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Cambridge panto Dick Whittington ‘scintillating, slick, fast, funny’

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This festive season, the Cambridge Arts Theatre pantomime has excelled itself.

Dick Whittington is a scintillating show which enthralled the audience from beginning to end- and deserved its standing ovation at the finale.

The traditional elements of panto are cherished but it is fresh and vibrant. It is slick, fast, funny, and colourful and balm for the soul in these bleak days. See it and lose yourself in the joy of it.

My nine-year-old companion was wriggling with delighted laughter all the way through. He said: “I love it.”

One of the children invited onto the stage when asked for their favourite part said: “All of it.”

Matt Crosby, back at the Arts for his seventeenth show, is the absolute consummate dame. He is truly gorgeous.

From the moment he enters in the first of a series of glorious costumes, leading the ensemble in singing Dolly Parton’s Nine to Five, he glides through the show as the sparkling centrepiece. His outfits by Sue Simmerling of Carry-on Costumes are inspired.

 

Al Lockhart-Morley’s punchy script has some very clever jokes and some nice topical references and allows the stars to shine. We are blest with some wonderful character acting – which is not always what you get in pantomime.

Rolan Bell, winner of Best Villain at the Pantomime Awards for his dastardly Uncle Abanazar at the Arts’ Aladdin last year, returns as a cockney geezer for King Rat. Horrible but somehow vulnerable.

We have a proper Londonah from Mandi Symonds as Fairy Bowbells. Charlie Cameron as Tommy the Cat is a feline with feeling. She is slightly reminiscent of Bubbles in Ab Fab – a bit dippy but cool all the same.

All the principals: Ruby Ablett as Alice Fitzwarren, Luke Baker as Whittington, Nichole Bird as Silly Billie (a man as the principal boy and a girl as the clown) are excellent – with impressive voices too. Lovely duet from Alice and Dick.

And a real revelation, because you do not see it coming, is Adrian Grove, who plays three parts.

He begins understatedly as Londoner Alderman Fitzwarren, steps up the comedy as the west country Cap’n Barnacles and is an absolute riot as the Spanish Sultan Vinegar when in a departure from the original tale, we end up doing Flamenco in Benidorm.

At one point, he plays all three kaleidoscopically, one after another, interchanging costumes (surreptitiously) and accents without leaving the stage. He is a triple threat, a powerful singer and dancer and a lot of fun.

Directed by Michael Gattrell with a live band led by Dean McDermott and choreography by Kevan Allen, there is a powerful choice of music in this show.

A lot of catchy and uplifting numbers. It will indeed Spread a Little Happiness. The chorus that the audience is invited to sing – which they did with gusto – was from Sweet Caroline.

Oh, Sweet Caroline, Good times never seemed so good. I’ve been inclined to believe they never would.

After the past three years, we might not have believed the good times would ever return. But they have at the Arts. Oh, Sweet Pantomime.

Dick Whittington is at Cambridge Arts Theatre until Sunday, January 8.

https://www.cambridgeartstheatre.com/visit-us/how-to-book

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