By Steve Cooke
Dick Whittington and His Amazing Cat at Contact, Manchester is a highly entertaining, upbeat, modern production that retains several traditional set pieces, including the ghost routine, whilst adding clever animation that references theatre throughout the ages including ships in a storm that could have been on an eighteenth century stage.
Audience participation, both youngsters and adults, is enthusiastically and very successfully encouraged by the cast through such as being invited to offer suggestions for a suitable punishment for King Rat. Many of the jokes are aimed at the adults, both topical and saucy. The lord mayor, a bumbling Boris Johnson lookalike; the captain names his ship the SS Corona—because it is catchy; Dick finds his fortune not b by being shipwrecked on ‘Love Island’.
The cast work well together, confidently reacting to fluffed lines with engaging banter.
This is a very high-quality production embellished by an excellent quartet of dancers glamorously attired in sequins, massive headdresses, and high heels. They are brilliantly supported by an additional sixteen young dancers with athletic routines, somersaults, and back flips choreographed by Michelle Yeomans, Alice Percival, Ellie Owen and Sean Canning The youngest dancers, charm with routines as cupcakes and jellyfish, raising a collective ‘aww’ from the audience.
The upbeat, modern elements are embodied in such as very talented four-piece live band dressed as pearly queens and kings with their renditions of well-known pop songs and power ballads and the inclusion of Anton Phung’s breakdancing as cat Scratch. The skilfully animated screen projections complement a stage set with storybook images with such as a very evocative depiction of an underwater kingdom.
The plot follows the classic story opening in London with King Rat (Adam Urey) kidnaping, with a view to replacing, the lord mayor. Fairy Bowbells (Kate Mitchell) schemes to thwart the rat’s dastardly plan by manoeuvring Dick Whittington (Heywood based Marcquelle Ward), who has just arrived in London from Wythenshawe, into running for mayor. Fairy Bowbells shows her support to Dick by giving his cat Scratch (Anton Phung) the power of speech. Dick falls for captain’s daughter Alice Fitzwarren (Rebecca Crookson) and so incurs the enmity of Idle Jack (Red Redmond) who frames him for a crime, setting Dick on his path to his fairy tale ending.
The whole experience is greatly enhanced by the friendly, efficient front of house staff and the ambience that has been created in this re-born theatre.
On until 4 January 2022