Harpenden Dick Whittington pantomime review: ‘Another quality production to kick off the festive season in style’

Chris Law (Alderman), Kane Coxall (Dick Whittington), Alissa King-Underwood (Alice), Jill Priest (Qu

Chris Law (Alderman), Kane Coxall (Dick Whittington), Alissa King-Underwood (Alice), Jill Priest (Queen Rat) will star in Harpenden panto Dick Whittington - Credit: Act One Pantomimes

It’s rare for Harpenden’s panto to boast a bigger star than its St Albans rival, but Milkshake presenter Jen Pringle is certainly more of a draw than Buster Briggs in EastEnders, especially for the kids.

Milkshake! presenter Jen Pringle

Milkshake! presenter Jen Pringle - Credit: Archant

In fact, if anything, Act One Pantomimes’ production of Dick Whittington could have benefitted from more stage time for the darling of Channel 5’s early years segment, as her Fairy Bowbells lit up Harpenden’s Public Halls whenever she appeared.

She might not have the best singing voice, but Jen exuded a joie de vivre which was positively infectious, and didn’t really need to rely on references to Milkshake and being trained at Nanny Plum’s fairy school to win over her audience.

Whatever they paid her, it was worth every penny!

Apart from Jen, the other stand-out was the incomparable Steve Shappelle as Sarah the Cook, whose pantomime dame was strong enough to bluff through the loss of his wig in one sequence, while also packing in more costume changes than your average Beyonce concert.

Credit should also go to Alissa King-Underwood, best known as Miss Cambridgeshire 2016, who looks to be a talent worth keeping an eye on after a quality performance as Alice.

Elsewhere, Luke Roberts did a by-the-book turn as Idle Jack, Herts Pride’s Kane Coxall made for a sympathetic Dick, and Jill Priest brought boos and hisses from her devilish interpretation of Queen Rat, but surely it’s about time to rest BBC Three Counties Radio presenter Ernie Almond?

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His Sultan of Morocco seemed forced and flat, lacking any real charm.

Without question, the audience members enjoying themselves the most throughout our show was a contingent from St George’s School, whose enthusiastic level of participation deserves public recognition.

It’s always reassuring for the cast when their efforts are rewarded in this way, but with the quantity of jokes delivered there were always going to be a few which fell flat, even the adult gags about May, Trump and Love Island.

As ever, there were plenty of songs based on chart hits, including Shout Out To My Ex and Shut Up and Dance, and some lovely local references in the script, including a great line about the streets being paved with restaurants and estate agents, which keep the action moving throughout what is a surprisingly long run-time of almost three hours (including interval).

Make sure you stock up on sweets...

There’s always a music hall charm to Harpenden’s annual panto, with some of the routines dating back to when the town was a village, but they’re delivered with such conviction that you are happy to overlook the cobwebs.

Oh yes you are!

Another quality production to kick off the festive season in style.