Mini-review – Dick Whittington (with Dame Edna) – New Wimbledon Theater

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Once again, it’s very late in the day to be writing a review of the New Wimbledon Theater’s presentation of Dick Whittington, given that there are at the moment I am writing this a grand total of four performances left for this show, one of which is due to start in four minutes (and thus after I actually get this posted). However, I had such a good time, I’d be remiss not giving the last few of you who might be able to attend a heads up about what a fun show this is – and with only slightly limited view tickets available for 17 quid, I consider it a good value.

RIGHT! So, Dick Whittington is my least favorite panto – really lacking in the fairytale elements I enjoy so much – and I’ve generally speaking found the New Wimbledon’s pantos both flat and overpriced. And Dame Edna – I’d heard the name before but really had no idea who she was. HOWEVER …the Twitter buzz was very good for this show, so I decided to ignore all my preconceptions, especially when I saw stall seats were available for under twenty quid, and actually go to a very far out of panto season show.

The result was great on a number of levels. We had the political jokes I enjoy, the kind of brilliant ad libbing you only get from a crew that has been working together for a very long time (I think this was the 53rd or so performance), hysterical dame costumes for Sarah the Cook and snappy performances from a tight crew (Kev Orkian as “Idle Jack” was really working it). Oddly Dame Edna was NOT the “dame” per se but a “fairy,” meaning not nearly as good costumes as the Cook but much more time to mooch around on stage doing her schtick. Which, apparently, is talking about how famous and wonderful and nice she is, and making fun of other people. I was actually completely willing to go for her extended mockery of the people in the second balcony (“Clap with one hand and hold on with the other, dears”) given that I was finally on the main floor, but grateful that when she pulled an overweight and casually dressed American woman on stage, she actually restrained what could have been a really devastating scene in favor of more gentle teasing (and less energy but I was okay with it, sometimes these things just don’t hit it).

Among the many things I can praise about this show is the inspired use of a “man of small stature” (Ben Goffe) – who breakdances – to play the captain of the ship Dick takes to go off to make his fortune, meaning we were set up for a lot of comedy moments involving Cook Sarah’s bosom height, skirt height, and many other things (all thankfully not done in a mean fashion). This show also had the best singalong ever, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” which should have been awful and dull (as the song is) but thanks to some, er, lassoing action actually took the thing to an inspired height of ridiculousness I feel I may never see again. And the audience was totally ramped up, with a man in one of the box seats near the stage lifting his shirt up for extra squirts of water during a water gun sequence. Yeah, the (other) songs were mostly filler, I wasn’t able to focus on the 3D sequence in the second act … but did I walk out feeling giddy and wanting more? Oh yes I did. And here it is 2:30 PM on a Saturday, and there are now only three more shows left, and I’m afraid you may just be very close to saying you missed out on a really zippy night at the theater.

(This review is for a performance that took place on Tuesday, January 10th, 2012. The final performance will be 5:30 PM on January 15th – tomorrow.)

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