Nancy Stevens, MKFM's Arts Correspondent attended with high expectations after last Christmas's fantastic panto, Aladdin.
Panto Press night is always a special affair, where we the press, are plied with mulled wine and mince pies, and it’s a celebration of the end of year after writing many reviews for all the wonderful shows that we are in the hugely privileged position to see.
A few months ago, I was fortunate enough to interview the main cast - Samantha Womack, Stacey Solomon, Kev Orkian, Kevin Brewster, Chris Jenkins and Hannah Ponting - and I was excited to see what this talented crew had to offer...
They did not disappoint...
The show began with Brian Blessed appearing on a huge screen promoting FFE and giving a potted history of pantomime. Then without further ado, the show opened with Stacey Solomon as Fairy Bowbells arriving on a silver swing in the sparkliest sequinned dress as, of course, befits a fairy.
First, let's get rid of the showbiz elephant in the room. Ms Solomon has been pilloried by the media for allegedly going on stage with her script. This happened only once at her very first performance at a matinee schools’ performance as she'd just flown in from her stint in “I’m a Celeb”, from Australia, but after that show, was word perfect. By own her admission, when we spoke, she made it clear that she wasn’t an actress, but was just incredibly grateful for all the opportunities afforded to her. Stacey was gracious, self-deprecating and utterly unspoilt. Her voice has a powerful, soul-like quality, and her mega-watt smile lit up the stage. A few more weeks on stage will bolster her confidence, and "Scriptgate" will be a distant memory.
Dick Whittington is set in London and our hero (Chris Jenkins) is accompanied by his cat, Tommy (a very agile Sophie Hart). Dick has come to seek fame and fortune in the mistaken belief that the streets of London would be paved with gold. Chris plays Dick in an understated fashion, but is not remotely soppy, as panto heroes tend to be. This boy can sing, dance and act and I very much enjoyed his performance. He falls for Alice Fitzwarren (Hannah Ponting) who made her panto debut. She has a remarkable singing voice and isn’t your archetypal simpering heroine. As they are both fair-haired they do look more like brother and sister but were more than believable as a couple. The harmonising in their duets was spine-tingling, a perfect blend of voices.
Rats are overrunning London, and Dick offers his cat to alleviate the problem, but is thwarted at every turn by his arch-nemesis, the evil Queen Rat played by the sublime Samantha Womack. Sam is so much more than her East Enders character, and has an acting pedigree stretching back 25 years. Sam is old-school musical theatre, trained in the discipline of singing, dancing and acting. She has a great vocal range and has such on-stage charisma, it is hard to tear your eyes away from her. She simply has that certain je ne sais quoi.
The unmistakable star of the show is, of course, Kev Orkian who plays Idle Jack. Kev has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand, such is his deft humour and genius with physical comedy. His foil is Sarah the Cook (Kevin Brewis) who is just the perfect panto dame. Being the dame is probably the hardest role in panto, and the scene between him and Jack involving a giant sausage had us howling with laughter - (so much so that the little girl in front of me asked “Mummy why is that lady laughing so much?”) There were more innuendos and lewd comments than in the previous panto, which, of course, totally eluded the children. This is the whole point of panto - it is for the whole family.
While a big scene change is taking place, there is the obligatory opportunity for the youngsters to have their moment on stage with Kev. Kev is a seasoned pro at this, and the cuteness factor was off the scale with the toddlers singing “Old Macdonald” and then being presented with a goodie bag.
I was delighted to see Marc Pickering return to the stage after his successful stint in Aladdin last Christmas, and he is a man of many talents and took on two roles, one as Alderman Fitzwarren, and the other was absolutely priceless as the campest Sultan ever.
Instead of the traditional swords at dawn to battle it out between good and evil, a contemporary spin was introduced in the form of a lip sync battle between Dick and Queen Rat. This routine was utter genius and had the audience in paroxysms of laughter. I particularly loved Sam’s version of “Wuthering Heights”, proving that she is a brilliant comic actress too.
The costumes were beautifully designed, and Kevin’s (Sarah) outfits, particularly the one of her as a ship in full sail, were a veritable feast for the eyes The sets were, as always with FFE, lavish and detailed.
