Despite the Odds, South of the border a handful of venues have staged socially distant pantomimes leading the charge is the world-famous London Palladium. With a solo bubble seat secured, temperature check complete, lashing of sanitizer and social distancing in full force we at Scotsgay Arts were proud and honoured to see what turned out to be just 1 of 6 performances of Pantoland at the Palladium.
What a joyous experience it was to be back in a theatre and not just any theatre, The Palladium which has lit up Argyll street for over one hundred years and to do so during the glitz and sparkle of pantomime. Yes, it feels different but also life affirming and joyful too, for those who adore the arts in whatever capacity they work within it or choose to view it from those glorious auditoriums the over whelming feeling of being back will never be forgotten.
This year Qdos have forgone a “traditional” plot driven fairy tale, time was short, and it was important to celebrate the return of live theatre. Director and Producer Michael Harrison has struck gold with this celebration of the last 5 years of creating panto at the palladium as well as celebrating the masters of the genre that built the palladium panto to where it is now.
The big differences first, this is presented on one set, Ian Westbrooks gorgeous palladium Cinderella set is back accompanied by a brand-new front portal that is bedecked in posters from the history of palladium pantos, there is no ensemble cast or babes and the stars of the show clearly follow social distancing to the letter.
This production is nothing short of a Masterclass of pantomime, this panto reprises moments from Cinderella, Dick Whittington, Snow White and Goldilocks and three bears and adds some new material in a glorious display of pantos past, present and future.
Palladiums regular Team Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Gary Wilmott and Nigel Havers all return and are joined by Dick Whittington’s Elaine Page, Charlie Stemp , Ashley Banjo and Diversity, and making their Palladium Pantomime Debuts are Beverly Night and star of Joseph Jac Yarrow.
This really is a show about paying tribute to the venue, the overture by the Orchestra is the Classic Sunday Night at the London Palladium and sets the bar high, that is matched by the incredible talent of Beverly Night playing a fairy type role as she belts out “Finding Pantoland” (lyrics rewritten to the tune of Finding Neverland) its obvious the cast much like the audience are glad to be in a theatre. Gary Wilmot is next up in his Dames Frock he delivers several wonderful moments the best of which is his tribute to the London Underground that names every single station on the network that was updated to include new stations opened since Dick Whittington Closed!.
Julian Clary is in the form of his life; the innuendo laden comedy has laughter ringing around the building he also gets to parade some of the best of Hugh Durrant eye popping costumes from the last 4 productions. Clary is master of his craft his ability to work the audience whilst knowing how far to push the outrageousness is epic.
There may be no ensemble, but dance is well catered for with Ashley Banjo and Diversity who have formed a work “bubble” that allows them to work at close quarters to pull of those breath-taking routines.
Nigel Havers does exactly what he does best, perform out of his skin in ever more outrageous costumes whilst continuing the schtick of the previous years of simply wanting a role to play and watching him work with Julian it clear there is genuine affection between them.
Paul Zerdin and Little Sam deliver something for everyone, Zerdin must be the great Ventriloquist act in the world. Its a childlike charm that also captures the adults when needed is the very epitome of Pantomime.
Cheeky chappie Charlie Stemp a veteran of two palladium pantomimes shows his west end leading man smile as well as performance skill and he is an absolute delight when he reprises “Dick”. Jac Yarrow is utterly charming and gorgeous and matches Stemp every step of the way. There is also a wonderful moment in the “12 days of Christmas” when Nigel Havers rips down a back cloth to reveal the cast in an off moment, it appears Mr Yarrow likes to parade around in his dreamcoat!
The last star to enter the show is the Queen of the West End Elaine Paige, she does not appear until halfway into act 2 but its worth the wait, reprising her Queen Rat role we are treated to a rewritten “New Ways to Dream” from Webbers Sunset Boulevard, the moment she sings, “we’ve come home at last” is one that has never rang so true. Paige is joined again by Clary for a rousing rendition of “I know Dick so well” it’s as funny now as it was in 2017.
The most touching moment in the entire show comes with Beverley Knight performing the sketch “The Great Clowns of Pantomime” which sees the posters on the proscenium arch lit up in a fitting tribute to the many stars who are no longer with us, the sense of loss is deepened this year as we have seen Bobby Ball, Des O’Connor and Dame Barbara Windsor to name but a few to leave us.
Pantoland at the Palladium brings Tears and Laughter in equal measure not just for the cast but also the backstage and production team. This show has the absolute best including outstanding musical arrangements by Gary Hind, faultless lighting by Ben Cracknell and on point sound design by Gareth Owen.
