Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Shropshire Events and Whats On Guide

Panto Review : Dick Whittington at Birmingham Hippodrome

Chris Eldon Lee reviews ‘Dick Whittington’ which is at the Birmingham Hippodrome until Sunday 29th January.

Jimmy Krankie is alive and well and doing a remarkably good impression of Ozzy Osbourne. That’s just one of the surreal surprises in this year’s Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime. The Krankies are simply marvellous. After 50 years in the business, their sense of timing, showmanship and hilarity is in peak condition. Jeanette (who plays Jimmie) simply has no shame. The things she allows to be done to her in the name of comedy are verging on the outrageous. Half a century on, she is still more than willing to be bounced around the stage like a ventriloquist’s doll, or to lose her dress dignity with the best of them. She’s 68. At her age shw ought to know better. Thank goodness she doesn’t. One of her finest moments, though, is when her husband Ian plonks her, doll-like, on his knee yet again and in a thin, weary voice, she asks “How many more times do we have to do this?”  Full credit to her inventiveness too. There can’t be that many panto with Nicola Sturgeon jokes in them.

The Krankies have played panto with their compatriot John Barrowman in Glasgow on several occasions … and it shows. Birmingham is happily inheriting their time-honoured trust and rapport… which means they can get away with doing and saying absolutely anything together, without in the slightest bit upsetting the grannies.

Barrowman is pure Las Vegas. In the title role, he really is the epitome of the perfect showman who works each audience like a hot masseur. Armed with shining eyes, sparkling teeth and the common knowledge that he is decidedly gay; he can get away with as many ‘Dick’ jokes as he wants. And he knows it.

The odd thing about this show is that it is jolly rude … without being in the least bit vulgar. Matt Slack exploits this with precision. He’s now such a regular at the Hippodrome he earned an ovation just by coming on.

It is he who capitalises on the ‘local’ gags, even weaving them into a brilliant Brummie place-name song. The audience just lapped it up, but, as they say, there’s Wombourne every minute.

He’s also very much a team player and his double act with Andrew Ryan’s Dame, which revolves around DVD titles, is fast, furious and ought not to be allowed. And when he meets Steve McFadden’s King Rat, he does a better Phil Mitchell impression than the man himself. Of course there are Eastenders Jokes – it’s what we want – but McFadden, with his whip cracking tail, really throws himself into the true big baddie tradition…acting his socks off, to his last rattle.

Years ago, stars like these would be doing nightly vaudeville. Now they have six weeks at Christmas; and all need their five minutes of solo stand-up before the story can begin. When it does, there’s more spectacle than plot.

In amidst the classic panto palaver of silly songs, daft routines and helpless (and possibly pre-planned) corpsing, are some of the most remarkable up-to-the-minute, high-tech effects. Dick Whittington’s essential underwater scene is now in 3D … with the audience all wearing glasses, as if we’re at a Hank Marvin convention. Put them on, and a shoal of Piranhas really can nibble your nose.  Qdos Entertainment has also teamed up with ‘The Twins FX’ to pioneer the art of flying without wires….even out over the audience. It’s very impressive. You can only guess at how it’s done.

The dance team is excellent; doing a Busby Berkley snowflake routine, or cooking up a Big Bake Off number – and the topical jokes work well too. Sarah the Cook, for example, is creating a Brexit Christmas Dinner this year…with no Brussels.

As the lady sitting beside me pointed out, “It’s a faultless, funny and fantastic show”. And she should know. She’s seen every performance so far.


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