Were the critics satisfied with Dick Whittington?
The London Palladium's pantomime returns with Julian Clary as The Spirit of the Bells in Dick Whittington
Daisy Bowie-Sell, WhatsOnStage
"[Dick Whittington is] not quite as fun as last year's offering, and that likely has something to do with the fact that it is quite a strange panto - here sporting an even more threadbare plot than usual... Still, I can confirm that unless you're an absolute prude you will leave the show having guffawed your face off. Clary is the crowning queen of the show as he struts his caustically funny stuff in Hugh Durrant's increasingly outrageous costumes (at one point he comes on dressed as posh London department store Liberty)."
"It is a scream watching Elaine Paige sing adapted versions of all her classics - think "I Know Dick So Well" from Chess and "I'd Rather Be Up a Drainpipe" for "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" - I wonder how likely it is the kids, or non-musical theatre crowd, will get any of the references."
"There's clearly been no expense spared on production values and from a behemoth drooling rat at the beginning, to a flying bus, to a vast ship, there are lots of magical stage moments to marvel at."
Tom Wicker, Time Out
"Michael Harrison's production, with its candy-sweet set design and overblown, West End-lunging songs and set-pieces, is basically wired for star wattage."
"The show arrives at the Palladium on the heels of the 2017 Royal Variety Show and feels like a Christmas extension of that. So, we get bouncy ventriloquist Paul Zerdin returning from last year and slightly outstaying his welcome with some funny dummy jokes and some weary ones about men and women."
"As the Dame, seasoned pro Gary Wilmot could probably do this in his sleep, but he commits to it with a big smile, a ton of energy and a virtuosic performance of a ditty listing every London station at breakneck speed."
"Meanwhile, as Queen Rat, Elaine Paige gamely sends herself up, singing villainous versions of songs from the musicals that made her fame. There's a nicely meta edge to Paige doing a Norma Desmond, as well as to Nigel Havers hamming it up as a hammy actor chasing a bigger role. The show's secret weapon, though, is Julian Clary as Spirit of the Bells. His costume changes are eye-popping and his brand of knowing innuendo is sharper than the show around it."
Claire Allfree, The Telegraph
"[Dick Whittington] contains more dick jokes than you can shake a cat at, and Clary once again reigns utterly supreme with a parade of exquisitely outlandish outfits and extremely smutty gags. Quite what young children will make of all the references to Old Compton Street (and that's the least of it) is probably a matter for their parents to decide."
"Michael Harrison's high-gloss production steers that tricky highwire between tightly drilled wit and giddy, improvised chaos. The comic highlight is the customary anarchic rendition of "Twelve Days of Christmas", which at moments here somehow feels as though it's being performed entirely off the cuff."
"Much of the humour is also very knowing: Elaine Paige is the not very scary Queen Rat – but in truth her main purpose is to provide a foil for Clary to mercilessly mock her career. She, in turn, keeps lapsing into reworked versions of Andrew Lloyd Webber classics: "I Know Him So Well" from Chess; "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" from Evita, and so on."
Paul Vale, The Stage
"The star of this gig is Julian Clary. Playing the Spirit of The Bells, Clary is sheer pantomime gold, coasting through the plot with feigned indifference and his legendary, lethal and camp delivery. Clary has all the best gags and his sparring with Paige's eye-rolling Queen is one of the highlights of a show that is packed with laughs."
"One of the criticisms levelled at last year's spectacular was the distinct lack of diversity in the casting. This has been wisely addressed, notably with the inclusion of the street dance team Diversity, led by Ashley Banjo as the Sultan of Morocco, and Gary Wilmot as a supremely confident dame, Sarah The Cook. Wilmot holds his own against some pretty fierce comedy competition, but it's Banjo and his team, integrating their distinctive style of dance into the storyline, who get the loudest applause of the night."
"For his part, director Michael Harrison has created a genuine spectacular. There are echoes of the Follies not just in Gary Hind's playful score, which gives a nod to Sondheim, but also in Hugh Durrant and Ron Briggs' costumes and Ian Westbrook's candy-coloured set design."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
"Do they give knighthoods for services to family-friendly filth? Based on Julian Clary's performance in this second annual London Palladium panto, they surely should. He's a total joy."
"The director, Michael Harrison, does nothing by halves as he conjures up a show extravagant and outrageous enough to conquer this 2,000-seat venue. So within moments of the band striking up at rock-gig volume, we get a 10ft-high rat with the voice of Paul O'Grady and glowing eyes the size of basketballs looming over the audience."
"And if Elaine Paige lacks menace as his diva-sized emissary, Queen Rat, she makes up for it by so willingly sending up her image as a musical-theatre legend-cum-lush. She hits the notes, oh yes she does, but the words of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" and other pinnacles of her career have all been monkeyed with."
Dick Whittington runs at the London Palladium until 14 January.