Review by: Paul Towers, 11 January 2018
Dick Whittington by Alan McHugh with additional material by Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin and David McGillivray with original songs by Gary Hind
A Qdos Entertainment production
London Palladium – Sat 9th December 2017 – Sunday 14th January 2018
“an amazing stellar cast”
Finally, a Really Useful Group theatre that feels as though its refurb has actually been completed. This, the jewel in not only RUG’s crown but that of all of London’s theatreland, is lavishly decorated in the Matcham style as it was he that remodelled it in the early 1900’s. The reception areas are a luxurious welcome into the home of London variety throughout the years. As the building was originally built to house a circus the public areas do come across as a bit of a maze with some very odd features round sundry corners. However, every wall is covered with posters and playbills from the past illustrating the wide range of shows and acts that have appeared over the years.
I arrived about 30 minutes early to collect my ticket and was ushered through security and the ticket desk without pause.
The auditorium of The Palladium, familiar to so many of us from numerous TV appearances, is vast. 2,286 seats are spread over 3 levels and virtually every seat has an unimpeded view of the stage.
Dick Whittington is the second year pantomime has been back at the Palladium after a gap of 30 years.
To say that money has been spent on this production is like saying that Greenland is a little cool.
To start off there is an amazing stellar cast including Julian Clary, Elaine Paige, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers, Gary Wilmot, Charlie Stemp and Diversity. As if that is not enough the set is mind bogglingly extravagant with huge set pieces, animatronic rats, pyrotechnics galore, a send up of Titatnic and even a flying London bus for no other reason than they can! On top of this there are the costumes, acres of sequins, silver lame and feathers. And that’s only for one scene. Outdoing every outfit on the stage is the awesome Julian Clary whose costumes as The Spirit of The Bells changed every time he made an entrance and got more and more over the top on each change until he was almost filling the stage on his own. Not to be outdone, his co-star Elaine Paige as Queen Rat flashed a shapely leg in a glittering black ensemble as she swished around the stage in high dudgeon giving all and sundry evils and threatening to take over London. Charlie Stemp, fresh from his career making stint in Half A Sixpence, made a very likeable Dick. The main cast was bulked out with Dame Gary Wilmot as Sarah Fitzwarren, Paul Zerdin (and Sam) as Idle Jack and Nigel Havers as Captain Nigel, surplus to requirements most of the time but the butt of endless jokes.
Ashley Banjo’s Diversity provided most of the dancing required and a large ensemble filled the rest of the stage.
A friend of mine had been to see the show twice so we compared notes of the various bits of ‘business’ we had noticed and every single fluffed line, every missed cue, every dropped prop and every ad lib was very carefully and precisely scripted so as to wring every single laugh out of an outrageous script. Julian Clary had been given free reign to write his own lines and his brand of entendre (rarely doubled) was visible at every turn.
When it came to songs Elaine Paige was well served with a whole slew of parodied Andrew Lloyd Webber classics from her back catalogue, even if Clary cut her off sharply after just one line sometimes. Charlie Stemp was also honoured with a mash up of his signature song, Flash Bang Wallop from Half A Sixpence.
So, was this traditional pantomime for the kiddies? Not really although I am sure most of the smut would go over the heads of the average under 12’s In truth this is more a show for the grown-ups. On the matinee I visited the largely OAP members laughed their heads of before climbing back on their coaches to the provinces, Tena Lady’s a timely precaution.