At the Curtain call the vastly reduced audience gave the longest and loudest standing ovation ever seen in the Palladium, even in the middle of a Pandemic live theatre can happen and happen safely people do want to be entertained. Despite the shocking lack of communication and treatment from the Government it was moment that will always be remembered as Julian Clary and his fellow cast stood on stage drinking in the ovation and humbly said thank you and made us one promise, they will be back next year same time same place! Just one question remains just what Fairy tale adventure awaits us in Pantoland at the Palladium next.
QDOS Productions Present Pantoland at the Palladium, Due to London entering Tier 3 restrictions all Theatres must close forcing the closure of Pantoland at the Palladium. Please note the reviewer followed social distancing and working guidelines from both the UK and Scottish Governments in the creation of this review.
Edinburgh based Bare Productions were scheduled to perform “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” at this years Edinburgh Fringe but this has been put back to Fringe 2021, meantime the cast have gathered for a virtual festive offering.
Hosted by “Jovid” Jo and David are bringing us some camp festive nonsense with sketches, interactive challenges interspersed between cast members singing festive tunes drawn from the world of Musicals, Film, and Pop.
After the introductions and a charming performance of “Let It Snow” by Rebecca Drever, the first challenge is watching our hosts devour an entire chocolate advent calendar, watching someone shovel chocolate into themselves is not the most thrilling thing to watch and the build up to revealing who won said challenge takes a tad too long.
An Interactive dance challenge is next up, which will allow audiences to vote for the best “Priscilla Inspired” dance routine. This challenge is cascaded across the entire broadcast which does add a nice sense of freshness that outstrips many other online offerings.
The company’s youngest member Luke Murray is next up with sweet performance of “Last Christmas” Luke has a strong voice for his years and great presence on screen which hopefully bolds well for his stage performances. “Jovid” are they tasked with recreating a scene from “Love Actually” which does deliver some funny lines in amongst the pathos.
The Sketch from the three actors playing Tick, Adam and Bernadette in Priscilla is shrewdly judged with laughs aplenty and is seriously very adult and all the better for it! Just watch those Aussie Accents!
Closing out the first act of the virtual offering is Charlotte Jones with a full throttle and big voiced “ All I Want for Christmas is you.” It is a powerhouse performance that really Hits those big notes and brings the curtain down on Act 1 in style.
Following a 10-minute interval that features adverts from businesses that’s support Bare Productions is into Act 2 and Performance of “Driving Home for Christmas” by Darren Johnson a naturally gifted vocalist who brings the right sense of festive charm to the number.
What follows is more anarchic sketches from “Jovid” accompanied by further updates from the “Dance Challenge”. A second challenge is opened for a Ru Paul inspired Lip Sync battle, set to East 17’s festive favourite “Stay” its gonna be a close run challenge to get a winner.
After more challenges, we get the final performances in the dance challenges after which its time to vote with the results announced via social media. Closing out the virtual festive romp is Zoe Brookes who gives a beautiful rendition of Have Yourself a “Merry Little Christmas”. With a voice that touched by warmth and honey its an emotional performance with just the right mix of runs and riffs. A truly lovely end to virtual performance.
Over all its pure Frothy Festive Fun with a warm heart at its centre, however the links could be tightened up to shorten the overall length and technically if all the contributors had filmed in “Landscape” it would have given the overall product a smoother finished. That said you cant help but be charmed by this offering and its worth every penny of the five pounds! So why not pop online for a festive treat.
Theatrical Treats this Christmas are there if you can find them:
Normally by this point in the year we at Scotsgay arts would have published our festive preview of the best on offer from across Scotland and the UK this festive season. We would also be gearing up for ever growing Panto tour of the country trying to cover the moments that sparkle on our stages.
However, 2020 has been no normal year, with our theatres in Scotland remaining shuttered and the ghost lights continuing to burn bright. There has been a plethora of digital offerings from all of Scotland’s biggest producing houses combined with community engagements from venues the length and breath of the country.
Those digital offerings will continue over Christmas and we have a few of the best in this preview. Wales and Northern Ireland are facing the same issues and problems and as yet there is no theatrical offerings, although Wales is at the point test projects.
England have been more successful with socially distant performances taking place in venues across England and with the Partnership between the National Lottery and QDOS, ten venues will receive pantomimes this festive season. It’s important to note 9 out of these 10 will be hybrids, one act 75-minute affairs all staged socially distant.
So, lets go round up those and all the latest show news for the upcoming festive season.
