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Friday, 1 July 2022

REVIEW: Beauty and the Beast at the London Palladium


The musical that started Disney’s screen to stage path, Beauty and the Beast returns to the West End after touring the UK in a new production at London’s famous Palladium. This 1991 animated classic is a staple for any Disney fan and is a perfect film for a stage adaptation, the West End hasn’t seen this show since 1999 so its return is very much welcome! 

In this new production, directed and choreographed by Matt West, the Disney magic fails to translate onto the stage. That classic spectacle we expect from a huge Disney production is still there but lacks drama and power, for example, the wolf chase scenes are done with projections and whilst the design and illusions are impressive they feel empty and too reliant on the projected images to do the work. The same goes for the big group numbers, whilst ‘Gaston’ was absolutely brilliant, the big show-stopper ‘Be Our Guest’ fails to really give us the punch we want. The cast works very hard but the overall design of this number doesn’t enter us into the world of Beauty and the Beast and the everyday objects who breathe life, instead we have people in top hats and tails in a tap number. 
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Tuesday, 4 January 2022

REVIEW: Pantoland at the London Palladium



The London Palladium has always been the West End home of variety and for a while as the posters on the proscenium arch remind us for a while was the leading venue for Panto too. This year they celebrate both British entertainment genres in a tailor-made show Pantoland at the Palladium. In recent years Michael Harrison has produced some spectacular pantomimes excelling in staging, special effects, costumes and choreography and versions of these productions now spend Christmas at the largest regional venues.

This show was designed as a one-off in 2020 but when it was cut short early by covid restrictions it became inevitable that it would return this year with some cast availability modifications. Indeed, those upgrade the show into a joyous uplifting celebration of the venue with Donny Osmond headlining and reminiscing about a royal variety show there some fifty years ago and the gorgeous high kicking Tiller Girls being reformed to grace the stage again. It is NOT a Pantomime but a celebration of some of the elements that are included in Pantomime and is billed as a “Feel-good spectacular”.
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Wednesday, 10 November 2021

It's Behind You! Pocket Size Theatres Pantomime Preview 2021


The Pantomime website ITSBEHINDYOU.COM - The Magic of Pantomime diary lists around 250 professional pantomimes around the country this year, after last year pandemic disrupted year which shut the few Pantomimes that actually opened soon in their runs, so there is certain to be a show near you. This family Christmas treat will hopefully bounce back bigger and better than ever (Oh Yes it will) and give the families a much-needed, feel-good uplift around Christmas. How do you choose which to go to? The obvious choice is the one nearest to your family but if you are willing to travel a little further there are many excellent shows that will make the journey worthwhile. 

Look for past winners of the Pantomime Awards or well-known stars who you or your children like or choose the larger venues where the on-stage budgets are bigger and the shows more spectacular. Many of the smaller venues still produce great shows on a fraction of those budgets. There are so many to pick from but here are some of my personal favourites from around the country.

In Scotland, the King's Theatre in Edinburgh has Sleeping Beauty with the irrepressible Allan Stewart as Auntie May and the King's Theatre in Glasgow has Cinderella with Elaine C Smith (past winner of Best Fairy 2018). Both venues are past winners of Best Pantomime in 2019. These two shows revolve entirely around these two Scottish pantomime superstars.
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Thursday, 27 May 2021

REVIEW: Here Come the Boys at the London Palladium



Here Come the Boys is one of the few West End shows that are reopening theatreland, with a two-week slot at the London Palladium to see the lights of the theatre on and to feel the buzz around the theatre once again it was exciting and very much needed. 

The show was meant to open in January at the Garrick Theatre before hitting the road but the pandemic has put a stop to that. Pushing their opening back to 2022, a window popped up at Londons most famous theatre and they’ve moved in to push through the opening of the West End. 

Starring Aljaž Škorjanec, Graziano di Prima, Karim Zeroual, Nadiya Bychkova, Pasha Kovavlev and Robin Windsor alongside dancers Ash-Leigh Hunter, Giada Lini, George Michaelides, Grace Cinque-White and Mick Scott, the show is directed and choreographed by Gareth Walker. 
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Sunday, 6 December 2020

The Past, Present & Future of Pantomime


Pantomime is often a child's first experience of live theatre and therefore it plays a critical role in establishing a young person’s love of live entertainment. It is also a unique shared experience as the whole family go together and the genre is built on audience interactions and traditional calls and shout outs. Sadly, this year there will not be the usual hundreds of venues staging a pantomime, and thousands of actors and technical staff will be unemployed. Only a few have survived the Pandemic and even then, in an abbreviated form, led by Qdos with Lottery funded shows in large venues to ensure they are Covid safe.

