Christmas Isn't Complete Until You've Been To The Panto

Sue Choularton reviews the New Wimbledon Theatre's Dick Whittington

This year's panto offering from the New Wimbledon Theatre is Dick Whittington starring choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Arlene Phillips as Fairy Bowbells.

But it's the rest of the cast - especially Tim Vine and Matthew Kelly - who really make this a terrific family night out.

Master riddle-teller Tim Vine is a near constant on the stage as Idle Jack, keeping us on track with the story as Dick travels from Cheltenham to London then onto China and Morocco!

His rapport with the audience - especially when he gets four children up on stage - is one of the highlights of the evening. And his pairing with imperious panto dame Matthew Kelly, is a guarantee to bring a smile to people of all ages.

Matthew Kelly's constantly-changing costumes are also a feast for the eyes, heightened by the vivid backdrops and strong lighting.

Arlene Phillips is making her debut in panto and I had the feeling that she still needs to relax into the role. She pops up every now and then, speaking in only rhyme. I can't say she struck me as a natural panto player, but she undoubtedly sprinkles some showbiz fairy dust onto the production.

Sam Hallion as Dick Whittington is an accomplished performer and certainly made some teenage hearts flutter as he fell for Alice Fitzwarren, played by talented Grace Chapman.

King Rat (Matt Harrop) tried to thwart Dick's progress, and he struck the right tone which provoked the appropriate panto reactions from the audience.

Mention must also go to Paul Baker, who took on several roles - including a fantastic routine as a Sultan in Morocco. A memorable ensemble added to the production, including an enthusiastic group of children.

The actual story of Dick's journey to become Mayor of London is almost incidental as this visually captivating show progresses towards the inevitably happy ending. But is this year's panto fun for all the family?...."Oh yes, it is"! So try to get down to the Broadway before the show ends on January 15.

By Sue Choularton

December 16, 2016