Review of Dick Whittington at New Wimbledon Theatre
Dick Whittington delivers on all levels, for young and old. There are times when you know there’s going to be a bad night or a good one and within minutes, it is apparent that this one was going to work almost seamlessly. The stage was set, literally, even with a mishap of an audience member being taken ill within the first 10 minutes.
The show must go on and it certainly did with no lack of fluency despite the jarring nature of the stoppage. The tale of Dick Whittington, a poor boy who finds his way to London to enrich his life with the aid of a trusty, rat-catching cat, is perfect material to make into a good old romp. The cast are seasoned professionals, slick but not too polished.
One big plus that kept the whole thing sharp was Tim Vine playing Idle Jack, his rat a tat tat one-liners lending itself to the role seamlessly. Vine plays around with words for effect and does not need a script as such to bring the audience into it. He also has a charming way with kids as shown at the end of the night.
Eric Potts has produced a panto that is high on topical references and low on flat performances (although Arlene Phillips shows her rawness with a delivery that is as slow as a milk float). At least she is game as Fairy Bowbell but even her dance sequences with audience interaction were a little bit forced
Matthew Kelly is an irrepressible and effortless Dame, owning the stage with a swagger and a looseness, but also a totally professional yet spontaneous air. There’s a good turn from Sam Hallion as Dick and when his girl, Alice, finds out about his apparent stealing under the spell of a conniving King Rat (devilishly played by Matt Harrop) there’s a genuine Titanic moment of Leo-Kate love stretched under the pressure of false accusations.
There isn’t an overspill of musical numbers, which gives space for the ensemble pieces to breathe. The Sultan and his Moroccan mob is particularly visually appealing and the quoteint of youthful and recognisable musical genres are certainly ticked off from Whitney Houston To Take That.
Nothing is ever perfect but this two hour production ticked all the right boxes and was almost beyond any sense of criticism, barring Phillips’ rather one-paced delivery.