren Hampton), Tommy the Cat (played by Ryan Kayode), The Councillor & Jimmy (played by Ian & Janette Tough) and of course the marvellous Dick Whittington (played by John Barrowman).
Photo Credit: Phil Tragen
Wee Jimmy Krankies rendition of "Picking on Me" had both my son and I crying with laughter, to the point where I was struggling to breathe. My daughter liked the bedroom scene, in particular the parts that seemed to go wrong along with the set issues, though it was hard to tell whether these were scripted or actual errors. Either way it was extremely funny and John Barrowman's improvisation skills teamed up with the quick-witted Krankies, made for the perfect pairing. I believe the trio have worked together in panto for many years now, but whoever had the original idea to team them up, is quite literally a genius. The first half closed with some fantastic special effects, that saw Dick Whittington riding through the sky on a sleigh. A lot of thought and effort has clearly been made with this production and that was visible throughout.
The first half of the show flew by and it was the interval before we knew it. We had been handed some 3D glasses when we first entered the theatre and my children were becoming excited knowing that they would soon be able to use them. Sure enough as we headed into the second half, we were treated to a spectacular 3D scene that took us on an underwater exploration. Some parts were a little scary as it involved some frightening fish and an angry shark which were most probably not suitable for the much younger members of the audience, and there seemed to be an equal mix of screams and laughter throughout the mini adventure. If you are planning on taking young children, then I would recommend that they watch this scene without the glasses, so that they do not experience the full effect.
Photo Credit: Phil TragenThe second half featured another highlight for us and this was when the cast performed their own version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" which was just extremely comical. My children's only complaint being that as we were seated upstairs, we didn't get wet from the super soakers! This coupled with the appearance of MacDonna singing 'Miniature Girl' made sure that the hilarity continued throughout the panto. The dancers in the production are definitely under used though and I did feel that the ensemble could have been included in a lot more of the scenes. This was especially apparent in the second half where I was slightly disappointed that there was not one big final sing song before the show closed.
We did also find that the pantomime was lacking in some audience participation, with the usual 'It's behind you' and 'Oh no it isn't' lines failing to appear. Admittedly though, I didn't actually notice during the show and only realised this on the train home, when I was getting feedback from the kids on what they thought. We also tried to pick our favourite scenes from the show on our journey home and soon found that there were simply too many to choose from, as we loved them all.
Now I do know that there has recently been a lot of debate regarding this pantomime and its 'lewd' content. I am not about to totally weigh into that, as I respect the fact that people may have different views on this, however I did want to share my opinion. Personally I found this to be the best Christmas panto I have been to. Yes there is adult humour, indeed a lot of it, however this goes over the children's heads and simply provides a good laugh for the parents. After all we deserve a good giggle too don't we? There are plenty of family friendly jokes packed in there too and in my opinion this only makes it a show that provides entertainment for all. We had an absolutely fantastic evening, so much so, that my children have asked to see it again during the Christmas holidays. A request that I am more than happy to go along with. In the words of my nine year old son "It was EPIC!".
Show - Dick Whittington with John Barrowman and The Krankies
Dates - Saturday 9th December 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018
Times - Performance times vary, so please visit the ATG Tickets website for the most up to date information.
Ticket prices - From £12 (booking/transaction fee will also apply)
Address - Opera House Manchester, 3 Quay Street, Manchester, M3 3HP
Box Office - 0844 871 3018 or for group bookings 0333 009 5390
Website - www.atgtickets.com/Manchester
Disclaimer: We were invited to the press night, for the purpose of providing an honest review of our experience. Opinions are my own unless otherwise stated. This post contains an affiliate link.