Review – Dick Whittington, London Palladium

Thursday 21 December 2017

If we say Andrew can’t get enough Dick (he’s off for more Dick with The Krankies in Manchester this weekend) you get a measure of the entendre to expect in this year’s Palladium panto.

You’d expect Dick Whittington starring Julian Clary as The Spirit of the Bells to have more dick gags than you can shake an, obviously very large, stick at. What we didn’t expect were so many references to musical theatre; FolliesElaine Paige‘s radio show and her back catalogue of most famous show tunes, Half A Sixpence (Charlie Stemp and Emma Williams from that show play Dick and Alice Fitzwarren respectively), Hello Dolly! (Stemp is heading to Broadway shortly to appear in it) and even the mega-hyped Hamilton are all referencedYou may wonder exactly who the show is aimed at. Not kiddies at all, but musical people of a certain age. Not that we complain.

Michael Harrison’s production has pulled out the stops and not managed to put them back in again. Those prone to sleuthing might be able to find a smear of a plot hidden among the excesses, but you really shouldn’t trouble yourselves. We just sat back and roared with laughter and approval throughout. If you saw last year’s Cinderella this one has topped it. There’s so much glitter, pyrotechnics, special effects against a colour palette that takes garish as a starting point you might consider bringing aspirin and never getting on a double decker bus again. The bus? That would involve a spoiler alert.

Is it possible that Clary’s costumes and camp rudery is even more OTT and funnier than last year? Might Nigel Havers as himself – yet desperate for a bigger part – suffer even more humiliating indignities than last time? And could ventriloquist Paul Zerdin handle the poor suckers he gets up on stage any more hilariously? Doubtful, especially when one of the kids said he could see his lips move.

And with all this to contend with you might expect Gary Wilmot‘s Sarah the Cook (a proper dame at last. Hurrah!), to pale by comparison, yet he proves himself a seasoned pro, despite looking annoyingly ageless. He provides two splendid routines, the second one threatening to steal the whole evening.

Add to this a Queen Rat played by someone who used to look like Elaine Paige. Seeing her send herself up singing re-worked versions of her most famous show tunes is a delight. The appropriate punishment dished out for her evil-doings at the climax played very much to our musical theatre gallery.

No grumps this year? Yes. Why is there a no photography/filming/phones announcement? A woman in the front row continued to film even after getting admonishment from an usher. And we gained little satisfaction from Susan Boyle beaters, dance troupe Diversity, fannying around with their repetitive leaps and tumbles. We suppose they’re the Spesh Act, it’s just they’re not that spesh. More samey than diverse. Thankfully they are not on long enough to cause any lasting harm.

Even Brent, seeing his first real panto (for we do not count Peter Pan as a proper panto) seemed to be dazzled. Though we had to explain not all pantos are quite like this. The bar has been set very high for next year and probably all pantos to come.

Oh and that Hamilton reference comes in a deliciously dry put down from Mr Clary. Quite right too. It can’t possibly be as much fun as this.




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