Here’s a relatively big take: the Palladium panto isn’t really a panto. At least, not in the usual, modern sense of a family-friendly, fun-filled fairytale. The show – the prize peach in pantomime production giant QDos’ portfolio, now in its third year, and again helmed by the company’s managing director Michael Harrison – is far more in thrall to the traditions of music hall and variety shows that the Palladium is famous for. Far more concerned with spectacle and a succession of silly acts than, y’know, plot and character and that.
So we get Dawn French as a dastardly supervillain. We get Charlie Stemp (off of ‘Half A Sixpence’) as a dashing prince. We get erstwhile ‘Strictly’ stalwarts Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace doing a couple of ballroom dances, a quartet of acrobats flipping all over the shop, and seven actual dwarves running around with pickaxes (which is fine, I think).
And as is now usual, we get Julian Clary spewing X-rated smut (‘D’you want some Terry’s Chocolate Orange?’ ‘I’d prefer Terry’s Chocolate Finger’ was a personal fave) in a series of increasingly outlandish costumes. Gary Wilmot is a fairly tame dame, Paul Zerdin does his ventriloquist bit, and Nigel Havers is just kind of… there. Oh, the story is ‘Snow White’ by the way, not that it really matters.
Sizeable star power then, but is it actually any good? Erm, it’s definitely spectacular – we’re talking several eye-poppingly glittery sets, a giant animatronic dragon, a flying Santa’s sleigh, liberal use of pyrotechnics, and a flying Nigel Havers. Christ knows how many millions were in QDos’ budget, but they’ve thrown at least half of it at Clary’s costumes – the giant shattered mirror, and the reindeer outfits are good, but the walking cottage garden is next-level.
Beyond that, though, it’s extremely hit and miss. Some of it is very funny indeed, but some of it definitely stinks of D-list celebrities phoning it in for a paycheck. It’s varied. But then this is panto as variety show, so it would be.