Halo Arts are an innovative arts and events production company with a remit of delivering a range of high quality and inclusive projects with young people aged 6-18 and those with additional needs across Glasgow. Halo Arts have a commitment to working with young people, the disadvantaged and those with additional needs. The company will produce, A Lad in Govan- Glasgow’s first ever digitally streamed community panto running from 17th to the 27th December.
Join Aladdin, Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee in their home town of Govan where they are soon to swap the streets of South Glasgow for the Pyramids of Egypt on an unexpected and exciting adventure… Widow Twankey’s launderette isn’t doing too well, Wishee Washee is up to mischief and to top it all off Aladdin has gone and fallen in love with a Princess! Will he be able to make his wishes come true and defeat the wicked Abanazar?
The show will be performed live and streamed from the Pearce Institute in Glasgow and will star Cameron Fulton of BBC River City and is sure to be a festive treat for all the family.
Oh Yes We Are! A Quest for Long Lost Light and Laughter: Perth,
Written and directed by Barrie Hunter Design by Becky Minto
Experience the joy of panto with Perth Theatre’s unique LIVE interactive online broadcast via video platform Zoom. You can still be a part of the action, you can boo the baddie, cheer the hero, banter with the dame and have the same singalong, laugh along panto fun you love with your families, but from the comfort of your sofa! Why not get a group together in your different households or with family across the world and all attend at the same time?
This digital extravaganza will run from December 11th through December 24th and will feature Christina Gordon, Ava Hickey, Barrie Hunter, Helen Logan and Ewan Somers.
Rapunzel The Pantomime: The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
A family film screened at The Brunton
The Brunton panto regulars are getting in the mood for Christmas and The theatre elves are planning some festive treats for everyone. Join us in our sparkling Christmas grotto (otherwise known as Venue 1), for a big screen family film – Rapunzel The Pantomime. Why not dress up as your favourite pantomime or Christmas character? Or wear a Santa hat and sparkles.
The story of Rapunzel who was locked in a tower before being rescued by her pal Jammy, is told in fun panto style. Full of songs and slapstick, local references and colourful characters – a unique family pantomime film for all ages.
Rapunzel The Pantomime – a film for all the family is produced by The Brunton, written and directed by John Binnie, designed by Robin Mitchell with Musical Direction by Tommy Travers and filmed by D Fie Foe. The cast includes many of the Brunton Panto regulars.
The film will run from the 19th to the 30th December, for more information and tickets go to:
Join Dick Whittington and friends on an adventure to save the true spirit of London as pantomime comes to the National Theatre for one year only. In a newly transformed Olivier theatre, Ned Bennett directs this wild new version of the classic tale which has been freshly updated for 2020 by Jude Christian and Cariad Lloyd.
This hilarious and heartfelt panto is packed with the cheekiest of jokes, the chattiest of animals, the awesomest of songs and the messiest of silliness. Initial casting includes Dickie Beau,Amy Booth-Steel, Lawrence Hodgson-Mullings, Georgina Onuorah, and Cleve September.
In a season when many UK theatres have been forced to postpone their pantomimes, help us to celebrate its place at the heart of British theatre.
As covered in articles elsewhere on Scotsgay arts The London Palladium, the home of pantomime, will welcome back panto favourites Elaine Paige, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers and Gary Wilmot, as well as past stars Ashley Banjo & Diversity and Charlie Stemp. Making their debut will be West End sensations Beverley Knight and Jac Yarrow.
Returning for a fifth consecutive year, The London Palladium pantomime has become an essential part of Christmas in the West End, with record-breaking box office success year-after-year. Pantoland at The Palladium, devised by Michael Harrison, will be a treasure-trove of The London Palladium panto past and exciting new surprises written especially for the show, guaranteeing an unmissable treat for panto and musical theatre fans alike.
Celebrating the very best of pantomime, with comedy in abundance, this star-filled extravaganza will play to a socially-distanced audience. The show will feature the work of Olivier Award-Winning Team director Michael Harrison, choreographer Karen Bruce, set designer Ian Westbrook, costume designer Hugh Durrant, lighting designer Ben Cracknell, sound designer Gareth Owen and composer and orchestrator Gary Hind.
This will be the only full scale two act pantomime from QDOS this year so will indeed be the jewel in the crown. For more information and to book go to:
Robin Hood and His Merry Men:
The Bristol Hippodrome then Transferring to The Birmingham Alexandra Theatre.
Starring the Strictly judge the nation loves to hate, the fab-u-lous Craig Revel Horwood as The Sheriff of Nottingham, alongside the Hippodrome’s pantomime superstar Matt Slack, the legendary pairing of Richard Cadell & Sooty and the Black Country’s funniest matriarch Doreen Tipton. The socially distanced, one-act production will begin its run at the Historic Bristol Hippodrome in December before moving to Birmingham and then temporarily change venues due to Birmingham Hippodrome’s hosting of the critically acclaimed Van Gogh Alive experience.
