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Dick Whittington review at Manchester Opera House – ‘a sumptuous showcase’

Ryan Kayode and John Barrowman in Dick-Whittington at Manchester Opera House. Photo: Phil Tragen Ryan Kayode and John Barrowman in Dick-Whittington at Manchester Opera House. Photo: Phil Tragen

The Opera House’s pantos are known for being lavish, big-money affairs. And this year’s offering, boasting retina-scorching lighting, all-encompassing sound and sumptuous sets, is no exception. Luckily it also features a starring line-up that is more than capable of holding its own among such visual fireworks.

John Barrowman and the Krankies have been honing their panto skills together for a while now, most regularly at Glagow’s SEC, and it is their easy chemistry and mischievous glee in bouncing off each other – sometimes literally and not always in a completely family-friendly way – that helps Michael Gyngell’s production to barrel along so enjoyably.

There are times when the ad-libs threaten to derail the whole show, but Barrowman and his co-stars realise that they have to please the audience as much as themselves, and they do so in spades.

Aside from Jacqueline Hughes’ likeable, fine-voiced Spirit of Bow Bells, the rest of the cast don’t get much of a look-in and the plot leaps around incomprehensibly in places. But, even six decades on, Janette Tough is such a force of comedic nature as Jimmy Krankie – even when, thanks to the FX team’s jaw-dropping creations, being swallowed up by a giant mechanical shark – that such misgivings are swept away by the waves of infectious silliness she unleashes.

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Verdict
A sumptuous showcase for the talents of consummate showman John Barrowman and the perennial comedy of the Krankies
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