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Review: Dick Whittington at The Roses, Tewkesbury

The Roses Theatre has come up with yet another seasonal winner for Tewkesbury audiences in the shape of its much-anticipated pantomime Dick Whittington.

Writer and director Ben Crocker seems to produce first-class pantos for fun (literally). This year there will be over 200 of his pantomimes performed all over the world and this is his seventh consecutive year working at The Roses.

The story is loosely based around the familiar tale of the young Dick Whittington (Amy Bridges) who travels to rat-infested London to seek his fortune and falls in love with Alice Fitzwarren (Laura Barnard), daughter of Alderman Fitzwarren (Simon-Spencer Hyde).

At first things look good for Dick as his cat Tommy (Priscilla Osegie) helps rid the area of some of its rats, but, thanks to lovelorn Idle Jack (Michael Watson-Gray) he is wrongly accused of stealing the Alderman's gold and things start to go pear-shaped.

Suddenly we find most of the cast heading off to sea to Morocco to seek their fortune under the Alderman's twin brother Captain Horatio Fitzwarren (brilliantly played by Simon Spencer-Hyde).

But all's well that ends well and they eventually head back to London with the confusion over Dick's alleged theft resolved and he gets the Alderman's blessing to marry Alice.

The story may be as tall as a proverbial beanstalk, but the entertainment was first-rate. Much of the fun came, not surprisingly, from the panto Dame, Sarah the Cook, played quite superbly by Ben Eagle, returning to The Roses for the third successive year.

Sarah's costumes were extravagant, to say the least, and 'her' delivery was spot on. And there were some lovely spontaneous moments when she 'interviewed' a handful of brave youngsters who came on stage towards the end of the show.

The other star turn was Derek Frood, a new face to Tewkesbury audiences, who was wonderfully theatrical as King Rat. He played the pantomime villain with absolute relish.

The script was sharp and was not just at a child's level - it gave a nod to older members of the audience with a touch of gentle innuendo and, surprise, surprise, a reference to Brexit.

Several of the song choices were inspired. Right at the start we were treated to a version of We Predict a Riot and other winning songs included Man I Feel Like a Woman and Amarillo. There was even room for Baby Shark which delighted my four-year-old daughter Gracie who absolutely loved joining in with the actions.

I guess it's the children who are the real judges when it comes to pantomime ratings and as we got up from our seats at the end, my seven-year-old son Noah said: "Daddy, if I had 10 thumbs, I'd give it 10 thumbs-up."

Dick Whittington runs at The Roses Theatre in Tewkesbury until Saturday, January 5.

Performances vary in price, with tickets ranging from £15-£25. Family and group discounts are available on most performances.

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