Dick Whittington

Dick Whittington at Sadler's Wells 1999

Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Barbican Theatre 2006

Dick Whittington at the London Palladium 2017

Dick Whittington at Sadler's Wells 1999

Previewed 16 December 1999, Opened 21 December 1999, Closed 29 January 2000 at Sadler' Wells in London

Epic adventure comes to Sadler's Wells for Christmas in a brand new musical version of Dick Whittington that reinvents the pantomime tradition for the next century. Dick Whittington's journey from the streets of London to the exotic climes of the Barbery Coast promises to delight audiences both young and old in this fanastic musical adventure especially devised for the new Millenium.

The cast features Jonjo O'Neill as 'Dick Whittington', Nikolas Grace as 'Grimaldi' and Peter Polycarpou as 'Bologna' with Anna Francolini as 'Alice', Ewan McCabe as 'The Cat', Jayne Regan as 'Lady Cat', Andrew C Wadsworth as 'Alderman Fitzwarren' and Dawn Hope as the 'Queen of Barbary'. Directed and choreographed by Gillian Lynne with designs by Tim Goodchild, magic illusions by Paul Kieve, lighting by Andy Bridge and sound by Mick Potter. Devised and written by Gillian Lynne, Stephen Clark and Chris Walker.

"Pantomime has become rather terrible and tacky," says co-deviser Gillian Lynn. "A lot of it is because theatres just put television names in the cast. They might be wonderful on the box, but that doesn't mean they can project their voices and hold a theatre. What we have done is to make a musical with all the pantomime attributes - huge adventure, lots of danger, lots of magic - but with none of that slapstick element. I have used real dancers, real singers, real actors. Pantomime used to be a wonderful genre and it is particularly important because often it is a child's first glimpse of the theatre."

"The curtain rises on a stage that's dark but for a floating torso and arms and legs that keep trying to slot into the wrong places. This mix of puppetry and conjuring brilliantly materialises into the famous clown who first trod the boards at Sadler's Wells 200 years ago, Nickolas Grace's Grimaldi. And up go the lights on fretwork towers, girders, trapezes and ropes, plus a rush of extras in exotic silvery underwear. You happily brace yourself for Dick Whittington as it might be performed by the Cirque de Soleil. No such luck. The steel structures and circus gadgetry go shamefully unused, and the compensations are fitful. The show calls itself a 'musical' rather than a panto, but what actually accompanies Stephen Clark's lyrics is a weird, characterless mix of Bricusse, Elgar, Purcell and In a Country Garden. And though Gillian Lynne's choreographic skills produce some delightful results, they don't always aid narrative flow and dramatic momentum... The show can be visually arresting, as when it whisks us to a sumptuous Barbary, and occasionally even visually extrordinary, as when the young Dick's attic bedroom fills with rats stampeding like the wildebeest in The Lion King. But I suspect it needs an experienced director rather than an expert choreographer to give it coherence." The Times

"Neither a panto nor the 'London musical' it promised to be, Gillian Lynne's take on the mayoral myth of Dick Whittington is an agreeable mess. The veteran director-choreographer has drawn on a variety of influences to create a confused, hybrid monster of a show. Parts of it are excellent, parts of it are dire, and there are just too many parts to make a cohesive sum... Dick's story is told straight - he's called Richard throughout, for a start - by writer Stephen Clark, but things keep obstructing it. Lynne inserts the kind of polished dance routines you expect from the choreographer of Cats, while the rebellious spirit of panto refuses to be shut out. Unfunny routines for the insufficiently developed comic characters sneak in, and a belated nod to the farce of London's current mayoral election further delays matters... Lynne's show meanders through nearly three hours, unsure if it is play, panto or musical. The big dance routines are great, and there are incidental pleasures for children and adults alike... Lynne's Dick Whittington is a mish-mash of showmanship and tedium, high drama and debacle." The London Evening Standard

"Dick Whittington is billed as a musical, not a pantomime... But it feels also as if Gillian Lynne, who directs as well as choreographs, decided to make it more of a pantomime as she went on rehearsing it: we are asked to join in at various moments, and Bologna actually encourages us to boo him. The music is neither for those who like hit musicals (too precious) nor for those who like classical music (too flimsy), and the words are anodyne. The best ingredient is Gillian Lynne's dance material, which has all kinds of physical details that you seldom see in any new choreography these days and that remind you that she once danced for Frederick Ashton. Nickolas Grace's Grimaldi is an arch, suave act badly overdone. Jonjo O'Neill is a very amiable Dick, and the two acrobats are good. Everybody else does standard musical-comedy work. The show is a bore." The Financial Times

"Dick Whittington proves that not only are the streets of London not paved with gold, but that good intentions are never nearly enough. Gillian Lynne, the amazing doyenne of British musical comedy, from the old Wells to Cats, would reanimate a London story with traditional song, no Gladiators or EastEnders, a pocketful of charm and a brilliant, highflying set by Tim Goodchild. The story bumbles and burbles along in Stephen Clark's dull script with no jokes, no spark, no elan. There are some wonderful little chorales and a lovely big effort from Peter Polycarpou as the nasty clown usurped by the old spirit of the Wells, Joey Grimaldi. This Grimaldi is played winsomely by Nickolas Grace as someone to whom we are supposed to warm without ever wanting to. I liked the rats." The Daily Mail

Dick Whittington in London at Sadler's Wells previewed from 16 December 1999, opened on 21 December 1999 and closed on 29 January 2000.

Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Barbican Theatre 2006

Previewed 29 November 2006, Opened 5 December 2006, Closed 20 January 2007 at the Barbican Theatre in London

The Barbican presents it's first ever pantomime especially written by Mark Ravenhill - a classic tale of rags to riches, full of wonder and delight for audiences of all ages.

The cast features Summer Strallen as 'Dick Whittington', Nickolas Grace as 'King Rat', Roger Lloyd Pack as 'Sarah the Cook' and Sam Kelly as 'Alderman Fitzwarren' with Debbie Chazen as 'Fairy Bow Bells', Derek Elroy as 'Tommy the Cat', Miles Jupp as 'Lemon', Toby Sedgwick as 'Port', Caroline Sheen as 'Alice', Danny Worters as 'Totally Lazy Jack', Chloe Campbell, Robin Colyer, Zoe-Leone Gappy , Christopher Hawes, Shaun Henson, Natasha Lewis, Sean Parkins and Joanne Sandi. Directed by Edward Hall with choreography by Emma Tunmore, designs by Michael Howells, lighting by Ben Ormerod and sound by Matt McKenzie. Written by Mark Ravenhill with songs by Jim Bob, Antony Dunn, Justin Edwards, Howard Goodall, Charles Hart, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Dillie Keane, Issy van Randwyck, Mark Ravenhill, George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, Sarah Travis.

"Pantomime is, as this show puts it, 'a piece of foolishness for wintertime'. More than that, though, panto is an essential blow-out for theatre types who spend much of the year being desperately earnest. Panto allows the Mark Ravenhills (writer) and Edward Hallses (director) and Danny Worterses (actor) of this world an excuse to indulge the public's love of caricature, corn and outrageous, double-entendre filth. We love it! The Barbican has, for the second year running, come up with a belter of a Christmas family show. Last year's Tintin was novel and thrilling. This Dick Whittington, though not quite so brilliant, is a trad panto and great fun... Panto dame Sarah the Cook is played by Roger Lloyd Pack. There hasn't been a dame this ugly since Sir Ian McKellen. Physically, done up in his gaudy costumes complete with lipstick and big hooter... On the vocal delivery, Mr Lloyd Pack was not so great. The sound system did not seem on top form. He also seemed surprisingly nervous. With climate change he might soon warm up. Hope so. Veteran comic star Sam Kelly, blinking through his Coke-bottle specs, helps rescue things, as does glamorous Summer Strallen as Dick... The under-tens seemed to have a great time. And the over-20s had plenty to chuckle (and blush) about, too." The Daily Mail

"One of the tangential delights of each panto season is watching the unlikely combinations of entertainment world personnel that are formed. After Sir Ian McKellen's very swanky Widow Twankey single-handedly invented 'posh panto', perhaps it should come as no genie-in-a-bottle surprise that controversial gay playwright Mark Ravenhill has turned, successfully, to this most family-friendly of genres. For Ravenhill once memorably proclaimed panto 'one of the supreme pleasures of life'. Parents who fear that the entendre count from such a pen may soar above two can rest easy: a line about being 'tossed on the high seas' is the pinnacle of risque-ness. It is rather Ravenhill's innocent love of the 'It's behind yous' that is amply evident, in a script which is a tenderly constructed compendium of panto traditions, sewn together with a thread of jokes thriftily recycled from decades past... Director Edward Hall permits an exaggerated tone of knowingness, as if emphasising that such festive frivolity is not his customary milieu. He also cannot get his actors to shake the sense that gag after gag is being ticked off perfunctorily, which means the captivating, snowballing anarchy of prime panto is markedly absent... Summer Strallen slaps her thighs heartily as Dick, and lends sweet voice to a succession of unmemorable tunes by impressive songwriting names. Hampered by a surfeit of quality: oh yes it is." The London Evening Standard

"To commission Mark Ravenhill, the provocative author of Shopping and F---ing, to write Dick Whittington & His Cat, the Barbican's Christmas pantomime, might seem a strange decision. It's akin to asking Johnny Rotten to come up with a song for the Eurovision Song Contest. But protective parents need have no worries. Edward Hall's sunny production is good clean fun, with dollops of opportunities for traditional audience participation and enough rude and snide political references to Thatcher and Blair (what do you expect at the Barbican?) to keep the grown-ups entertained... The star of the show, as is only fitting, is the pantomime dame, played by Roger Lloyd Pack. He makes as many costume changes as an awards ceremony hostess and is responsible for most of the naughty stuff... It's an edgy performance, more cynical old queen than flamboyant transvestite, and there's danger in his slightly world-weary air - 'what am I doing here?' he seems to say - that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Summer Strallen (as Dick Whittington) brings a Bonnie Langford freshness to her thigh-slapping part, and Danny Worters, as Totally Lazy Jack, proves the perfect bridge between stage and audience, exuding a lovable mixture of cheek and doziness. A bit more Laurel and Hardy-esque slapstick wouldn't have gone amiss, and the music is rather ordinary, but there were sweets thrown into the auditorium, a sing-a-long and an ugly villain, and, all in all, Mark Ravenhill has fulfilled his brief." The Sunday Telegraph

