Dick Whittington at Birmingham Hippodrome

Yesterday was the press night for Dick Whittington at Birmingham Hippodrome. Guest bloggers Ryan and Viv Parish joined the fun and went to see the #BrumPanto which is on until 29th January.

By Ryan and Viv Parish twitter.com/brummiegourmand

A great wit has come to town in Dick Whittington

For the past three years, Birmingham Hippodrome has won “Best Venue in Panto” at the UK Pantomime Fan Awards, a success, they are no doubt, wishing to repeat with this year’s production of Dick Whittington.

It’s been 109 years since the first ever performance of Dick Whittington at The Birmingham Hippodrome. A tale based on a true story from the 14th Century of a man seeking his fortune in London. From the beginning, however, this was to be a bang up to date story with King Rat making his grand entrance with a massive mechanical whiskery friend.

John Barrowman as Dick Whittington, photo by Paul Coltas

This was truly an all-star cast for the 2016/2017 season: the legendary John Barrowman of stage, screen and song as the eponymous Dick; the long awaited return of The Krankies after 24 years away from their last appearance in panto at The Hippodrome (also Dick Whittington), as Councillor and Jimmy Krankie. Steve McFadden revelling in his villainous role as King Rat, and Jodie Prenger as his counterfoil in Fairy Bow Bells. Firm family favourites Matt Slack as Idle Jack and Andrew Ryan as Sarah the Cook were on hand to keep the laughs flowing.

There was strong support in the form of Danielle Hope as Alice, the Councillor’s daughter; Taofique Folarin as Babby the Tabby and Kage Douglas as Sultan Vinegar, with a great ensemble cast including the children from Birmingham Stage School dancing the night away with multiple stunning costume changes.

Matt Slack and Andrew Ryan photo by Paul Coltas

The first act set a fast pace to the show with so much to cram in. We were introduced to the main players, with Dick arriving in London. There were jokes aplenty for younger and older viewers, with a few bawdy references thrown in. Matt Slack and Andrew Ryan’s tour of the Midlands and their DVD collection were particular highlights.

Special mention must be made for all the amazing dance numbers performed by the ensemble with Dick joining in for a few too, giving his famous lungs a bit of an airing, with some belting show tunes. We finished off with a visit from Santa’s special friend to help Dick on his journey.

The second act was no less impressive, starting with a medley of Village People hits and Dick in his sailor shorts, followed up by a take on the Twelve Days of Christmas which might be a bit damp for the front rows! We were then onto the amazing 3D bit with Sarah the Cook and Alice on hand to allay any fears during our underwater journey, then more animatronics abounded with a toothy troublemaker. After a quick visit to Morocco (or Majorca?) to see the Sultan Vinegar and a final showdown, it was back to London for a happy ending.

photo by Paul Coltas

Andrew Ryan was on fine form as Sarah the Cook and is the Dame you would want and more. He and Matt Slack seem almost psychic with their timing.

Matt Slack, winner of “Best Comedy Act” at the UK Pantomime Fan Awards, came on stage to even more rapturous applause than last year’s Aladdin and has become a firm Brummie staple. He is due to return for an amazing fifth year as Buttons in Cinderella for the 2017/18 season.

Jodie Prenger brought a touch of glamour and sparkle to the show and acted well with Steve McFadden, who we’d have liked to have seen more of, with his rhyming sentences. His alter ego got a few nods but Steve made the character his own and was on fine fettle to give his villainous performance.

Steve Mcfadden and The Krankies photo by Simon Hadley

The Krankies were still as energetic as ever after 50 years in the business. Whether on or off script, they supplied the lion’s share of the laughs for the adults giving Matt a run for his money as to who could get the audience to laugh most. They seem to have lost none of their love for performing, were swift witted, sharp and obviously the perfect pair to team up with John Barrowman.

John Barrowman was THE ultimate showman, keeping the audience entertained throughout, supplying his own fair amount of fun, showing his off his beautiful voice and generally keeping things going throughout with his golden smile, though his Brummie accent STILL needs some improvement!

The sets were huge, varied, and colourful really helping you to keep anchored into the location, keeping up the premium feel from previous years. You could tell a lot of care and attention had been put into them.

The company of Dick Whittington at Birmingham Hippodrome, photo by Simon Hadley

I thought last year’s show was hard to beat but on star power, special effect and spectacle, the Birmingham Hippodrome and QDOS are onto another winner, though the plot did occasionally get muddled amongst the set pieces.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was another record breaking run, with fun and frolics to keep both children and grown-ups amused and entertained throughout.

There’s also a range of special performances, covering captioned, signed, audio described, touch tours and a more relaxed performance on 26th January. The more relaxed performance is of special mention as it allows those to enjoy a performance with soft squeeze toys, chill out zones, easier entrance, slightly less practical effects and a slightly adapted script for those needing of a more comforting environment.

If there’s one panto in Birmingham, this is the one to watch and you’ll have no regrets joining in the fun!

Dick Whittington 2016-2017

Dick Whittington is at Birmingham Hippodrome until 29th January 2017. Book tickets here: birminghamhippodrome.com/calendar/dick-whittington

Ryan and Viv Parish were invited on behalf of #BrumHour by Birmingham Hippodrome to see Dick Whittington. This is their honestly held view.