For several years now, it’s been as consistent as midnight mass, as funny as a Morecambe and Wise Christmas Special and as shiny as the star of Bethlehem. Milton Keynes Theatre’s pantomime is always a highlight of the season.

They have had the good fortune for the past couple of years to be steered to these reliable heights by the immensely talented Bradley Walsh, helming the mayhem almost by force of his own charming personality. No such fairy dust at work this year, more’s the pity.

Instead, we get a solid, workmanlike version of Dick Whittington, still liberally sprinkled with glitz and glitter but never quite reaching the realms of the magical.

Everything is perfectly acceptable – there are no gaping holes in the script, no buttock-clenching turns from soap stars, no inappropriate adult gags. But that’s about it. The main USP, to use the advertisers’ jargon, is a 3D sequence in the second act which does make a pleasant change and works very nicely, but it is a bit of a worry when the most appealing factor in an expensively dressed Christmas show is a pre-recorded film insert.

Among the live cast, Dirk Benedict (Face from The A-Team) makes a snappily attired King Rat, Shona Lindsay a sweet-voiced Fairy Bowbells and Gavin and Stacey’s Joanna Page a wide-eyed Alice Fitzwarren. In Bradley Walsh’s shoes, the simply named Tucker tries just a bit too hard as Idle Jack, while Graham Hoadley’s Sarah the Cook is serviceable if a little unimaginative. And if anyone can shed light on the inexplicable popularity of Britain’s Got Talent finalists Stavros Flatley, who trot out their one-joke turn then proceed to milk it to death, I’d be fascinated to hear it.

In the interests of fairness, it should be noted that the audience went wild, but I’ve long since stopped trying to second-guess the tastes of Milton Keynes theatregoers. For me, it’s a run-of-the-mill, by-the-book panto by numbers. And that’s not quite what MK has come to expect from its festive offering.

- MICHAEL DAVIES

For an alternative view, check out this review from Debbie - who gives the production a more sparkling 4 stars.

It’s Panto time again at Milton Keynes. This year’s production, courtesy of First Family Entertainments is Dick Whittington and has got all it takes to keep all ages entertained – a live band, dazzling dance routines, glitzy costumes and enough humour and slapstick to keep things ticking over nicely for two hours or so. The actors genuinely looked as if they were having a great time and as a result the audience did too.

The set designs and changes are clever and deft and the play’s inventive costumes (the dame’s ‘squash’ dress is particularly eye-popping), clever audience engagement and even a 3D scene, made sure this was no tired old panto routine. And if that wasn’t enough there’s a special guest appearance from Stravros Flatley who brought the house down …it was wall-to-wall fun.

Graham Hoadly gives the strongest performance of the evening as Sarah the garishly costumed Cook – (the panto dame) and, may well rank as the funniest panto dame in Bucks!

Tucker as Idle Jack, has a wicked sense of humour and helped along by the script, grabs every opportunity for a laugh... He delivers some topical, corny and innuendo laden gags to an appreciative audience with his puppet pal Terry the Turtle. The most genuinely funny moment of the show is when he loses a false leg and capably adlibs with Sarah the Cook to the delight of the hysterical audience.

Joanna Page excels as a warm and engaging Alice Fitzwarren and Joel Montague gives us an enthralling Dick.

The only weak link in the show is Dirk Benedict’s King Rat: a far cry from the iconic A-Team legend, he was a little bemused, under-threatening and failed to work the boos and hisses. In contrast Shona Lindsay, with a superb singing voice, gives a commanding performance as Fairy Bowbells.

The audience enjoyed the spectacle, an enjoyable and entertaining show which sent everyone home happy.

- Debbie Mitchell