When Kelli Maybank, as Dick Whittington, strides on looking for the London milestone, she looks every inch a true pantomime principal boy, from her smart thigh boots to strong singing voice and her all-embracing smile.
The cast of Dick Whittington at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
You could say Maybank is the true heart of the panto. She achieves this with great style, exuding an instant camaraderie that reaches out to the smallest child in the theatre (tiny tots roar with ear-piercing delight every time she appears).
But for sheer comic bravura, you have to hand it to Daniel Whitley in cat face make-up and white knee-length beachies. He races around the stage with a vocal dimension and a sense of fun that made him a standout among a cast of talented professionals.
Zara Ramm’s Queen Rat, in gleaming spangles and dark intentions, has a vivid razzmatazz style that left you hoping by the interval that she and Tommy the Cat might team up later for a song and dance number. Alas, it was not to be.
There is an unaccountable flatness about the shipboard scenes, but the unsinkable Tweedy, a clever droll with a circus background who takes risks with tall ladders and chandeliers, is a continual delight and Fairy Bow Bells (Natasha Lewis) gives a gracious spin to things.