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Jack and the Beanstalk at The London Palladium – review

The annual festive show is back and quite literally bigger than ever

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
The curtain call for the pantomime
© Paul Coltas

Pantomime is back with a vengeance, and it doesn't get much more lavish and joyful than this year's offering at the grandest variety theatre in the land. After a somewhat reduced effort last year, which was still fun but was necessarily smaller in scale thanks to Covid restrictions, this festive season sees the Palladium regular team of Julian Clary, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Nigel Havers returning with a show that feels bigger, bolder and altogether more fabulous than any of its predecessors.

The line-up is also probably the starriest on record. Bona fide national treasure Dawn French is also back, and on adorable form as Jack's Mother, while Alexandra Burke makes an astonishingly glamorous villainess. Rising West End stars Louis Gaunt and Natalie McQueen bring vigour, vitality and cracking good voices to the principal boy and girl roles, and Rob Madge as Pat The Cow (it's an old joke but it works) proves that the versatility and sheer lovability they displayed in their one person show My Son's A Queer… was no fluke.

The best seats are not cheap but you can see where every penny of your money has been spent….and it's not just on Julian Clary's wardrobe (although that is pretty astounding, as per usual). This is a real eye-popping spectacle from start to finish, and the reveal of the beanstalk at the end of the first half is the sort of thing theatregoers will be talking about for years to come. No spoilers, but the scale of the Palladium's beloved auditorium has seldom been so excitingly used.

If ultimately the story goes for very little, as tends to be the case with most of the Palladium pantos since they returned back in 2016, it is almost impossible not to get swept up in the tidal wave of opulence and good will that this glorious piece of festive fluff creates. It's gaudy, funny, and hugely enjoyable. Even if it feels a little formulaic, few will care, this is a genuine crowd pleaser. Michael Harrison's direction and Karen Bruce's choreography are effortlessly slick and Mark Walters's sets and Ben Cracknell's lighting are every bit as gorgeous as you'd expect at this address. Hugh Durrant is credited as the costume designer for Clary and Burke and his creations are suitably jaw-dropping.

All in all, this is a tremendous return to form: a massive star-studded spectacle that, just for a couple of hours, makes the world seem like a happier, more colourful place. Enthusiastically recommended.