Posts Tagged ‘Dick Whittington’

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

January 14, 2012

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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Review – Dick Whittington and his Cat – Lyric Hammersmith

December 31, 2010

I was a bit stuck for panto options in the Boxing Day – New Year’s break this year. Originally I was supposed to be in Inverness, and was going to see the Eden Theater’s production, but the travel chaos threw my plans topsy-turvy and suddenly I was in London with nary a ticket bought! The problem wasn’t so much not being able to get tickets as not being able to decide where. I’d already been to see my perennial favorite, the Hackney Empire (with Jack and the Beanstalk), but no other show had really caught any buzz other than, “Look away!” However, inspiration came from an article in the Guardian, which suggested that the OTHER good panto to see in London was at the Lyric Hammersmith. Well, okay, I thought (noting that next year I need to make a trip to York), let’s see what they’ve got going on; as usual they had good prices (unlike Wimbledon or the non-panto Hansel and Gretel the Southbank Center did), and thus for 15 pounds a head I found myself in the second balcony for some post-Christmas panto fun.

The Lyric’s promotional material for Dick Whittington seemed to emphasize its “street” aspects; the poster was for a cat in a baseball cap wearing a gold necklace. I was actually expecting the whole production to have a lot more elements from this culture (very vibrant in London and source of a lot of the most exciting dance productions), but they really weren’t there. It was a shame, too; the music and dancing were some of the weakest elements of this production.

However, the casting was very good. The Cat, Paul J Medford, was full of personality and a big ham; he was definitely the star of the show despite having to do it all in a giant furry suit. Steven Webb was shockingly good in a role that should have had me sick with its sugariness; how could he be so positive about everything and not just come off like … he was playing down to us? In fact, he was a treat; a good singing voice, a nearly irony-free delivery, and somehow he managed to “live the role” in a way that sold to a hardened old nut like myself. Good on you, Steve. Alice (Rosalind James), however, put both of the men to shame with her stupendous pipes; she was fine as the spunky pie-maker’s daughter, but she blew the roof off when she sang.

Unfortunately, Shaun Prendergast (as Sarah the Cook) just wasn’t the over the top scene stealer I was hoping for. He seemed a very friendly panto dame, but I really want someone who’s a demon wit as well as having a powerful stage presence. He also didn’t get as many fun dresses as I was hoping for. Still, I’ve been spoiled by Clive Rowe; Prendergast did show that he’d worked to adapt the material as he went along, but he just couldn’t match Rowe’s verbal fireworks.

While this show was definitely competent, I felt it was lacking some snap and pizazz … maybe just a bit more fun between the characters onstage would have helped. That said, it certainly got in plenty of bad puns (especially with the bells, unusual characters to say the least), and I do think it was pitched pretty well at its audience. Still, better miking so the lyrics of the songs could be heard would have helped – I couldn’t tell what they were going on about once the music started – and, well, I don’t know, I guess it is pretty late in the run and a two show day but I would have enjoyed a little more life in the actors. So it was certainly a serviceable panto, but not one I’m likely to remember longer than the end of this Christmas season.

(This review is for a matinee performance that took place on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010. It continues through January 8th, 2011.)

Dick Whittington and His Cat – Hackney Empire

December 7, 2007

I decided to attack my sour mood today with a strong dose of Panto. So off to the Hackney Empire I went – rushing a bit (albeit unnecessarily) to make a 7 PM start time.

The theater was sadly only half full (especially when you consider the rave writeup it got in the Metro this morning), and we were berated a bit for not cheering loudly enough (“You paid your money, you’ll might as well try to enjoy yourself, it’ll get you out of here sooner”) and laughing at the appropriate moments (I’m sorry, a pun on “Black Pearl”/Blackpool Tower is a bit lost on me). But the singing was very much on key, if too much toward the moderne style that I dislike so much (I don’t know, does it really keep the kiddies coming?), there was a fair bit of fun dancing (I have to say the extremely skinny four year old was cracking me up), as well as garish costumes, sexual innuendo, and actors cracking each other up.

There was an undersea dance number featuring a clownfish sculpture that was so heart felt I felt it should be called “Finding Emo.” I really don’t know how spending time in Neptune’s Kingdom fit into the legend of Dick Whittington, but then, since I’m American, it might just be one of those rather obvious things I hadn’t noticed (like the fact it’s the Tower Bridge that’s the coolest looking Olde Fashioned bridge in London, not the London Bridge).

And there were MONKEYS. A whole scene, I tell you, on “Monkey Island,” with a giant, King-Kong style puppet. And there was a ship that floated across the stage, split, and sunk; and a transmorgrifying fairy that turned from a smallish human into a tiny doll that was pulled up from the stage into the balcony on a string. It all basically made no sense at all (this cannot be considered a spoiler) and I had tears trickling out the corners of my eyes during the very first scene. W and I had a great time and I consider the evening a grand success.

(Oh, and I should mention, both the Cat (fabulous dancing; spoke only in “meows”) and King Rat (in leather trouser and knee-high boots) were VERY sexy – three times as much as short-skirted Principal Boy Dick, who sang fine and had a great and chipper attitude but was sadly not allowed the benefit of a leather costume.