Dick Whittington and His Cat in London at the Barbican Theatre previewed from 29 November 2006, opened on 5 December 2006 and closed on 20 January 2007

Dick Whittington at the London Palladium 2017

Previewed 9 December 2017, Opened 13 December 2017, Closed 14 January 2018 at the London Palladium

The traditional family pantomine Dick Whittington in London for a special Christmas season.

Following last year's hugely successful staging of Cinderella - which brought back pantomime to the world famous London Palladium for the first time in nearly 30 years - this year Dick Whittington will be presented with an all-star cast that features Elaine Paige as 'Queen Rat', Julian Clary as 'Spirit of the Bells', Nigel Havers as 'Captain Nigel', Gary Wilmot as 'Sarah the Cook', Ashley Banjo and Diversity as 'The Sultan' and his Entourage, Paul Zerdin as 'Idle Jack', Emma Williams as 'Alice Fitzwarren', Lukus Alexander as 'Eileen the Cat' and, in the title role - Charlie Stemp as 'Dick Whittington'.

Directed by Michael Harrison with choreography by Karen Bruce, sets by Ian Westbrook, costumes by Hugh Durrant, projections by Duncan McLean, lighting by Ben Cracknell and sound by Gareth Owen.

When this production opened here at the London Palladium in December 2017, Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that Julian Clary "has never had a better context for his smooth-talking smut than in this generous, ridiculous, big-budget spectacular. The director, Michael Harrison, does nothing by halves as he conjures up a show extravagant and outrageous enough to conquer this 2,000-seat venue... it's a terrifically happy night at the theatre." Claire Allfree in the Daily Telegraph described it as being a "gloriously funny, not very family-friendly follow-up to last year's Cinderella. It contains more dick jokes than you can shake a cat at, and Julian Clary once again reigns utterly supreme with a parade of exquisitely outlandish outfits and extremely smutty gags... Still, put aside misgivings over what conversations you might find yourself having with your inquisitive seven year old come curtain fall, and this is an absolute corker of a panto... Michael Harrison's high-gloss production treads that tricky high wire between tightly drilled wit and giddy, improvised chaos." Lyn Gardner in the Guardian exclaimed that the "London Palladium strikes pantomime gold this year with Dick Whittington, which looks as if it has been staged with a budget bigger than the GDP for the UK... Michael Harrison’s production is aimed very much at an adult musical theatre audience rather than the family market. The smut outdoes the sparkle... this flashy, flamboyant evening is lots of camped-up fun." Fiona Mountford in the London Evening Standard highlighted that "the London Palladium has traditionally been London's home of variety shows. This all-star pantomime is certainly in the tradition of light entertainment... Musical theatre-loving grown-ups with a fondness - a real fondness - for Dick jokes are surely the target audience."

Elaine Paige's West End credits include the title role in The Drowsy Chaperone at the Novello Theatre in 2007 and the role of 'Anna' in The King and I at the London Palladium in 2000. In addition her landmark performances include originating the roles of both 'Grizabella' in Cats at the New London Theatre in 1981 and the title role in Evita at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1978. Julian Clary played the role of 'Dandini' in last year's panto Cinderella here at the London Palldium. Nigel Havers also appeared in last year's panto Cinderella - his other London credits include Simon Brett's adaptation of Oscar Wilde's The Importance Of Being Earnest at the Harold Pinter Theatre in 2014 and Francis Veber's See You Next Tuesday at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2003. Gary Wilmott's West End credits include David Yazbek's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Savoy Theatre in 2014; Neil Simon's The Goodbye Girl at the Noel Coward Theatre in 1997; and Barry Manilow's Copacabana at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1994. Emma Williams' West End theatre credits include the musical Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2016; Terry Johnson's Mrs Henderson Presents at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2016; Erich Segal's Love Story at the Duchess Theatre in 2010; Isabelle Allende's Zorro at the Garrick Theatre in 2009; the title role in the 'Blondie' musical Desperately Seeking Susan at the Novello Theatre in 2007; and Laurence O'Keefe's Bat Boy The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 2004. Charlie Stemp's London credits include role of 'Arthur Kipps' in the musical Half a Sixpence at the Noel Coward Theatre in 2016.

Dick Whittington at the London Palladium previewed from 9 December 2017, opened on 13 December 2017 and closed on 14 January 2018.