Qdos has established itself as the leading Pantomime production company usually has 35 productions each year including the two leading venues of the London Palladium and Birmingham Hippodrome but there are many other companies who usually produce multiple productions (UK productions, Imagine, PHA, Jordan and Evolution) and lots of “in house” productions. All of them are built on the same traditional elements that have made the genre so established over the last two hundred years.
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Wednesday, 12 December 2018

REVIEW: Snow White at the London Palladium


The London Palladium for the third year running stages a spectacular Christmas variety show with the huge cast of performers linking their acts loosely with a pantomime story, Snow White, this year. It is an expensive ticket but a wonderful cast, elaborate and colourful costumes and the well lit front portal beautifully frames the production. It is a remarkable celebration of the venue and the performers who have trod the boards over the years. The show opens with a stage full of the twenty strong Ensemble singing "At the Palladium" to the tune of the Lambeth Walk with Danielle Hope as Snow White and Act 2 opens with "Here at the Palace" with dancers led by the amazing Charlie Stemp as Prince Harry. Gary Wilmot returns as the Dame, Mrs Nora Crumble and updates last year's "Tube show" into an extraordinary list of all the stars that have played the Palladium. 

As with Sunday Night at the London Palladium (1950's and 1960's) , Live from the Palladium (1980's ) and in the heyday of its pantomimes (1948 to 1987) the show bill is packed with big names who each get their chance to do their turn. Top of the Bill is Julian Clary as The Man in the Mirror with an astonishing ever more elaborate set of costumes that restrict his movement but as in previous years he delivers his unique brand of adult comedy. Opposite him this year is another star making her pantomime debut, Dawn French as Queen Dragonella who although she calls for boos is too well loved to be seen as evil, and so plays the part as herself having a laugh. 
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Monday, 8 October 2018

REVIEW: Camelot at the London Palladium


There is a touch of nostalgia about going to the London Palladium to see a classic Lerner and Loewe musical staged in concert format which sets the right tone for the evening before the band strikes up. It is a perfect setting and the large London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO) of 32 musicians brought out of the pit to fill the huge stage make this a glorious celebration of the 100th anniversary of lyricist Alan Jay Lerner's birth and of the wonderful score of Frederick Loewe. It is quite a celebration as the sound is rich and beautiful to listen to and we hear every word of the romantic and chivalrous songs.

Of course the sixties musical based on a book about the Arthurian legend called "The once and future king" can be accused of its dated misogynistic attitude to women in a male dominated society where the women are beautiful temptresses distracting the men from their noble aim. But equally it presents an inspirational view of living your life to fulfil noble goals and working together to create a safer society where "might is used for right". It's final scenes when King Arthur knights a young Tom and orders him to keep the dream alive and hand down the inspiring story to future generations remains emotional and uplifting. 
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Wednesday, 4 July 2018

REVIEW: The King and I at the London Palladium


Opening in 2015, this revival of the Rogers and Hammerstein's 1951 musical was a hit on Broadway. It won four Tony Awards; including Best Revival of a Musical, Best Leading Actress, Best Featured Actress and Best Costume Design. This production comes over to London where is plays at the historic London Palladium. 


Personally I am not a huge fan of Rogers and Hammerstein's work, I find a lot of their work to be dated and not relevant. But this show proved me wrong, it was as relevant as ever with the references to building walls around the country and trying to westernise the culture. It actually was quite shocking to see how our modern political struggles are represented through this period piece written over 60 years ago. 

Through Bartlett Sher and Christopher Gattelli’s visions, this production of The King and I is a true thing of beauty. Its tight and fresh but still has that classical feel to it that we a crave when seeing a Rogers and Hammerstein piece. 

