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Dick Whittington (Manchester)

Ashleigh and Pudsey, Jodie Prenger, Ben Faulks, Tam Ryan, Samuel Holmes and Eric Potts star in a perfect panto at Manchester Opera House

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Ashleigh and Pudsey
© Phil Tragen

With so many pantomines to choose from, which one do you go for? The star vehicle or the local production which features bags of energy? Manchester's Opera House offers you a starry night featuring Ashleigh and Pudsey, Jodie Prenger, Ben Faulks, Eric Potts, panto regular Tam Ryan - alongside a great villain in the guise of Samuel Holmes (King Rat).

But First Family Entertainment live up to their name, because this perfect panto should be your number one choice, as everything about it is sublime. Eric Potts writes and directs and inserts so many gags that you may have trouble catching your breath. He really knows how to write for all ages and his book is brilliantly funny. He directs with the right amount of pace and this show features something for everyone.

Prenger is a great storyteller and has a ball as Fairy Bowbells. She belts out the likes of That's Life and Moment in Time with ease and shows off her comedic side. The only downside is that you long for her to have more stage time. But she makes the most of her role and is a fantastic fairy. Ashleigh Butler's Alice Fitzwarren is sweet and the BGT winner clearly revels the panto experience. When Pudsey appears, she is right at home and their interaction together creates plenty of "Aggghhhh" moments.

Potts is a pantomime pro and knows how to work an audience, as does the excellent Ryan. The two of them raise the biggest laughs and are both a joy to watch. Holmes makes the most of his time as villain King Rat and is wonderful. Terribly British and with a real knack for shouting his lines with meaning, he never falters. You wish his role was bigger, but again he is devlishly good.

Faulks pleases younger members of the audience who know him from CBeebies and he makes a convincing lead. Hayley Jane Goold makes a purr-fect companion as his cat.

The villagers and local children are all excellent as they manage to fill the stage and rise to the challenge of Sarah Dean's choreography with ease.

This panto makes all the right moves and will please all ages. It even includes a 3D sequence. It is not just a gimmick though - it moves the narrative along and will thrill your kids. Add pop songs, a few classic ballads, gags a plenty, loads of local references and some scene stealing from Pudsey, and you will see that Manchester's Got Talent in this terrific tale of Dick Whittington and his cat.

Dick Whittington is at the Manchester Opera House until 5 January.

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