Dick Whittington (review). Dirty Den rats on our panto hero!

It isn’t often that a giant inflatable sausage becomes the star of a show but this is no ordinary Christmas panto. Dunstable’s Grove Theatre has revitalised this annual festive treat to come up with a saucy sensation.
Dick WhittingtonDick Whittington
Dick Whittington

Book your tickets now to see the spectacular Dick Whittington.

This is a family show with panto factor. It stars one of our favourite Neighbours, Ryan Moloney, who’s come from Down Under to show that he’s no Idle Jack at comedy. He’s joined by former EastEnders villain Leslie Grantham who takes growling and sneering at the audience to a whole new level. The man is evil!

Add to the mix a handsome hero, a lovable cat, a gorgeous heroine (Lucy Reed), a well-upholstered, cheeky dame, and sassy Cockney fairy, plus some high tech wizardry, and you have a sure-fire smash hit. This is a very brazen Dick and the Grove’s best pantomime for years.

Who’d have thought that someone from Oz would be so at home in medieval London? Moloney comes on with a “G’day cobbers!” and proves a natural comic. He makes the gags, improv and quips look effortless.

Mr Grantham, as King Rat, leaves his Dirty Den in the sewers to insult the audience every now and then but doesn’t have a lot to do (“Not even a song of my own,” he whines).

Instead the action concentrates on the dashing Ben Irish, as Dick, who comes to London to seek his fortune, falls in love, is fitted up for theft, must rescue both the girl and his reputation – and find time to stop Ratty’s plan for world domination (and all before tea) - before taking his place in society. Phew!

It’s a tall order but he has help from a very cute and clever cat called Tommy (Elloise Jones), Idle Jack and the outrageous Sarah The Cook. As pantomime Dames go, the larger-than-life Leon Craig is a voluptuous stunner, whose mountainous breasts threaten to suffocate some of the cast on more than one occasion.

They make a splendid double act (that’s Sarah and Jack – not the breasts), each saving the other with a succession of quick-fire adlibs which sound unrehearsed (though may well be cleverly written into the script as so many bits of business are).

Vocally Jasette Amos, as Fairy Bowbells, blows the cobwebs from the roof with powerful renditions of popular anthem classics like River Deep and I Need A Hero. She’s a dazzling fairy, with a sarf London accent, who lights up the stage in a true fairytale costume.

The Grove has formed a new partnership with Magic Beans Pantomimes and the move has given the Christmas show a huge lift. It is rather naughty in places but that’s in the true tradition of panto.

Some of the one-liners may be a little risqué but the gags fly so fast that they go over the heads of the little ones and provide lots of entertainment for the parents and grannies in the audience.

The gag with a malfunctioning inflatable salami is well and truly milked for laughs. It’s a little near the knuckle but harmless enough and deliciously funny.

The action zips along, taking us from London town, beneath the streets to the sewers, under the sea and to a palace in sweltering Morocco. The children will love the jazzy computer graphics in the Second Act while the music and comedy routines will have everyone chuckling.

Dick Whittington runs until January 5. For tickets and times call the box office 01582 602080 or visit www.grovetheatre.co.ukNext year they’re staging Robin Hood (Dec 12, 2014 to Jan 4) but if you can’t wait until then Magic Beans are back at Easter with an unseasonal panto, Alice In Wonderland, starring magician Paul Daniels, Debbie McGee, and Britain’s Got Talent’s Steve Hewlett (April 18-21). Tickets from the number above.