Doreen Tipton will only appear in the Birmingham dates.
Starring Salford-born funny man Jason Manford as Muddles, with comic legend Billy Pearce as King Billy, musical theatre leading lady Jodie Prenger as The Enchantress and Eric Potts as The Queen, Sleeping Beauty will play from Saturday 12 December for a strictly limited 3 week run. This new production will be packed full of comedy routines, audience-safe participation and all the unmissable magic that Manchester Opera House audiences have come to expect from their annual festive pantomime. The previously advertised production of Aladdin will be staged in 2021 and existing bookers have already been contacted with details of their new tickets.
Best-known for winning the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do, Lee Mead won the title role in the West End revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to rave reviews. Since then Lee has had lead roles in Wicked and Legally Blonde in the West End, releasedseveral solo albums and toured extensively. No stranger to pantomime, Lee has starred in seven Qdos Entertainment pantomimes, including his star turn as Prince Charming in their critically acclaimed production of Cinderella at the London Palladium and last year’s Milton Keynes Theatre pantomime, Starring alongside Lee as the evil Carabosse will be star of screen and stage, Claire Sweeney. In the role of The Enchantress will be pop and television star Suzanne Shaw, who rose to fame via the popular ITV talent search Popstars and the music group Hearsay.
Starring as Princess Beauty’s hilarious best friend Muddles is comedian and magician Pete Firman. Widely recognised having starred in BBC1’s prime-time Saturday night programme The Magicians, he has made special guest appearances on ITV1’s The Next Great Magician and Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief.
This year’s cast will also feature two legends of comedy, Allan Stewart and Andy Gray, who will be swapping their usual pantomime home at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh, where they have delighted almost two million festive theatregoers for the last twenty years, for Milton Keynes Theatre. The much-loved pairing of Scottish comedy royalty will provide all the laughter and quick wit the duo are best-known and loved for in their native home, with Allan playing The Queen and Andy as The King.
Starring masters of mayhem Danny Adams and Clive Webb, alongside the Grande Dame of Grey Street Chris Hayward, they will be joined by X Factor and local lad Joe McElderry, illusionist Phil Hitchcock, hilarious gymnasts The Acromaniacs, Pop Idol star Zoe Birkett and Mick Potts. Robin Hood will play from Saturday 19 December, 2020 for a strictly limited 3 week run.
They headliners will be joined by renowned illusionist Phil Hitchcock, who starred in last year’s London Palladium pantomime, Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Completing the line-up will be comedy gymnast troupe The Acromaniacs, musical theatre leading lady and Pop Idol star Zoe Birkett, who is renowned for her incredible vocal talent and leading roles in The Bodyguard and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, with Danny & Mick star, the side-splittingly silent funny man, Mick Potts. Robin Hood will also feature Theatre Royal panto regulars Steve Arnott, Wayne Smith and Laura Evans making up an on stage company of 18 performers and musicians
This year’s production, created especially for Newcastle Theatre Royal in this unprecedented year, will be a riotously funny, one-act celebration of pantomime, packed full of comedy and laughter and allow audience members the opportunity to come safely together and enjoy the magic of the much-loved and unique art form this festive season.
An all-new production of Sleeping Beauty comes to Nottingham, thanks to support from The National Lottery. Starring legendary funny-men Paul Chuckle and Ben Nickless, with street dance stars Flawless, the show will play from Saturday 12 December for a strictly limited 3 week run.
The top of the bills will be joined by hilarious pantomime dame David Robbins as The Queen, back again after starring as Ugly Sister in Cinderella in 2012 and west end musical stars Kimberly Blake, fresh from her west end role in Pretty Woman as The Enchantress, and Hannah Grace Lawson as Princess Beauty. Completing the line-up is Jack McNeill as the Prince, marking his third consecutive Theatre Royal pantomime having starred in the title role of Peter Pan, and Dandini in last year’s production of Cinderella. This year’s pantomime will be directed by Guy Unsworth, who also directed last year.
For full details and tickets go to:
Robinson Crusoe, The Theatre Royal Plymouth
An all-star cast including pantomime legends Les Dennis and Andy Ford are headed for Plymouth for a swashbuckling adventure. This Socially distant one act spectacular looks set to a magical affair.
