Cast: Simon Nock, Tom Milner, Liz Singleton, Hollie Cassar, Kenny Davies, David Heywood, Jamie Baughan, Claire McGarahan, Mike Slader, Louisa Beadel.
Director: Paul Hart
Writer: Peter Rowe
Theatre: Leeds City Varieties
Duration: 150 minutes
Start Date: December 3, 2014
End Date: January 11, 2015
The Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomime once again returns to Leeds City Varieties for the festive season. Bursting full of hits from the Sixties and beyond, Dick Whittington is a pantomime produced in all the best classical traditions with a modern twist of punk and parody.
For several years the Rock ‘n’ Roll pantomime has become something of a festive tradition in itself. Showcasing a regular company of exceptional musicians and performers, it is a chaotic extravaganza of popular hits, fairy tale storytelling and bawdy British humour.
Set in 18th century London, Peter Rowe’s book is an affectionate take on the period, parodying the theatricality of Restoration drama which many may recognise from Blackadder The Third. Camp and colourful, the script is densely packed with physical gags which are smoothly choreographed by Claire McGarahan. Endlessly creative, the show’s farcical elements will constantly engage younger audiences, whilst a barrage of innuendo and saucy asides will assure smiles from the most cynical adult.
Musical numbers feature hits from the Sixties, including Tutti Frutti, You Really Got Me and Turn Turn Turn, as well as favourites from the Eighties such as Tainted Love and Eye of the Tiger. Performed entirely by the cast, with musicians playfully switching instruments, the numbers are upbeat and expertly arranged with saxophones adding a refreshing punch to well-known classics. There is a high-level busking feel to the music which is playful, energetic and uplifting.
Dick Whittington showcases a multitalented cast. The principal boy is played with a cocky Yorkshire charm by local actor Tom Milner, whilst Alice is given an impressive vocal clarity by Liz Singleton. Kenny Davies delivers a highly charged Billy Bungalow with David Heywood providing a suitably arch and nasty King Rat. A bravura performance of camp pomposity is delivered with flair by Jamie Baughan as Fitzwarren, whilst Holly Cassar returns in a magical performance as Fairy Bow Bells. A particular talent in the show is Mike Slader, whose transformation into a punk rat bassist is uncannily dedicated to Sid Vicious.
Returning as the dame is Simon Nock in an irresistibly lascivious performance as Sarah the Cook. Bolshie and outrageously potty-mouthed, Nock’s dame is bold and butch, embracing brash clumsiness in poise and a vocal delivery which is as punchy as the character’s costume. Nock’s rapport with the audience is warming and seductively dangerous, igniting the stage in every scene and flaunting a drag performance of the highest order.
Paul Hart’s direction is robust and effective, drawing on the distinctive features of pantomime and making for a unique form of participatory theatre. The second act is particularly inspired, with the traditional panto animals – in this case rats – imaginatively adapted into punk rockers. The electrifying performance of Pretty Vacant is a number which will easily sate the appetite of anarchists young and old.
A mammoth jukebox musical nestled within the cosy confines of Leeds’ celebrated music hall, Dick Whittington is a well-loved pantomime produced in good spirits with superlative talent. Firing gags which slap and tickle, accompanied by funky musical covers, it is a pantomime assuring universal appeal. In short, the play is a genuine Christmas cracker with all the bells and whistles which befit the fun of the festive season.
Originally published for Entertainment Focus.
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