WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: London Palladium
WHEN: 10/12 (matinee), press night 13/12, runs to 14/1/18
‘I woke up this morning and there was eight inches outside my back door,’ reflects Julian Clary as Spirit Of The Bells in the Palladium’s annual pantomime extravaganza after an especially snowy morning.
- Read on for reasons including why this is the funniest pantomime you’re likely to see
Last year we said he was the best thing about Cinderella here and this year we can’t ever remember laughing so often, long and hard at the filthiest ad libs you’ll likely hear in a panto which we assume would pass over the unsuspecting heads of the many children at this matinee.
For this Dick Whittington is endowed impressively with more dick jokes we suspect than any other version you’re likely to come across.
We’re not usually fans of Elaine Paige but here as the evil Queen Rat she sends herself up mercilessly, at one point observing: ‘I’m hissed in the morning, hissed in the afternoon, I’m rat-arsed already.’
Her big hit is Don’t Cry For Me Argentina and is reimagined here as: ‘I’d Rather Be Up A Drainpipe’ while her duet I Know Him So Well becomes ‘We Know Dick So Well’ at Clary’s hand.
Visitors to last year’s show will be familiar with much of the schtick here including the ribbing of Nigel Havers. Gary Wilmot is especially good playing Whittington’s love’s mother and the young couple are musical theatre stars Charlie Stemp (Half A Sixpence, next gig Hello Dolly! on Broadway) and Emma Williams (recently Olivier Award-nominated for both Half A Sixpence (as was Stemp) and Mrs Henderson Presents.
We enjoyed ventriloquist Paul Zerdin much more this year than last and dance troupe Diversity make for a fun and energetic supporting cast.
It’s also visually impressive with Clary’s ever more outlandish outfits catching the eye and effects (including a flying bus, boat and giant rat) wowing. ‘You don’t get that in Hamilton’, Clary observes at one point.
We remember Cinderella taking a little stick from the critics last year for Clary’s humour and we love that at this matinee (where we were sat next to our mum) that, if anything, things have got a lot bluer. Even Wilmot was in on the act with a fun ditty about a one-night stand involving as many sweet names as you can conjure up (think Curly Wurly and Twix for example).
Once more it’s the five-star turn of Clary that’s the best reason to see this. He’s so funny that many of the cast were clearly laughing with him as some of the show’s filthiest lines left his lips.
Turning his attention on the audience’s attire, he notes: ‘You’re never too old to wear a hoodie.’ The 12 Days Of Christmas musical number when he mistakenly threw a prop into the audience, apparently hitting a child, had us roaring with laughter. His pretend loathing of children also especially funny (‘I don’t know why they let them in.’).
Stemp clearly couldn’t contain himself when Clary was telling Williams of his merits: ‘And he goes like a train you know.’ It’s the funniest panto you’re likely to see all year.