Review: Dick Whittington, Liverpool Empire
After what was a truly fantastic show, Kevin Wood – Chief Executive of First Family gathered his cast and crew together and delivered a heartfelt speech in front of a busy bar room, the wording was beautiful; speaking great things about the city, Eric Potts and his fantastic writing, but most of all, the show – Dick Whittington. The room then filled with mixed feeling of sadness and happiness as he closed saying “That was for me, the best pantomime I have seen since Cilla was here.”
Anyone who is familiar with pantomime knows what to traditionally expect when you visit; screaming kids, shouts of ‘oh no we don’t’! Shrieks of booing, too. Not to mention innuendos, slapstick gags and costume changes. The Empire and First Family provide the traditional panto and then throw in the spectacular just to show that they can.
What is put on is a spectacle, something to dazzle and entertain. Not only entertaining and hilariously funny but almost awe inspiring with astonishing set changes and special effects. Dick Whittington is a bedrock of a pantomime. It follows the story of a young man on his travels, taking work with his cat Tommy – the effortless Hayley Goold, coming into trouble with an evil Rat King, played by the perfect villain Warren Donnelly – and of course showing that good triumphs over evil, the model of any good panto!
The cast I can’t help but feel has been assembled for its talent rather than just its names; Liam Mellor deserves every credit for what he brings to the role of Idle Jack. Every time he is on the stage it’s met with laughter and shouts of his token phrase “Cracking” – He is a real panto natural.
Dame Sarah (Eric Potts) and Alderman Fitzwarren (Pete Price) seem at home on the Empire stage. Eric has done a fantastic job writing the script and that is shown in fantastic scenes that are on display. Pete Price during the “If I was not upon the stage” brought what seemed to be one of the loudest laughs when he joins the cast dressed as a cheerleader!
The story is focused on Dick (Kurtis Stacey) and his new found love Alice Fitzwarren (Leanne Campbell). When they are on stage together they are faultless. Leanne has such a voice you would assume she sings on the radio rather than presents it. It is made even better by the vocals of Kurtis Stacey, who is faultless in all of the 6 numbers he appears in. The both of them have a chemistry on stage that you almost find yourself believing the panto relationship that has blossomed.
With the cast being so good, it only serves to compliment what is a fantastic set. The backdrop and set design is flawless, the crew manage to create scenes of brilliance while the cast dangle on wires. Most of all, the addition of 3D glasses and a scene roughly 3-4 minutes long provided some of the biggest screams of excitement of the night.
This mixed together with astounding choreography make this panto the perfect storm, with the only possible criticism being that the noise was at times extremely loud, not only due to the roaring laughter, but the sound levels being very high.
This show shouldn’t be missed!
Ten out of Ten.
By Dale Roberts