Awwww, it’s like coming home for Christmas. Yet another year in Glasgow having a Panto-Fest with John Barrowman as the lead, Pete Gallagher as the baddie – in this case the Rat King – and the Krankies instead of the Dame. Only the key elements survived the adaption of Dick Whittington, the (true) story of the young man who is called by the churchbells to become the Lord Mayor of London, said bells being one of the casualties, to make the story fit John Barrowman and his home town Glasgow. Instead there are lots of hugely funny scenes like the haunted bedrooms (this time with two beds and almost the same dialogue like the years before between Ian, Jeanette and John) that lend spice to the old story. Sadly those funny scenes seem to lack a common thread and that makes the story seem a bit thrown together with unmotivated singing numbers added to showcase the main man. (and yes, he’s really good at them and a joy to watch. they just don’t fit into the story and don’t make much sense).
The high energy Pantomime is fuelled by Barrowman’s obvious joy to be on stage, a brilliant musical number – proud (or happy? correct me, please) to be your best friend – is done all Fred-Astaire-Style with John in a black Tailcoat complete with an elegant walking stick to swirl around and it blew my mind. To imagine him in Top Hat or any real Musical – I’d go and watch it! 😉
Act one shows us how Dick gets acquainted with Councillor Krankie and wee Jimmy – and of course Ailsa, the beautiful daughter of Krankie. He and his faithful tomcat TomTom (and yes, there is a sat nav joke being made later on) win the first round against the rats that inhabit the City of Glasgow and defeat the Rat King. But at night King Rat – almost drowned out by boos and hisses – breaks into the safe and slips Ailsa’s birthday present – a diamond necklace – into Dick’s bundle. Dick is expelled, but comes back at night as he has no place to sleep – awwwwwwww – and is allowed to rest with wee Jimmie. But they don’t get much sleep as there’s no alarmclock so they have to blow the trumpet (who’s blowing the trumpet at two in the morning????? It’s two in the morning then….!) and then they’re surprised by ghosties and ghoolies (and yes, that joke “I don’t wanna be grabbed by the ghosties… was utilized again). So it is morning and the Councillor decides to go to Morocco where Sultan Vinegar will buy his last remaining cookies.
There’s also a lavish sing and dance number at the end of act one, with Barrowman in a tableau with the dancers at the end, in the midst of a wide, golden and red coat train that dazzles everyone. Why this number is there, is not explained though and it feels a bit unmotivated again.
The second act is a bit disjointed but doesn’t lose the drive and energy of the first half. First we have Dick and Ailsa reunited on the deck of the Saucy Sally with a little help of the good fairy Aurora, then the Rat King arrives and sinks the ship with the help of a giant octopus – this is where they are separated and we see Dick and Jimmie swimming, high up in the rafters, dangling from hopefully strong cords – a huge achievement for Jeanette I thought!
Ailsa – after a solo singing number that just seemed to showcase her inability to hold a tune – gets kidnapped by King Rat, (Pete unfortunately doesn’t have a big singing number this year, which is quite a shame as he has a wonderful voice, but as always he’s a reliable and brilliant baddy in this panto) who is going to sell her to Sultan Vinegar’s harem.
To save her, Dick, TomTom and the councillor have to sneak into the sultan’s castle – this is where 3-D-glasses come into play again. It’s a rough ride filled with spiders, snakes, grabbing hands and bone heads that brings them to the Sultan, yet considerably shorter than in previous years and with no new features as well. There we are treated to a strange march of the sultan’s slaves, complete with an elephant (don’t ask me, I didn’t get it either) and a cool singing number by Sultan Vinegar (Aaron Romano) that then turns into a bollywood ballet – and no, I didn’t understand that one as well….. Vinegar will not part with Ailsa, no matter what she says. And not even wee Jimmy as Madonna (living in a miniature world – and very brilliant) can change his mind. But then the first rats appear and Dick and TomTom come to the rescue, so Vinegar gives Dick gold and – the hand of Ailsa. Huge kiss, the auditorium goes awwwwwwww and bleurgh given their age 😉
Now comes the big number by the Krankies, not changed at all from the last years. It’s what people want to see, I get told and I believe it, yet…
It gives the cast the chance to change into the glittery costumes they need for the last number and bows, which are quite awesome – the costumes, that is. Even though they seemed to have been nicked from other pantos for this one – there is a tableau of playing cards, and another one in black and white geometrical lines and both have no connection whatsoever with the play at all. But they do look amazing. And Barrowman in midnight blue tights – is always a sight to behold! (it takes a better woman than me to avert the eyes from them…)
And then it’s over and the kids in the audience are still wired and on a sugar rush from all the candies and that is a good thing just before christmas. (and after, as this panto continues till Jan. 6th). Me, I loved the innuendo laden dialogues between John and the Krankies, even though we have heard some of the jokes in other pantos of theirs before. I did miss the Bells (the calling back to Glasgow was in this case done by the audience), Pete’s song-number and of course that there were no kids on stage. I also had the feeling that it was a bit shorter than the last few times. But all in all it’s still family fun with a cool leading man who I’d want to see in something more … “fleshed out” than pantomime.
Unfortunately as it is with Panto with John Barrowman, the fans get increasingly undisciplined the further the show proceeds. I do realise that they all want their signature and their photos taken but:
I don’t understand why certain ppl have to come back for more EVERY night while we were there, why certain ppl keep whining when J. tries to get out of the rain and the cold in order to stay healthy for the show and why certain ppl don’t even have the decency to leave his husband alone – who snuck into the car without being seen as he acc to John “feels weird” about being asked for an autograph or a photo. Last night certain ppl banged against the car windows to force him out for a picture. And then seemed to claim that S. actually LIKES that and comes to THEM during concerts etc. Yeah, right. pull another one…