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Dick Whittington – Manchester Opera House

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Panto season is here and Manchester has thrown the kitchen sink at their offering this year at the Opera House. There’s an impressive 3D sequence, a flying sleigh, a giant shark and more special effects – not to mention a solid cast with bags of festive energy.

John Barrowman leads as Dick, with The Krankies – a much loved cabaret act who found fame in the 70s and in more recent years have become pantomime favourites. Between the three of them, their chemistry is infectious and it makes for tremendous fun from start to finish. You can absolutely tell this is their 7th panto together.

OK – it’s panto and Dick Whittington is a loose story to follow – there is no fathomable storyline in this version but what this is, is a lot of decent leads having fun. The story, frankly goes out of the window. But you have fun watching them.

There are some sublime moments – the parts that go wrong and the early scenes are hilarious.

Smart dance routines from a quality chorus made for some of the highlights of the show. Although song lyric rewrites are pointless and an odd choice. Song choices were odd throughout and wow moments came more from special effects than the performers themselves.

Having said that, Lauren Hampton and Jacqueline Hughes do what is asked of them very well as Alice and ‘The Spirit of Bow Bells’. Like Phil Corbitt though, they don’t have so much to do. This is all about John Barrowman and The Crankies – who are, to be fair, fun to watch.

It’s only right though that you are warned about much of the content of the show. We all expect rude jokes at a panto and rightly so – but there are many (and I mean many) that will not just simply amuse and go over the heads of the children in the audience. There are also certain jokes that belong back in the 70s. One joke was incredibly close to the wire, albeit seemingly ad-lib, with regards to 6 Naan breads.

But even more blatent than that were crude body image jokes at the expense of dancers and a joke about sleeping with one of them ‘between the holidays’ (after she simply brings a chair on) which especially in 2017 is badly advised (at best).

This isn’t an adult cabaret, and it needs to be toned down to be family friendly (or advertised as adult) – BUT in between the groping, the finger through the fly jokes, searching under the covers, penis jokes and body shaming – it’s a big show.

This one is going to be remembered as Manchester’s marmite pantomime. You will either love it or hate it.

To book tickets visit atgtickets.com/manchester