Pantomime review: Dick Whittington at the Hawthorne Theatre in Welwyn Garden City
PUBLISHED: 10:25 03 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:31 03 January 2017
Dick Whittington is the seasonal treat at the Hawthorne Theatre. The pantomime runs at the Welwyn Garden City venue until Wednesday, January 4.
I didn’t know what to expect from this year’s Welwyn Garden City panto.
Without the soap star names and bigger budgets of its nearby rivals in St Albans and Stevenage, would Dick Whittington sink faster than the good ship Messy Bessy on its doomed voyage to Morocco?
And, having seen three pantomimes already this season, would the Hawthorne Theatre production surprise me? Bore me? Thrill me? Entertain me?
I needn’t have worried. For I was pleasantly surprised by a professional production that promises plenty of inexpensive family fun.
Kicking off with what is obviously this year’s must-include pantomime song, a version of Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling!, it’s an all-singing, all-dancing festive treat.
Director Helen Crosse has put together a Christmas cracker of a show in her hometown that should have something to please most members of the family.
She’s helped by the perfectly cast leads, a live band, some genuinely very funny scenes, mostly involving Sarah the Cook (Michael Totton) and Idle Jack (Matthew Curnier), and some imaginative – and hilarious – song choices.
The Dirty Dancing snippet is one scene that had the audience in hysterics, while perhaps the highlight of the show was Sarah the Cook and Alderman Fitzwarren (Jonas Cemm) lip-syncing to Celine Dion’s Titanic love theme, My Heart Will Go On.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet they are most certainly not!
Running that close in the laughter stakes was a classic slapstick routine in the kitchen, complete with custard pies, between Sarah the Cook and her son, Idle Jack, while all at sea during a storm.
Despite being carefully choreographed, the action calls upon all of Matthew Curnier’s comedic timing and athleticism to avoid a nasty accident, although both actors are still sporting a number of bruises.
I also didn’t expect The White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army to be used as a duet between the evil King Rat (Will Guppy) and Fairy Bowbells (Laura Wickham).
Although, the smoke effects when both appear on stage were rather overpowering at times.
Nevertheless, the show successfully blends contemporary references to Brexit, Snapchat, Honey G and Donald Trump – no, he’s not the baddie of this show! – with all the traditional panto elements that you come to expect at this time of the year at the theatre.
Will Guppy makes a terrific King Rat, spitting out Michael Jackson’s Thriller with his vermin gang, while Alexandra Creek, armed with a tool kit’s worth of plumbing jokes and a great singing voice, makes a beautiful Alice Fitzwarren, Dick Whittington’s love interest.
Alexandra also choreographed the show, with the junior dancers provided by Shooting Stars Academy, the Splitz School of Dance and Drama, Dance Design Theatre Arts and the Susan Ford School of Dancing.
Will the streets of London by paved with gold for the show’s hero, Dick Whittington?
Without giving too much away, Welwyn Hatfield’s mayor, councillor Pat Mabbott, wasn’t the only mayor in the house come the final curtain on press night.
• Dick Whittington runs at the Hawthorne Theatre until Wednesday, January 4, 2017. Visit the Hawthorne Theatre website at www.hawthornetheatre.co.uk to book tickets for the closing performances.
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