The sets by Michael Yeargan are actually quite simple, of course there is a lavishness to them but in the bases of the design its simplistic and not busy which is just perfect for this piece and it is framed wonderfully by Catherine Zuber’s stunning costume design.
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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

PANTOMIME REVIEW: Dick Whittington at the London Palladium


Last year Cinderella at the London Palladium raised the bar on the scale and production values invested in Christmas Pantomime in a way that few venues could compete with and set the challenge for Michael Harrison in directing this year production of Dick Whittington. 

  
You can literally see the time and effort invested in this year's show to make it feel bigger and better than last year with nine principles in the cast, twelve in the band and an ensemble of twenty two, all dressed in sumptuous costumes throughout by Ron Briggs with spectacular effects.

The Twins FX team create the huge special effects that are a signature of Qdos pantomimes and this show opens with a ridiculous over the top string of London buses carrying the shows title and then sets the tale in context with a giant rat voiced by last year's star Paul O'Grady. You can imagine someone challenging them to be bigger this year and suggesting flying a London double bus over the audience which they duly oblige at the end of act 1.
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Monday, 13 November 2017

Further casting announced for Dick Whittington at the London Palladium this Christmas



Dick Whittington is produced by Nick Thomas and Michael Harrison for Qdos Entertainment, the team behind last year’s twice Olivier-nominated London Palladium production of Cinderella, which broke box office records for the highest grossing week in West End theatre history. Dick Whittington is written by Alan McHugh, directed by Michael Harrison, choreographed by Karen Bruce with musical supervision and orchestrations by Gary Hind, lighting by Ben Cracknell, set designs by Ian Westbrook, 3D Creations, costumes by Hugh Durrant, visual special effects by The Twins FX, projection design by Duncan McLean and sound design by Gareth Owen. 

Emma Williams and Lukus Alexander complete the principle casting for the London Palladium Pantomime this Christmas playing the role of Alice Fitzwarren and Eileen the Cat respectively. They will join the previously announced Julian Clary (Spirit of the Bells),Elaine Paige (Queen Rat), Ashley Banjo (The Sultan) and Diversity (The Sultan’s Special Advisors), Paul Zerdin (Idle Jack), Nigel Havers (Captain Nigel), Gary Wilmot (Sarah the Cook) and Charlie Stemp (Dick Whittington).
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Friday, 1 September 2017

Final casting announced for DICK WHITTINGTON at the London Palladium


Emma Williams and Lukus Alexander complete the principle casting for the London Palladium Pantomime this Christmas playing the role of Alice Fitzwarren and Eileen the Cat respectively. They will join the previously announced Julian Clary (Spirit of the Bells),Elaine Paige (Queen Rat), Ashley Banjo (The Sultan) and Diversity (The Sultan’s Special Advisors), Paul Zerdin (Idle Jack), Nigel Havers (Captain Nigel), Gary Wilmot (Sarah the Cook) and Charlie Stemp (Dick Whittington). 

Dick Whittington will run at the London Palladium for five weeks only over the festive season from Saturday 9 December 2017 to Sunday 14 January 2018, with press night on Wednesday 13 December 2017 at 7pm.

Dick Whittington is produced by Nick Thomas and Michael Harrison for Qdos Entertainment, the team behind last year’s twice Olivier-nominated London Palladium production of Cinderella, which broke box office records for the highest grossing week in West End theatre history. Dick Whittington is written by Alan McHugh, directed by Michael Harrison, choreographed by Karen Bruce with musical supervision and orchestrations by Gary Hind, lighting by Ben Cracknell, set designs by Ian Westbrook, 3D Creations, costumes by Hugh Durrant, visual special effects by The Twins FX, projection design by Duncan McLean and sound design by Gareth Owen. 
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Friday, 24 October 2014

FIRST LOOK: Nicole Scherzinger leads the cast of CATS at the London Palladium


As previously announced, Nicole Scherzinger will make her West End stage debut as Grizabella inAndrew Lloyd Webber’s record-breaking musical Cats.  Returning to the West End for a strictly limited run at the London Palladium from 6 December 2014, press night is on 11 December at 7pm.  Based on T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,  the original creative team - Director Trevor Nunn, Associate Director and Choreographer Gillian Lynne, Designer John Napier and Composer Andrew Lloyd Webber - are reunited to bring Cats back to the West End this Christmas.  

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