The songs were bang up to date, and there honestly wasn’t one weak link in the entire cast. A tighter panto cast I haven’t seen in years. The local references to Milton Keynes always raise a laugh and make it truly topical.
The 3D underwater show raised “oohs and aahs” from the entire audience, and this scene was in keeping with the sunken ship and totally contextual. Often in panto, random acts are put just for the sake of it and leave audiences pondering the significance.
There simply aren’t enough superlatives to describe this panto, and it’s not very often I would award a show a full five stars but Dick Whittington totally deserves them.
Happy Christmas one and all!
Sponsored Stories You May Like
76 coronavirus cases and two virus-linked deaths announced in Milton Keynes today
There were 76 new coronavirus cases and two virus-linked deaths announced in Milton Keynes today, according to the latest data.
'Socialist' budget sets seal on near £60 total council tax increase in Milton Keynes
Council taxes across Milton Keynes are set to rise by an average £59.13 after borough councillors approved their part of the jigsaw puzzle of demands on a politically split vote.
Decision on future of Milton Keynes golf course delayed until June
A potentially controversial decision on the future of a golf course in Milton Keynes has been delayed until after May’s local elections.
Over 60,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Milton Keynes
Data released today (25/2) reveals that over 60,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered in Milton Keynes.
MK Dons proud to support Level Playing Field's 'Weeks of Action'
Disability charity Level Playing Field are celebrating their 17th 'Weeks of Action' campaign from Saturday 27th of February to Sunday 14th of March, aiming to showcase the good work being done by clubs and organisations to improve accessibility and inclusion across all sports.
Council collaborates with local charity to support Milton Keynes women back into work
Milton Keynes Council has partnered with Works For Us, a local charity supporting women into work whose jobs have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Regeneration of Milton Keynes estates are 'long-term' projects, says council leader
Milton Keynes Council is planning multi-million-pound regenerations of local estates, something which the council leader says will take quite some time.
Milton Keynes man is attacked and hospitalised following dispute about a parking space
A local man was attacked and left requiring hospital treatment following a dispute about a parking space.
Researchers at university near Milton Keynes are turning crop waste into high-value fashion products
Researchers at Cranfield University are working to develop a greener way to manufacture textiles for clothing using biomass derived from crop waste.
Pupils sitting GCSE and A-Levels in Milton Keynes will have results decided by teachers
GCSE and A-Level results will be decided by teachers, the exams watchdog Ofqual has confirmed.
Police appeal for help in tracing wanted man with links to Milton Keynes
Police officers are appealing for help in locating a wanted man who has links to Milton Keynes.
EXCLUSIVE: Green bin collections in Milton Keynes expected to resume next month
Green bin collections in Milton Keynes are expected to resume by the middle of March, MKFM can reveal.
You May Have Missed
Coronavirus test centre employee's outcry over being charged to park whilst at work in Milton Keynes
Employees at the drive-in coronavirus test centre in Central Milton Keynes have to pay to park each day, it has been revealed.
EXCLUSIVE: McDonalds to restart breakfast service in Milton Keynes from July 8th
MKFM understands that McDonalds will be re-starting their breakfast service in all Milton Keynes stores from 8th July.
The areas in Milton Keynes where the most deaths involving coronavirus have sadly happened
The Office for National Statistics have revealed new localised data on the number of deaths which have taken place involving coronavirus.
Cafe Rouge to close in Milton Keynes as owners of chain enter administration
Cafe Rouge in Milton Keynes will be closing permanently as the owners of the chain enter administration.
'Scum' spray-painted onto Milton Keynes couple's store window as well as other graffiti
A Milton Keynes couple have had the word 'Scum' spray painted onto their store window, as well as other graffiti on their store sign.
Cat is stabbed twice in Milton Keynes
Last week, a family discovered that their pet cat had been stabbed in each of her back legs.
Milton Keynes local coronavirus case numbers do NOT include Drive-Through test centre results
A national newspaper has revealed that government coronavirus case numbers on a local authority level do not include any tests from local drive-through test centres and some home testing kits.
Deadly blue-green algae appears in another Milton Keynes park as warning sent to dog owners
Deadly blue-green algae has been identified in another Milton Keynes park as dog owners are warned to keep their animals out of the lake.