CREAGH/CARR REVIEW: Dick Whittington, MK Theatre

Samantha Womack as Queen Rat

Samantha Womack as Queen Rat

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It’s panto time! And your intrepid Creagh/Carr Review team have been out and about seeing Dick Whittington at Milton Keynes Theatre. Here’s their report!

CREAGH SAYS ... Call me old-fashioned but I thought fairies were supposed to have candy floss hair and speak with cut-glass accents.

Chris Jenkins as Dick Whittington, with Sophie Hart as Tommy the Cat

Chris Jenkins as Dick Whittington, with Sophie Hart as Tommy the Cat

Not so Fairy Bowbells (Stacey Solomon) in Dick Whittington, whose lank locks and strangulated Essex vowels are oddly out of place in her dainty frame, glamorous frock and gossamer wings.

The good news is she no longer has the clipboard on stage - which not only made newspaper headlines but also led to a bitchy Twitter spat.

She’s already said it was only to help with technical cues, as she took on the role sans-rehearsals after returning from presenting commitments in Australia.

And while she may be a former X Factor finalist, she was outsung - and outshone - by sultry Queen Rat Samantha Womack who has a powerful stage presence and can belt out a ballad with the best of them.

But enough quibbling - this is panto entertainment at its best. Energetic Idle Jack (Kev Orkian) certainly keeps the show on the road with his boundless enthusiasm, cheeky chappie persona and talent for getting the kids in the audience on his side.

Sarah the Cook (Kevin Brewis) took a tumble climbing on board ship but as with all good pantos, anything unscripted soon appears carried out with deliberate intent.

Dick Whittington (Chris Jenkins) and Alice Fitzwarren (Hannah Ponting) make a delightful couple and both have good voices while Sophie Hart plays Tommy the Cat with feline grace.

Marc Pickering makes a welcome return to Milton Keynes, this time as Alderman Fitzwarren/Sultan of Morocco. He brings a wonderful sense of timing to both roles.

Theatre-goers were handed 3-D glasses for the second half, for a wonderfully innovative under-water scene where Terry the Turtle and a scary shark seem to leap out in to the stalls.

That nearly raised the roof, as did the traditional interactive and always hugely hilarious Twelve Days of Christmas.

The little dancers were also a delight, as were the plucky youngsters who were persuaded to come up on stage to sing Old Macdonald Had a Farm before the grand finale.

All in all, a terrific night out.

CARR SAYS ... From London to Morroco, MK Theatre’s annual Christmas pantomime turns red hot and exotic with this production of Dick Whittingdon.

Undoubtedly, the sparkle is there from the beginning as Fairy Bowbells (Stacey Solomon) descends from the ceiling down to the stage.

She may not be your usual cutglass-toned fairy, but Solomon exudes the warmth and TOWIE charm to be the good-natured auntie who gets right behind ermmm... ‘Mr Whittington’ on his crusade to becoming mayor of London.

And Dick himself is on fine form, played by versatile all-singing, all-dancing (even acrobatic) Chris Jenkins. He is joined by Tommy the Cat (Sophie Hart) as they venture into London where Dicks falls for lovely Alice (Hannah Fitzwarren) who has a fabulous singing voice to boot.

Top billing of course, goes to Eastenders actress Samantha Womack who turns evil as the cunning Queen Rat. Her army of rodents pester London and (at times) the audience!

Surprisingly, I found Womack had a stronger singing voice than Solomon and a big stage presence, although there was just something a little half-hearted in her performance.

And oh, just how would the writers of this risque panto resist a pun at Dick’s name? Or two, or three, or ... you get the picture.

For me, the sexual innuendo at times crossed the line of subtlety for children. I’m not sure how many blow-up sausages can invade the stage before even they start to get the hint.

Particularly gross was a tongue-flicking by Sarah the Cook (Kevin Brewis) while being manhandled by two palace guards. I also noticed the same outfit worn by Widow Twankey in last year’s Aladdin was reused.

But holding it altogether was funnyman Kev Orkian as Idle Jack, who had the majority of puns. And I was pleased to see back Marc Pickering (who performed so well as the villain in last year’s panto) playing Alderman Fitzwarren.

Definitely worth taking the family this Christmas!

For tickets see here.