REVIEW: DICK WHITTINGTON (Milton Keynes Theatre) ★★★★

This years pantomime at Milton Keynes theatre made headline news last week, when Stacey Soloman floated in on her bubble, apparently reading her lines off of a clipboard for the first performance. But apart from that, was she any good in her panto debut? I went along to find out!

Dick Whittington has heard that the streets of London are paved with gold and so packs up his luggage (la la la … oh no wrong show) and along with his cat Tommy, sets off to the bright lights of London. The town is over-run with rats and Tommy is hired to help catch them. Dick falls for fellow worker Alice but is soon chased out of town after Queen Rat sets a trap of her own to turn the town against him. But will Dick turn back and fight to clear his name and win battle with the rat, and most importantly the love of Alice?

Stacey Soloman and Samantha Womack draw in the crowds with their celebrity status and make a great effort in their roles of Fairy Bowbells and Queen Rat but due to a lack of projection, they sound almost mute at times, especially during the quieter parts of their songs. This isn’t helped by the extremely loud band, drowning out much of the sound during musical numbers.

Hannah Ponting and Chris Jenkins show us how it should be done with stand out performances as Alice and Dick. They give great acting and singing that can be clearly heard. Milton Keynes Theatre regular performer Kevin Orkian brings energy and fun to the show with his character Idle Jack and gets all the terrible one liner gags that audiences love to hate.

The highlight of the show has to be Queen Rat (Samantha Womack) and Dick (Chris Jenkins) in a modern day lip-sync battle and of course the obligatory song Twelve Days of Christmas which is always fun to watch in panto.

The 3D scene in the second half of the show was some of the best 3D projection I have ever seen, taking the audience on a rollercoaster ride through the underwater world. The segment didn’t have much to do with the storyline but was a lot of fun to experience. Also rather pointless was the final part of the show where three children were invited on to stage for a competition of who could give the best rendition of the song Old McDonald. It was nice, but I would have rather the show ended fifteen minutes earlier as it didn’t need to be padded out with fodder.

Dick Whittington has a great set, colourful costumes and a cast of talented dancers and performers. As far as panto goes, this is one of the best i’ve seen this year and there is something to keep everyone happy. Whether you want to see celebrities shoe-horning in as many references to what they are known for (Eastenders/X Factor) as they can, or just a show with great performances and family fun then there are equal amounts of both to be had.

Reviewed by West End Wilma

DICK WHITTINGTON plays at Milton Keynes Theatre until 15 January 2016