Dick Whittington

"The quality of the overall production is second to none "

Having been a regular visitor of the Pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome for the past 20 years, I was delighted to be invited to see their next offering, Dick Whittington.  This is the one show that is always the highlight of my theatre calendar and with ‘Birmingham Panto Legend’ Matt Slack at the helm, I just knew I was in for a night of hilarity, joy and fun.  One highlight of Matt’s performance comes from a highly polished impressions section where we meet Alan Carr, Michael McIntyre and even Boris Johnson.  Every single one of the impressions is spot on and has me in absolute stitches!

This year’s stellar cast features Marti Pellow as ‘Rat Man’, Suzanne Shaw as ‘Alice Fitzwarren’, Dr Ranj as ‘Spirit of the Bells’, Doreen Tipton as the ‘Cat’ and Panto Dame regular Andrew Ryan as ‘Felicity Fitzwarren’.  Each and every one of the cast deliver a polished performance and provide enough merriment and fun to keep you entertained all evening.

Now, the Hippodrome Pantomime is nothing without Matt Slack.  Dick Whittington is Matt’s 9th Pantomime in Birmingham and the first time he has played the lead character.  Being at the forefront of pretty much every scene, Matt works so hard to ensure that the audience have the best time possible. I am a massive fan of Matt, so this review may well be slightly biased, but wholeheartedly deserved as he truly is a master of his craft and only has to walk on stage and he has you laughing. 

There are so many highlights in this Pantomime, including a giant rat, a flying double decker bus, a fire themed variety act and the always funny ’12 Days of Christmas’ routine to name but a few. 

The set designed by Ian Westbrook is awash with colour, which when complemented with the colourful costuming by Teresa Nalton makes this show a feast for the eyes.  The band under the Musical Direction of Robert Willis provide a wonderful sound throughout the show, elevating an already fabulous show, not to mention the incredible lighting by Ben Cracknell.

As with most Pantomime’s we first meet the villain, ‘Rat Man’ played by Marti Pellow as he ascends onto the stage from a trap door.  Marti is no stranger to the Hippodrome stage having previously appeared in the 2015 production of Aladdin.  He has wonderful stage presence and fully embodies the character which generated many boos from the audience.  I was half expecting a small rendition of a Wet Wet Wet classic, however this was not meant to be, apart from a very small snippet of ‘Love Is All Around’ played by a backing track.  There are many musical moments provided by Marti.  He was also involved in the writing of ‘Ratman’, ‘Rats Rule’ and ‘All at Sea’ alongside Grant Mitchell, bringing some great original songs to the show.

Birmingham Panto Dame regular Andrew Ryan, appearing for the 5th time at the Hippodrome brings all the glamour associated with this character. With multiple costume changes and outrageous head pieces, Andrew is a complete professional, even leading the beginning of Act 2 with ‘All At Sea‘ which showcases his wonderful voice.  Playing the daughter of ‘Felicity Fitzwarren’ is Suzanne Shaw, of pop band Hearsay fame…….that’s if you remember them! Suzanne brings such energy to the role and it’s clear that she is enjoying her time back at the Hippodrome. There are many funny moments alongside Matt Slack throughout the show and she does well to keep a straight face!

Making his Birmingham Panto debut, Dr Ranj plays the ‘Spirit of the Bells’. Dazzling us with his rather sparkly outfit, Dr Ranj really does immerse himself in the wonderful world of Panto, with many jokes at his expense about his ‘day job’.  He takes it all in his stride and lights up the stage each time he appears.

Another regular to the Hippodrome stage is Doreen Tipton, this year playing the ‘Cat’.  Doreen is infamous for her ‘lazy’ attitude towards working and her local accent really does provide many hilarious moments.  She has a great rapport with all cast members and genuinely makes me laugh by just her facial expressions alone, not to mention her rather incredible singing voice during a rendition of ‘Memory’.

This Pantomime really is the best I’ve seen at the Hippodrome for a very long time and it’s no surprise when you know it’s co-written by Matt Slack himself and devised by Michael Harrison of Crossroads Pantomimes.  The quality of the overall production is second to none and you feel that there has been no expense spared anywhere.  With a very talented and hardworking ensemble cast, this show has it all.

I could wax lyrical for pages and pages about why this show is a must see over the festive season, but maybe go and see for yourself why Birmingham Hippodrome is one of the leading lights in Pantomime fun!

Dick Whittington runs until the 29th January 2023.  Tickets available here: https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/dick-whittington-two/

Photo credit: Paul Coltas

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