Dick Whittington – Hazlitt Theatre Maidstone.
Saturday 7th December Reviewed by Liz White.
A traditional pantomime full of fun, audience interaction and professionalism is how I would sum up Dick Whittington at the Hazlitt Theatre. From the moment the production started it was obvious that we were all in for a good night as we are encouraged to clap, scream and stamp our feet as the show begins. The show cleverly combines traditional stage scenery with projected animation which gives this production another dimension and allows the audience to feel as if they are part of old London Town and the stars of the show swim in the ‘projected’ sea with sharks and fishes when the dastardly Queen Rat sinks Mr. Fitzwarrens ship…but I am getting ahead of myself…before the drama of Dick Whittington unfolds we are introduced to the cast and it is quite a line up.
The two leads are Cerrie Burnell (CBeebies) and Keith Jack (Any Dream will Do) who provide the love story and the famous faces on stage. They have chemistry and the whole cast seem to get on well. The three outstanding performances for me were from Jimmy Burton-Iles, Tom Cuthbertson and Kate Richards. Jimmy plays the panto dame ‘Sarah the Cook’ and oozes professionalism in every stage movement, providing the all-important timing on the stage whilst Tom is perfectly cast as ‘Idle Jack’ – a character who is anything but idle! He bounces around the stage as if he has overdosed on Sunny Delight and injects energy into the performance, really bringing the audience to life. Kate Richards provides a fun panto villain as Queen Rat, but behind all the green makeup and her jibes at the audience, lies a simply fantastic singing voice which we discover during Queen Rat’s ‘I Want it All’ song. Queen Rat also creates the catchphrase of the pantomime – with one of her ratty, long fingers Queen Rat points at a child in the audience and with real venom and disgust declares them ‘Dirty’. It soon catches on with the audience and heckles fly – which is exactly what should happen at a good pantomime.
This is a rag to riches story line which takes us from London and on a voyage of the seven seas which includes a ship-wreck and a Moroccan Palace – this is an action packed pantomime. Along with the main cast there is also some smashing dancing from local dance school children and you can tell they are enjoying every minute of their stage fame.
When I reviewed Dick Whittington, the production was only on the second night of the run but the pantomime had already gelled and the cast were clearly on top of any added inserts – children’s birthday’s in the audience and some jokes at the expense of Richard Thick, Deputy Mayor, who was in the audience – I’m glad to say he took the banter in the good spirit it was intended. The costumes looked sharp and the content was contemporary including a lot of pop song covers which the children in the audience all sang along to. If there are any special awards to be given out I would give an award to the wardrobe of Sarah the Cook who’s costume changes were various and memorable including a buxom wonder woman and almost believable ‘Velma’ from Scooby Doo.
Inevitably there was a lot of innuendo for the adults in the audience – a pantomime called ‘Dick Whittington’ writes the innuendo itself and there are a lot of jokes which do go over the heads of the children but it is all harmless fun, truly traditional and well performed. It is the fifth year Blue Genie Entertainment has produced the Maidstone pantomime and people have high expectations from this well thought of company – they need not worry; Dick Whittington has everything you want from a pantomime. A fun-packed, professional production with gives you the feel good factor that this time of year is all about.
Blue Genie Entertainment presents Dick Whittington at the Hazlitt Theatre, Maidstone from 5th December – 6th January. Tickets start at £10.95 for school shows – £15.50 adults with family special price tickets at £12. Off peak. Peak time tickets start at £15.50 – £17.00 adult and £62.00 family group ticket.