January 2013.  Review by Ann Cox, Leighton Buzzard Observer

Traditional family pantomime is hard to find these days as directors feel the need to give audiences bigger and blousier shows.

But a theatre full of excitable cubs can tell you what they want to see – and they had a great time on Friday night when Leighton Buzzard Drama Group premiered its festive thriller, Dick Whittington, at the town’s Lake Street theatre.

This is vintage panto that stuck to the story that we all know and love and featured something more festive shows should reintroduce – a girl playing the principal boy part.

And, slap my thighs, 16-year-old Vandyke student, Saskia McShane makes a smashing Dick.

The teenager is appearing in only her third panto with the group but it is her first in a leading role and she holds the whole show together with a powerful singing voice and buckets of personality.

Dick and his faithful moggy, Tommy, (a graceful Charlie Black) arrive in London to seek their fortune. They get work as rat catchers which brings them into conflict with the evil King Rat (a plum role for Carl Russell – always better to play the baddy and he does it with pizzazz).

There’s a love story between Dick and a comely girl called Alice and thrills on the high seas with a pirate that looks like a distant cousin of Captain Jack Sparrow (great look, Colin Delamore!).

The comedy doesn’t stop. John Stone makes a splendid grand dame as cook Gertie Spratt (complete with a repertoire of groany jokes) and LBDG regulars Lainy Ward and Mark Croft are a great little and large (well, tall and small to be precise) double act. There was a little moustache malfunction for both of them on opening night but the audience lapped it up.

Russell Bennett makes a lively Idle Jack, which may sound like a contradiction in terms, but, as Gertie’s son, he works hard as her straight man and gives a confident performance.

Emma Ballard, as Alice’s friend Maisie, has great potential in comedy. Maisie is a bit of a flirt with lots of cheek and a lovely cheery personality. She looked as though she was having great fun.

Overall this lively family-filled show provides something for everyone. A few of the double entendres go straight over the heads of younger audience members, which isn’t a bad thing; there’s homages to Spamalot and Stomp plus the now obligatory blast of Psy’s Gangnam Style.