Dick Whittington – The Rock ‘N Roll Panto

City Varieties, Leeds

I ALWAYS think Christmas starts for me with a visit to the panto, and what a Christmas cracker this one is at Leeds City Varieties.

A hugely talented cast, fabulous set design and 110 per cent enthusiasm from all the performers makes this one of the best family pantos for the public of Leeds and West Yorkshire.

The show has all the traditions associated with pantomime – the costumes, the gags, the men dressed as women – but this really is panto with a difference. The music is a huge part of the show and really gets the whole audience rocking in the aisles, regardless of age. If they are not personally singing or acting at the time, each of the actors plays an instrument as part of the band, and every number is a sing-a-long classic, with well-known songs from the 60s through to the 90s.

There is only a cast of ten – no dancers, no chorus, but this in no way detracts. And this leads on nicely to the terrific set design by Sean Turner. Sean has slightly extended the stage, put in balcony area above the main stage and a castle tower, and this has made the world of difference.

The usual characters are in this production. From these, it is very difficult to single out any individuals for specific praise as they all collectively play such a major part in the production, but there are one or two accolades I must make.

Firstly, Kenny Davies from Leeds as Numbskull/Friar Tuck. I have known Kenny since he was a young teenager as he appeared in many City Varieties Youth Theatre productions. Kenny has developed into a brilliant actor and musician, and was perfect for this particular part with his slapstick comedy.

From a singing point of view, I was also highly impressed by Liz Singleton as Maid Marian, whose rendition of You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman was superb. Peter Manchester was also excellent as Robin and combined well with Liz in Born To Run, I Would Do Anything For Love and Don’t Stop.

Comedy was to the forefront in this production with a particularly impressive performance by Eamonn Fleming as Nanny Nellie Nightnurse. I must also mention Louisa Beadel as Whitney and Sophie Bryne as Britney. Matthew Burns was also excellent in his part of Blondel the narrator.

And any Panto worth its salt has to have the inevitable baddie! Darrell Brockis, as the Sherriff, was the archetypal baddie, booed at every occasion possible.

Whilst this was very much a Panto for the kids, there were enough innuendos and double-entendres sprinkled into the script to keep the adults highly amused as well.

This was a great night out and the public of Leeds and West Yorkshire have another month in which to catch this brilliant production as it runs until January 10. Visit cityvarieties.co.uk or call 01132 430808 to book. Don’t miss it!

John Burland