"Dick Whittington" by People's Theatre Company.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
Nottingham Arts Theatre.
I mentioned to one of the actors a few weeks ago that I could write most of this review prior to seeing the panto. I could write in advance how good the panto would be because I know many of the cast and I know that Amanda Hall was writing and directing the panto, so it was a given that the quality would be excellent. I hope that this didn't worry the person I was speaking to, thinking that what I was to see would be predictable, because it wasn't.
Every year I get to see an excellent show, and it must be difficult to top the previous year, but yet again Amanda and her cast and crew have done just that.
It is partly to do with the honed writing skills of Amanda and knowing her audience and cast as well as knowing what topical jokes to include with the classics. In essence it's like making the perfect cake that would be good enough to win the Great British Bake Off. the secret is getting every ingredient spot on, and I can report that there are no soggy bottoms here!
Nottingham pantos, in my humble opinion have two of the best writers for this particular art form in Amanda and Kenneth Alan-Taylor, because they really know their stuff.
As usual the sets are great (Cris Brawn), as is the lighting design (Tom Mowat), giving the staging a West End feel, especially the ending. You could hear every word from the actors, thanks to the sound design by Rob Kettridge. These three made for a very pleasurable experience to set the story and actors in.
With everything looking so smooth on stage, this shows that the stage management was also running as smooth as silk and the management team under the captaincy of Amy Rogers-Gee did a fine job of keeping everything tikkety boo.
Ray Samuel Mcleod was the musical director and he produced a wonderful crisp sound from that orchestra pit. I expected nothing less.
Mike Pearson played our Dick, as well as producing the show, All smiles, with the old adage of "eyes n teeth" running through his performance. His professionalism made this role a very easy watch.
Dick's love interest is, of course, Alice Fitzwarren played by Kimberley Allsopp, who blended in well with the stronger characters, making Alice more of a shy character, which at times made the character a little low key. that's not a bad thing though because there were plenty of very strong characters in this panto,
Dick's cat, Tommy, was played by a young man who's career I've followed for a few years now and have seen him grow into the confident and talented performer he is today, James Murray. So good to have a cat that could speak because otherwise this would limit James to just his excellent dancing skills. he playfully played up to the audience when Dick sent him back to London and milked the audience for the "aahhs". Thoroughly enjoyable role which showcased James' dancing, singing and acrobatic skills.
Laura Thurman (Idle Jack) was immense fun, encouraging the audience to make sure that she didn't drop to sleep on stage by shouting. A wonderful comedy partner to Jack's mum, Sarah the Cook. Forever with that twinkle in her eye and that great big old grin, she made sure that we knew that she was having fun on stage, which ensured that we too had fun watching her having fun.
Talking of Sarah the Cook, taking over the "dame" mantle from Robert Gollwas Matt Wesson. Matt was the sauciest dame I've seen for a long time, and as the audience tonight was practically all adults, he pitched the sauciness pretty well, which made sure that everyone had a great time watching him. Matt has an amazing personality off stage which also shone through in the part of Sarah on stage. Matt and Laura had the perfect partnership and naturally bounced off each other.
Mike Newbold was a lovely forgetful Alderman Firzwarren, who couldn't quite get Jack's name right, and at a quick glance you may think that Nigel Farage was playing the part, except mike is funny and Nigel.........
Alison Sheppard was gorgeous as Fairy Bowbells, bringing a bit of the old East End to the Nottingham stage, and what a voice she has ( I knew she has an amazing voice as I've seen her perform in the past). Her cockney version of Whitney's "One Moment In Time" sent shivers up my spine.
But what about the baddies I hear you cry! Oh yest you did!
Well King Rat was played marvellously evil and condescendingly by one of Shakespeare's finest local actors, Robert Goll. he got the audience boo-ing and hissing from the word "go" pitching that evil character just right with a twist of comedy, and what projection he has. Loved this baddie.
But every baddie has a sidekick and King Rat's was Twoey (if you can't work it out, go see the panto. Go see it anyway). Played by Cassie Hall and again a lovely fun character to watch. There's a duet that Twoey and King Rat do which is just so sublime, it's up there with some of the funniest but enjoyable duets in musical theatre.
I must also mention Stephen Gee (Captain Barnacle) and the incredibly funny Marie Rogers as Mr Bilge. Her facial expressions were hilarious, a wonderful comedy characterisation.
As I had come to expect, the ensemble were the best. the choreography by Amy Rogers-Gee incredible and everyone on that stage worked as a team, and you know what they say, "team work makes the dream work" and this dream performance worked for me.
You could see in the eyes of every one of the ensemble that they loved doing this show and the determination and hard work shone from them, as well as the incredible passion that they have for performing.
I can't fault anything here and it more than gives other pantos in the area a run for their money. It's packed with jokes and one liners, great singalong songs and great fun for any age who loves great family entertainment.
I probably say this every year but again, the People's theatre Company have once more reached the previous year's bar, snapped it in two and raised a new one just a bit higher. Well i probably don't say that, but you get my gist.
The perfect panto for 2016, "Dick Whittington" is at the Nottingham Arts Theatre until Sunday 18 December 2016. Go and support this amazingly talented and passionate group of people.
Photos courtesy of Mitch Gamble Photos