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South East
posted/updated: 29 Nov 2019 -
Dick Whittington
Pob Wyeth / Matt Lemon
society/company: Spot On Productions (directory)
performance date: 27 Nov 2019
venue: The Point, Leigh Road, Eastleigh, SO50 9DE
reviewer/s: Bob Heather (Sardines review)

I have attended many of Spot-On’s productions in the past and enjoyed them all but, this being their very first pantomime, I wondered if the show quality would be as good as their previous productions. I needn’t have worried, they have come through with flying colours.

Dick Whittington is the story of a boy who travels from Gloucestershire to London to seek his fortune after hearing that the streets of London are paved with gold. When he arrives, he meets Alice, the daughter of Alderman Fitzwarren and falls in love. Dick also finds that London is so over-run with rats, that he declares war on the evil King Rat. He ends up beating his evil opponent and marries his sweetheart Alice, and then goes on to become Lord Mayor of London, not once, but three times.

As the lights dim, the seven-piece orchestra strike up and the rats start singing under a melodramatic lighting wash behind a gauze drop, which gives a great mystical effect. A second light then shines down on to the stage, where we catch our first glimpse of King Rat, the baddie who starts singing the opening number – and what a voice he has. His make-up and costume is superb, even his own mother wouldn’t recognise him.

Whilst waiting for the opening of the show I read the programme and saw a photo of Adam Rush who plays the Dame, Sally the Cook. I couldn’t help thinking how a young, slim, fresh-faced lad like him could ever play a traditional panto dame, but boy, was I wrong - he plays the part like a pro; full of vim and vigour. “She” has the audience in the palm of “her” hand from the very get-go. Rush is so full of confidence with a great personality, and a brilliant singing voice to boot that Sally lights up the stage on every entrance.

Adam Feltham and Nico Bray are fantastic as the comedy duo, Idle Jack and Lazy Bones, respectively. They have got the audience rolling in the aisles, to coin a very apt music-hall phrase. Feltham and Bray certainly know how to work the stage and keep the laughs coming. Somehow Bray uncannily gives me the impression of how Graham Norton must have been in his younger days.

Alice Fitzwarren is very well played by an ever-smiling Holly Ind, who oozes confidence when she sings, hitting every note like a pro. And during her duet with Dick, the harmonies are faultless.
Emma Harris plays Dick wonderfully. She has a very strong stage presence with a fantastically good singing voice. She is every bit the dashing hero.

Erin Bright flies in magically over everyone’s heads as the fairy, beautiful dressed and a voice with a fairylike quality.
Emily Capper is clearly enjoying the role of the ship’s Captain, and is keeping her crew in check throughout, taking to her role with great composure.

Josh McDonald is cast as the revolting King Rat, but I feel his voice is a little on the quiet side, and along with his movements, doesn’t quite come over as wickedly evil as I would have hoped. But that aside, he plays the part well and sings beautifully. He certainly has the audience booing him from the very start. McDonald has a great stage working relationship with his reckless nephew and apprentice Melvin the Rat, played brilliantly by young Daniel Rogers. He is a great foil for King Rat, blundering away and getting under Ratty’s feet.

Brian Scrivener is exactly the right person to be the bumbling Alderman Fitzwarren, the owner of Fitzwarren’s stores. He has more than his fair share of comic lines and handles his song, Hammer to Fall with aplomb.

Lisa Dunbar is a joy to watch as the Queen, and the brilliantly lithe and cat-like Amy Bennets playing the part of Dick’s cat are both exceptionally good in their respective roles. Last but not least is Granny (Jackie Grist) who acts as the narrator of the show. She does a very good job, reminding me of Listen With Mother many years ago (Just to make it clear, my own Granny told me about that)

Huge congratulations to the wonderfully competent and professional looking ensemble who dance and sing their way through song after song. They have had to learn so many routines under the eye of choreographer Abbie Jennings. There isn’t a wrong movement to be seen anywhere, everyone is moving as one – a great tribute to Jennings’ tuition.

The orchestra under the direction of Musical Director, Martin Bennetts, aided and abetted by Matt Lemon, consists of Drums – Steve Barker, Bass – Myk Hough, Guitars – Jay Turner and Howard Corbett, Keyboards – Matt Lemon and Nigel Finch, and Reeds – Heather Rudd. They play everything superbly and without getting a note wrong.

Lighting Design is like the company's name 'Spot-on' and is by Alex Edwards with audio design by Pob Edwards. The superb scenery was by Alick Leech and Scenery Solutions Trading Ltd.

The wardrobe team of Roseann Martin, Amanda Gates and Michelle Palmer, are ably led by keeper of the wardrobe keys, Mandy Harrison. The costumes are all bright and fresh, and fit well with the title of the pantomime.

The whole thing is ably directed by Alick Leech and is arguably more professional than most professional shows I’ve seen. I only have two minor criticisms. The first one I already mentioned was that the villain needs to be a little more villainous. The second is that I feel there are too many songs and musical numbers. I have always found that too much music leads to the majority of kiddies start to get bored – they prefer to laugh at things and shout at the baddie.

The show is superbly written by Pob Edwards and runs at The Point Eastleigh until Saturday 30th November.

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