Pantoland at the Palladium,
***** 5 Stars
“Tears, Laughter a Panto Masterclass“
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.