Review - Dick Whittington starring Elaine Paige and Julian Clary at the London Palladium
Shows don't come more spectacular than Dick Whittington , a giant, glittery, gob-smacking Christmas bauble of a show, which features a succession of theatrical surprises and thrills that puts the wonder into wonderful.
The welcome return of pantomime to the London Palladium, which used to be an annual fixture here, began with last year's Cinderella, and it now continues triumphantly with Dick Whittington (according to the programme, another is also promised - but not yet named - for 2018).
Producer/director Michael Harrison's production pays tribute both to the variety house past of the London Palladium and panto's own important traditions with a show that delivers on every front.
First there are the eye-popping sets: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at this address may have had a fine four-fended friend of a car fly over the heads of the audience, but here its a full-scale Routemaster bus doing so, being driven by Charlie Stemp's dashing and dazzling Dick Whittington . There's also a massive animatronic rat that will give the imminent Broadway arrival of King Kong a run for its money, while a ship's deck sways on the rough seas above the stage.
Then there's the all-star line-up of names from the variety, comedy and West End leading players circuits. Diversity, the agile and exhilarating contemporary dance troupe who won Britain's Got Talent in 2009 and Paul Zerdin, the irrepressibly funny ventriloquist who won America's Got Talent in 2015, lead from the field of variety. Comedy, of course, is cheekily, even filthily, represented by Julian Clary, the master of deadpan delivery, who frequent;y jokes about Dick bringing the house down. (Last year he was in a double act with Paul O'Grady, who this year merely voices the animatronic rat at the start of the show)
From the West End, we have something for everyone. Elaine Paige, proving to be a very good sport as she vamps and camps it up (with re-set lyrics to some of the most famous songs she has sung in shows like Evita, Chess and Sunset Boulevard by Don Black) as Queen Rat, and at one point being offered the ultimate put-down by Clary: "We could have got Marti Webb!" Nigel Havers is on hand, again, as last year to send himself up, too, as an actor constantly hoping for his own part to be beefed up. There's also the aforementioned Charlie Stemp and lovely Emma Williams, reunited from the recent Half a Sixpence - but (spoiler alert!) this time he DOES get the girl!
But the scene-stealing turn, amongst such a gallery of richness, goes to panto veteran Gary Wilmot as the Dame, whose patter list song listing every tube station on the Underground gets the loudest roar of appreciation of the evening. He is a stage genius at the height of his powers.
This really is the finest Christmas treat in town.
Dick Whittington Tickets are available now.