REVIEW: Dick Whittington at the Theatre Royal Plymouth
KAY I admit this review may not be entirely impartial. You see Dick Whittington at Plymouth Theatre Royal stars a certain celebrity showbiz fox. And I'm unashamedly a big fan.
People often ask me, out of all the stars I've ever interviewed, who stands out as the best interviewee. Well, for debonair charm, quick wit and foxy flirting it has to be that rather subversive, well-groomed, upper-class puppet, Basil Brush. Ever since childhood I've loved that ear-splitting famous "Boom Boom", followed by that familiar, almost reassuring, cheery laugh.
As you might imagine, Basil is quite simply in his element in pantoland. The foxy fellow, who plays Alderman Foxwarren, gets to punctuate plenty of naughty jokes with his ear-piercing laugh. The bushy-tailed one also gets his muzzle around some really big song and dance numbers.
Forget the tweed cape he used to wear in the Seventies, in this show the furry celeb turns mega-glitzy and ritzy in sparkling top hat and tails, surrounding by sexy dancing girls.
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Basil is one of a trio of really brilliant comedians who get you laughing all the way through this fantastically flashy panto. Hilary O'Neil, who plays Fairy Bow Bells, turns out to be a spirit skilled in send-up. It's not just her spells that are divine. Her impressions are pretty magical too: she's spot on parodying everyone from Cheryl Cole and Sybil Fawlty to Len Goodman and Tess Daly.
Her impish impressions are complemented by local comedian Ben Nickless who does a mean Elvis take off as the hapless Winkle.
And then there's Biggins. I'd say Christopher Biggins is probably the most convincing dame I've ever seen – larger than life in a series of eyeball-searingingly outrageous costumes. Yet he hardly camps it up. In fact he doesn't need to try. You could say he's just naturally fabulous.
This first-class show keeps to all the fun-damentals of panto. That is, it's fun and funny, pretty much from start to finish.
It's a big budget affair too: stunning storybook scenery, costumes that rival Strictly for sparkles, great singing and cool stage effects. Smashing choreography, which winks to Strictly and has hints of burlesque, is performed by the Theatre Royal dancers who add more than a touch of grown-up glamour to the show. It's little wonder that people from all over the South West head to Plymouth each year to catch it. For glitz and giggles, aimed at all ages, it's certainly worth the trip.
Dick Whittington runs at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth until Saturday, January 19. Box office: 01752 267222.