Dick Whittington, The London Palladium, London, Review:
***** 5 Stars
“Pantoland has never shone brighter!!”
Last year, Qdos brought pantomime back to the London Palladium after a gap of nearly 30 years and delivered a “Cinderella” that not only transcended the art of pantomime, but drew on its rich heritage and sprinkled modern panto magic that only technology can deliver, ensuring that the palladium took the title of best pantomime in the country.
Could they possibly achieve the same bench mark twice or even top it? Well by cleverly selecting “Dick Whittington” a pantomime that has London at its heart and bringing back the Devine “Julian Clary (Spirit of the bells)”, “Paul Zerdin (Idle Jack)” and Nigel Havers ( Captain Nigel) and mixing them with Musical royalty in “Elaine Page ( Queen Rat)”, “Gary Wilmot (Sarah Fitzwarren)”, The utterly gorgeous and Broadway bound “Charlie Stemp ( Dick Whittington), “Emma Williams ( Alice Fitzwarren)”, “ Lukus Alexander (Eileen the cat)” and “Ashley Banjo and Diversity (The Sultan and his special advisors”) they have created sheer pantomime perfection.
Clary, works at an incredible pace ploughing through dozens of costumes, and delivering more “Dick” gags that humanly possible, always getting the laughs from the adults in the audience whilst ensuring the magic of pantomime never falters for the kids, especially in a faultless 12 days of Christmas routine.
Elaine page returns to the Palladium and enthrals by her whit and charm always willing to send herself up, especially as all her songs are in fact pastiches of all her hits of musical theatre, special mention to a reworked version of “I know him so well” which she delivers with Clary and rightly brings the house down. She is a wonderful villainess. The Queen of Rats holds the title of the Queen of the Palladium and no mistaking.
For me the true revelation of the show is theatre legend “Gary Wilmot” as Dame Sarah Fitzwarren, his warmth and charm just flows over the footlights and he stops the show with his “London Tube” song, it takes the breath away and deserves a standing ovation of its own. The entire principal cast play to their strengths especially Nigel Havers who continues his role from last year, desperately seeking a bigger role! By the end the entire audience are willing him on.
Coupled with Charlie Stemp’s “Dick” its so easy to see why he is heading for Broadway and hello dolly his talent shines appealing across the generations. Paul Zerdin and his little friend Sam once again deliver the goods, even when a child plucked from the audience says he can see his lips moving, it takes a man of his skills to keep the laughter going.
The principal cast are joined by a large ensemble and dance troupe all of who share the same stunningly high level of costumes from some of the most acclaimed designers in theatre including Hugh Durrant and Ron Briggs. The boys at Twins FX have truly gone overboard with a London Bus that soars and a ship bow that doesn’t need water to sail across the palladium. Add all that to Ian Westbrooks stunning set and Ben Cracknells glittering lighting design with Musical Director Greg Arrowsmith’s large 12-piece orchestra of which he directs himself from the pit.
Director Michael Harrison is fast becoming the master of pantomime and he truly understands what it means to put Dick Whittington back on stage (last at the palladium in 1980!) Alan McHugh’s script delivers laugher, fun and spectacle and the all-star cast works hard to ensure that pantoland at the palladium has indeed never look brighter! Qdos have announced that pantomime will return to the palladium in 2018/19 with Michael Harrison at the helm, one thing is for sure, there going for three in a row.
Get to the Palladium, beg, borrow or steal a ticket for the biggest panto in all the land.
Qdos Presents “Dick Whittington”, The London Palladium, London, runs until Sunday 14th January 2018 Tickets from £22 go to https://dickwhittingtonpalladium.com/tickets/