Douglas Mayo reviews pantomime spectacular Dick Whittington at the London Palladium and is pleased to report he is a fan of Dick!
I was a little disappointed in last year’s Cinderella at the London Palladium, but I’m pleased to say that this year’s production of Dick Whittington is a big improvement, cutting it’s running time, tightening up it’s presentation and making the production significantly more family friendly.
There have been many productions of Dick Whittington presented at the London Palladium over the years featuring stars including Tommy Steele and Norman Wisdom amongst others. This time it is Charlie Stemp’s turn to present his Dick. Stemp’s star continues to rise on a spectacular trajectory. From critical acclaim in Half A Sixpence, Stemp will next be seen on Broadway in Hello Dolly!, but here his affable demeanour perfectly suits the title role and his ability to play the straight man opposite the likes of Julian Clary make his a Dick I’ll remember.
Speaking of Julian Clary, this one man tour deforce dominates this productions. Half the production budget alone must go towards the largese and spectacular costumes designed by Hugh Durrant that are paraded scene by scene throughout the evenings. Deadpan and delicious I’ve never seen a Dick Whittington where the spirit of the bells is the dominant character but Clary works magic and his interactions with his fellow cast had me doubled over with laughter.
Britain’s Queen of musical theatre Elaine Paige is the evil Queen Rat. It’s a performance that sees her take pot shots at her own career and she does it with aplomb. It’s great to see Elaine back on stage in such a large venue. She commands the stage and is a natural born evil villain.
The iconic and award-winning theatrical legend that is Nigel Havers returns to this years pantomime in a slightly larger part than last year. He even gets a few different costumes this year. Well done Nigel!
Gary Wilmott is a national treasure and I honestly feel that his Sarah Fitzwarren greatly underused his talent. That said his second act London tube system showstopper was a stupendous feat by anyone’s standard.
Paul Zerdin was terrific again this year as Idle Jack. His comfort with children is obvious and his bright demeanour keeps the show buzzing along.
Ashley Banjo and Diversity were great as the Sultan and advisors and Emma Williams was a delightful Alice Fitzwarren.
Gary Hind has written some great original songs for this production but someone needs to sit on the sound desk operator as the band drowns out any hope of hearing some of the lyrics. Ian Westbrook and 3D creations fill the enormous stage of the London Palladium with sets that make this a truly spectacular Palladium pantomime well worth the ticket prices.
Director Michael Harrison and Choreographer Karen Bruce are to be congratulated on a tight, entertaining evening that has me looking forward to next year’s endeavour.
Until 14 January 2018