REVIEW: Dick Whittington, Mayflower Theatre, Southampton, until January 6.
The special effects are stunning, including a monstrous giant rodent and a high-flying double-decker London bus.
But what makes the Mayflower panto comfortably the best of the bunch this year is the sheer quality of its star turn – not the lavish mechanics, but the human agency of the brilliant, inexhaustible Bobby Davro (though he’s probably feeling it now!), a superb, non-stop spree of irrepressible silliness which is a delight from first to last.
There will probably be a few mums and dads in the audience who will feel some of the laughs are a little near the knuckle, but Davro is counting on them flying straight over the heads of the assembled kiddies – and it’s there that they make their mark in a show which is consistently hilarious, endless innuendo among the more innocent gags.
What on earth was that kangaroo doing to him!
Dick Whittington is clearly a show for which absolutely no expense has been spared, but again it’s the human element that makes it soar – far higher than that bus.
Davro’s own enthusiasm and sheer love for what he is doing are terrific to behold. You sometimes wonder if even he knows what’s coming next… not least the moment he ended up in Jim Davidson’s lap in the audience.
His partner in crime is Andrew Ryan’s delicious dame, again the best by far of the dames I’ve seen this year. The costumes are a hoot; Ryan’s wonderful expressiveness is a masterclass; and his flirting with his chosen member of the audience is quite brilliantly done.
Steve McFadden ends up an excellent villain by the end of it, seeming to realise in the second half that he had gabbled just a little in the first half. Joe McElderry is excellent as Dick, game and good spirited. It’s hardly his fault that everything happening around him is so much bigger than he is on stage. It’s still a fine performance.
Rather more lost in the action is American singer and actress Sheila Ferguson who is distinctly underused. But the more Davro is allowed to dominate, the better the panto gets – and this one is an absolute cracker.