The star cast certainly earn their billing. Julian Clary, resplendent in all manner of bizarre and sparkling outfits makes a wonderful Dandini. His high camp opening spot with a guard of honour in pink bearskin hats, singing about the joys of Soho was a delight. Fun, witty and packed with innuendo (never a missed opportunity to slip one in), his performance is the epitome of pantomime.
Paul O’Grady is a sad loss to theatre. While he has dabbled in the past, and I regret that I never saw his Child Catcher or alter ego Lily Savage live, his turn as the Wicked Step Mother shows that he still has that connection to his cabaret roots and live performance is still very much in his blood. Arriving in style onto the Palladium stage and the numbers he does are packed full of fun and style, he delivers a master class in how to play to a crowd, especially in such a big house.
Other highlights include the endearing Nigel Havers, playing the Lord Chamberlain that is just an exaggerated version of himself. A hit with the audience, his attempts to be in every scene and the cast’s dislike of him add to his charm. Paul Zerdin makes a wonderful Buttons who, along with his sidekick Sam, provide most of the audience interaction. Lots of shouting out, a song sheet and audience members up on stage, Zerdin certainly earns his money, working hard on stage to bring comedy and joy to the performance.
The production is elaborate and glitzy. No corners have been cut and every opportunity has been taken to make the show as lavish as possible. In the true panto tradtion, it certainly is a spectacle that includes flying horses, a flying motorbike, a Rolls Royce, elaborate costumes and scenery and a magical transformation scene with a chorus of tap dancing pumpkins.
It is a triumphant return for pantomime to the London Palladium and Qdos have created a wonderful seasonal production. Tickets are sure to sell fast, so make sure you get yours as soon as possible and experience the best panto in the land this Christmas. You will not be disappointed.