Arlene Phillips makes her pantomime debut in a lavish Dick Whittington in Wimbledon, where the streets may not be paved with gold, but everything from the costumes to the safety curtain have been coated in glitter.
Phillips’ Fairy Bowbells is supported by pantomime regulars Matthew Kelly and Tim Vine, as mother-and-son duo Sarah the Cook and Idle Jack who provide the strong comedy engine at the show’s centre.
Kelly’s statuesque Cook brings that pantomime filth which flies gloriously over young heads, and a particular brand of meta-theatrical awareness, storming off eyes-rolling before the inevitable love duet between ingenues Sam Hallion and Grace Chapman.
Vine’s Idle Jack is the hardest working man on stage, family-friendly without sacrificing his gag rate, keeping the whole house engaged whether making Hot Gossip gags or getting children from the audience up on stage.
Phillips herself struggles slightly with some plodding rhymes that drag the plot along, and has much more fun getting the audience on their feet in the second half – especially when she gets to move her own.
With only a touch of slosh, and no sweets in sight, Dick Whittington nevertheless grows more silly as it goes on, catching kids just as their minds might start to wander. The sets and costumes (especially those by John Brooking for Matthew Kelly) consistently dazzle throughout, and the band is first-rate, keeping as many sound effects in the pit as possible, allowing for ad-libbing from the percussion section throughout, and with a high-tempo rock medley finish.