How City Hall’s paved with comedy gold

Pictured at Sheffield City Hall, for Manor Operatics, 'Dick Whittington
Pictured at Sheffield City Hall, for Manor Operatics, 'Dick Whittington
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It’s spectacular. And it’s pure Sheffield.

The city hasn’t got many surviving institutions but this is one of them.

Manor Operatic Society’s annual family pantomime has been going for decades because audiences know exactly what they are going to get.

It’s a case of familiarity breeding content - from the slapstick dough throwing scene to the black light magic and the audience children on-stage bucket game to the Tiddly Winky Woo song.

Dick Whittington starts to the familiar strains of the Welcome to the Pantomime number and ends with the equally familiar Thank You for the Music.

In between there are well known and not so well known songs as musical director Andy Collis raids the sea-faring canon with even a touch of Gilbert and Sullivan thrown in.

The jokes are deliciously corny, the gags delightfully predictable and, though the delivery of some of the punch lines was rushed, the thousands of Sheffield people who will see one of the 16 City Hall performances will lap it up as eagerly as svelte cat Alex McVeigh drinks his toxic semi-skimmed.

Perhaps there’s too much innuendo around the hero’s first name and the rats in the sewers were an inevitable excuse for over-worked poo jokes. As ever, the centre of gravity of the whole show is the dame. And Robert Spink amply fills the boots of Dolly Dumpling with easy rapport and witty control. James Smith as Idle Jack soon gets the kids on his side and Tim Major as Captain Cuttlefish was an energetic foil for shipmates Scupper - Chris Hanlon - and Barnacle - Gary Rossiter. Emma Holmes in the title role and Christina Rice as Alice both gave the necessary contrast to the comedy capers and their songs were a treat. Audiences for Manor pantomimes are well versed in the genre and as sharp as the captain’s cutlass and were often one step ahead of writer Alan Frayn’s storyline. They were cheering Holly Denton’s elegant Fairy Bowbells and hissing Simon Hance’s sneering King Rat right from the off.

Director Richard Bradford and choreographer Linda Kelly keep the production flowing with short bursts of song, dance and comedy to keep the audience, especially children, attentive and engaged.

With a 30-strong chorus providing rigorous depth, glamorous costumes adding to the colourful settings and pyrotechnics even brighter than the X Factor, Dick Whittington really does find Barkers Pool paved with gold.