After last year’s successful panto, Cinderella, the London Palladium this year brings Dick Whittington to the stage with a huge cast of celebrities ranging from Musical Theatre stars Elaine Paige, Gary Wilmot, Charlie Stemp and Emma Williams, to TV Talent Show winners Diversity and Paul Zerdin. Comedian Julian Clary and TV personality Nigel Havers complete the star line up.
Julian Clary is brilliantly funny as the flamboyant Spirit of the Bells, with innuendos galore! His quick whit and dry humour help make this panto what it is. Having seen him recently in the play Le Grand Mort, I find myself having a respect and admiration for his work more than I ever have before. Queen of the West End, Elaine Paige returns to the stage for the first time in ten years to play Queen Rat. She is an incredible asset to the show and shows no concern about poking fun at herself and her career. She sings some of her biggest hits like As If We Never Said Goodbye from Sunset Boulevard, I Know Him So Well from Chess and Don’t Cry For Me Argentina from Evita, with some hilarious re-written lyrics, especially for the panto. Recent Half A Sixpence stars Emma Williams and Charlie Stemp reunite here to play Alice Fitzwarren and Dick Whittington and are as sublime as they are in every role. Their rendition of a re-worded Flash Bang Wallop! from the Musical is worth going to see the panto alone for!
The London Palladium is known for it’s variety shows and so it is understandable to see TV Talent show winners on the bill. Ashley Banjo and Diversity are brilliant dancers but felt a bit out of place in the show. Ventreloquest Paul Zerdin, as Idle Jack was cringeworthy in his performance and his comedy routine needs to be seriously looked in to and revised (see my blog Christmas pantomime’s shouldn’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth). Gary Wilmot is good as Sally the Cook and embraces the role. He sings a very impressive song where he recites every tube station in London which must have taken some serious learning and so I give him snaps for that!
Set design was understandably impressive for a production of this size. Bright colourful costumes were a feast for the eyes and visually the show was everything you could want from a panto.
Dick Whittington has a lot of good points and if you love musical theatre then you won’t regret seeing the show. But the plot is pretty thin on the ground and at points feels more like you are watching Sunday Night At The Palladium, rather than a christmas pantomime.
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Photo: Paul Coltas