So there we have it, its literally the smallest offering of Christmas shows in living memory but the magic is alive and lets hope a full season returns for Christmas 2021. For now however enjoy the offerings its vital these socially distant productions are supported as for all those involved there a life line. The fact does remain that for the fast majority of the arts industry tough times will continue into 2021.
We hope to bring at least a couple of reviews over the festive period! until then enjoy some fabulous festive treats.
Edinburgh based BBD productions launched themselves at the Edinburgh Fringe 2019 to critical acclaim infusing some of the biggest songs from Broadway and the west end with the incredible sound of a live jazz big band. Think Glenn Miller meets Lloyd Webber and Sondheim, and you get the flavour.
The company were slated to return for the 2020 fringe season but Covid took its grip, but the performers have decided to bring some Halloween cheer with there own virtual offering and what a charming fun affair it all is.
Macauley Burns opens the show with a powerful and committed performance of ‘Bat Out of Hell’ from the same titled musical which wowed audiences in the Coliseum in London’s west end and is scheduled for a UK tour in 2021. . Rachel White then gives her take on ‘Dead Mom’ from the Broadway hit musical adaption of the Tim Burton film, ‘Beetlejuice’. Rachel’s performs with conviction and commitment which suits the piece.
Rachel Stanley steps into the Iconic Bette Midler’s shoes for a rendition of ‘I Put a Spell on You’ from Hocus Pocus. Rachel brings the right sense of fun to the song and is ably assisted on backing vocals by Sarah Docwra and Rachel Flynn.
Its then time for a spot of Sondheim as Chris McLeish performs ‘Not While I’m Around’ from Sweeney Todd his is a sophisticated take on the song accompanied by solo piano while a million miles away from a big band sound it’s an endlessly watchable performance. Moving swiftly to ‘Pulled’ from ‘The Addams Family Musical’, performed by Jenny Kinnear. It was inevitable that song from “Addams” would pop up as the most Halloween of musicals. Kinnear delivers the goods with vocal precision.
Former Queen Jane Seymour from “Six” Caitlin Tipping performs ‘Monster’ from ‘Frozen the Musical’ which is slated to open at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane later in 2021. Tipping is flawless in her vocal power and control and is indeed a skill, hopefully future BBD productions will showcase the other side of her voice with a ballad. Speaking of ballads, ‘With You’ from ‘Ghost the Musical’ is next up performed by Dannielle Logan. This is a song which details the emotional tragedy of loss. Logan’s performance is uniquely beautiful, honest, and truthful take that touches the heart and soul in equal measure and is indeed the highlight of the virtual show.
Marc MacKinnon changes the mood to late night new York supper club with a touch of jazz with a performance of ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ from ‘Pal Joey’, Mackinnon knows his skills well and is an engaging performance to watch through the lens of the camera. Attention turn to comedy and finally turned in performance of ‘Together Again’ from ‘Young Frankenstein’ performed by Scott Coltman. His vocals are matched by his comic timing and characterisation as he duets with himself. Closing the broadcast is Claire Moore performing ‘Last Midnight’ from ‘Into the Woods’. Claire throws herself into the role and indeed into the woods with a atmospheric and chilling Spooktacular conclusion to the show.
Overall, this is 30 minutes of fast musical fun, even if the songs are only connected to Halloween by a mere word, and the overall show would have benefited from a group number to bring the strings together at the end. For that being said BBD have shown what a gifted roster of talent are at there fingertips.
The broadcast is available to stream until 5th November and is well worth checking out.
Edinburgh based Big Bad Does Productions which had planned to return in the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe Festival but like the entire arts industry those plans are shelved. Now however they are back with a Spooktacular online Halloween special.
The company co-produced by Scott Coltman and Jonnie Grant made a four-Star debut In the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, transforming the biggest number from New York’s Great white way into big band infused sparklers.
Now the company returns and Coltman says “BBD Productions is proud to present ‘Big Band Does… Halloween‘ – a wide mix of songs from movies, musicals and more performed by a spook-tacular cast of performers from across the industry. We hope you will join us in celebrating all things Halloween in this musical extravaganza.”
The production will star Claire Moore (Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon, Mary Poppins), Rachel Stanley (42nd Street, Chicago, Legally Blonde), Caitlin Tipping (Six, Last Five Years, Musical Starnights) and many more from across the west end and UK.
This Production is in aid of Acting for Others and all proceeeds will be split between Acting for Others and all the creatives involved in the production. Coltman goes on to say “We hope you can support us to show that #WeAreViable and together we can #SaveTheArts”
The performance will begin streaming from 19:30 on Halloween evening and be available for the following 5 days and is unique chance to be entertained by the best up and coming performers from across the musical theatre industry so buy those tickets now!