The Column Online



By Jackie Mellor-Guin
Original music composed by Aaron Frylund

Theatre Britain

Director - Sue Birch
Set Designer - Darryl Clement
Lighting Designer - Rob Stephens
Costume Designer - Tory Padden
Wig and Hair Designer - Don Hall
Choreographer - Carrie Moore
Fight Choreographer - Kevin L. Ash
Stage Manager - Jill Stephens
All music arranged and performed by Aaron Frylund


Dick Whittington - Jad B. Saxton
Dame Overeasy - James Chandler
Jack Of All Trades - Michael Speck
Tom Cat - Jean-Luc Hester
Alice Fitzbetter - Jennifer Middleton Taylor
Queen Rat - Kate Rutledge
Frankie - Caitlin Mills
Dean - Brandon Wilhelm
Bill - Chris Sykes
Mrs. Fitzbetter - Nancy Lamb
Fairy Bow Bells - Jennifer Middleton Taylor
Sheik-N-Bake - John Moss II
Sultana - Nancy Lamb
Princess Raisin - Jennifer Middleton Taylor
Job Applicant - John Moss II
Ghost - John Moss II
Rat - John Moss II
Puppeteers - Nick Haley, Nancy Lamb, Caitlin Mills, John Moss II, Jad B. Saxton, Chris Sykes, Jennifer Middleton Taylor, Brandon Wilhelm

Reviewed Performance: 12/3/2011

Reviewed by Lyle Huchton, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

The holiday season is now in full swing and area theaters are offering a plethora of Christmas themed plays and musicals. With the abundance of A Christmas Carols and Nutcrackers to choose from it is nice to have something spicy thrown into the mix. I do not think you could find a production any saucier than Theatre Britain's annual world premiere panto, Dick Whittington.

Part melodrama and part Fractured Fairy Tale, Dick Whittington incorporated off the wall cross-dressing characters, and encouraged full audience participation. The story was based on a recognizable fairy tale so it kept the children tickled by allowing them to follow the plot and urging them to cheer for the hero and boo for the villain. The adults stayed entertained by the underlying tongue-in-cheek hilarity.

Author Jackie Mellor-Guin forged into familiar territory having written several past pantos for Theatre Britain, including Snow White which earned her a Leon Rabin nomination for best new work. She stayed true to form by including the traditional characters usually found in this genre. The Dame for example, a larger than life character played by a man, and the romantic male lead which was played by a woman were incorporated into the plot. She also threw in several contemporary references that kept the text fresh and original.

What I found most impressive about this production was that all the components - the writing, the acting, the music, the design, and the choreography - worked together to form a cohesive unit with no one element overshadowing the other.

Taking on the centerpiece role of Dame Overeasy was James Chandler. If the name was not suggestive enough, Mr. Chandler made it quite clear what his character's intentions were. Tossing innuendos to the audience like the flap-jacks he was wearing as a hat, and looking like a mash-up of Donna Reed and Divine, Mr. Chandler could have easily crossed over to high camp. He instead gave an energetic and controlled performance. I will have to say that it was one of the best comedic roles I have seen portrayed this year.

Cast in the "pants" or "breeches" role was Jad B. Saxton as Dick Whittington. I was glad that Ms. Saxton did not try to overplay the fact that she portrayed boy. She just let the words do the work for her.

No panto would be complete without the villains, and that was amply supplied by Kate Rutledge as the Rat Queen and her three Rat minions Caitlin Mills (Frankie), Brandon Wilhelm (Dean), and Chris Sykes (Bill). Not only did Ms. Rutledge welcome all the hisses and boos, she encouraged them. The "Rat Trio" had distinctive personalities that set them apart from one another and they worked well as an ensemble.

Triple cast as Alice Fitzbetter, Fairy Bell Bows, and Princess Raisin was Jennifer Middleton Taylor. Ms. Taylor did an outstanding job of being able to chameleon each of these roles. But I think she was the most charming and lovely as Fairy Bow Bells.

Rounding out this cast of wacky and energetic performances were Nancy Lamb as The Sultana, Michael Speck as Jack Of All Trades, Jean-Luc Hester as Tom Cat, and John Moss II as Sheik-n-Bake.

The set design by Darryl Clement was a visual delight. A brightly colored backdrop painted to look like an unrolled map hung at the back of the playing area highlighting the different places the characters would travel. He then used several boxes painted to look like crates that could be stacked in different configurations. The cast moved the boxes to indicate a change of locale which kept the pace of the piece from becoming stagnant.

Tory Padden's costumes spanned the centuries from medieval dresses with scarfed pointed headdresses to 1940's gangster hats and vests. What made this bold concoction work was all the costuming suited the characters that wore them. Then using specific color choices Padden unified her overall design concept.

Sweet and salty, sugary and sour, Theatre Britain's production of Dick Whittington will certainly satisfy all your holiday cravings.

Theatre Britain at the Cox Building Playhouse
1517 Avenue H, Plano, Texas 75074

Through December 28th, 2011
Fridays @ 7:30pm, Saturdays @ 2:30pm and 7:30pm
Sundays @ 1:30 pm and 4:30pm

Additional performances are on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, December 20-22, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, December 26-28 all @ 7:30pm. No performances Saturday or Sunday, Dec 24/25.

Tickets: $19 adults, $15 students and seniors, $9 children under 14 Group discounts available. Inte