The panto that isn’t a panto has now become a festive fixture at the Palladium, so when a half-price ticket became available in the Royal Circle, I thought I’d go to see what all the fuss was about.
Much has been said about the level of innuendo in what is supposed to be a family show (although few children were present at the 5pm show I attended). However, if you employ Julian Clary, still disgracefully hilarious at sixty, and call his character “The Ringmaster”, surely you know what to expect?
Julian’s jokes about rings, wood, balls, and so on hit home for adults and probably go straight over the heads of any little ones here; aside from his input Paul O’Grady returns as a “savage” baddie out to ruin dear old dame Gary Wilmot’s circus, and Nigel Havers is back in a bear costume for the inevitable digs about the state of his career.
This is a slick, sparkling and enjoyable variety show with the Palladium dressed in Christmas finery and coloured lights. Circus-themed music blares out to get us in the mood. There are special guests – a magician with doves, a quartet of daredevil motorcyclists in “The Globe of Speed”, a skating duo.
Matt Baker is a jovial Buttons type, showing of his gymnastic and acrobatic skills. Janine Duvitski is fun in a tiny bit as Mummy Bear, while Amy Thornton stepped up to play Baby Bear at the show I saw with a winning line in smiley tap dancing.
Goldilocks (Sophie Isaacs) herself is a minor part, and much more stage time is given to Wilmot’s glitzy dame – between him and Clary there are numerous musical interludes and costume changes of the brightly-coloured and ever more elaborate variety.
O’Grady’s Teutonic bad guy always teeters on the edge of Scouse, but he contributes his own song to the “circus of nightmares” and he has some queer banter with Clary of the kind that wouldn’t feel out of place in the 1950s Polari days of Julian and Sandy.
Add to this Paul Zerdin’s vent act – as Silly Billy and Sam he keeps the fun factor going, especially in the lengthy “plucking pheasant” interlude which is almost as old as variety itself.
Barely existing as a panto, with a whisper of plot so quiet you could breathe it in during the first five minutes, this show still manages to be longer than the Royal Variety Performance, and I found the first act too long even with Hot Stuff on the menu of songs.
If you want audience participation of the “oh no it isn’t” and singalong type, you may be disappointed. If you want an expensive variety show and like Clary’s form of mucky mischief, then roll up to the “greatest show in town”.
Photos by Paul Coltas and Qdos.
LouReviews purchased a discounted ticket via TodayTix for Goldilocks and the Three Bears.