Paul O'Grady and Julian Clary on the same stage? You might think if this happened it would create an explosion of camp so intense the tectonic plates would shift. Well now's your chance to find out, with the two performers appearing in the same production of pantomime classic Cinderella
at the London Palladium.
As it is, it doesn't create an earthquake - but it does ignite a riot of humour.
You'll be relieved to hear neither performer tones himself down for a family audience. While O'Grady revels in his wickedness as Cinderella's stepmother, Clary delivers his trademark double entendres thick and fast as Prince Charming's companion Dandini. Both of the stars appear in a succession of such increasingly over-the-top outfits that by the time they appear at the top of the staircase to take their curtain call they have to be helped down by dancers.
Other than its unusually risqué - and unusually gay - humour, this Cinderella
is very much a traditional pantomime. There's lots of thigh-slapping, cheesy choreography and endearingly amateurish dancing, not to mention audience participation on lines like 'He's behind you' and 'Oh no he isn't!'
But what makes this production transcend the limitations of the genre is the quality of the talent involved - and it really is exceptional.
O'Grady and Clary steal the show but not far behind them is America's Got Talent
winner Paul Zerdin as Buttons. He's funny and charming and more than holds his own against the much more experienced turns. His interaction with the children he picks out of the audience is a joy to witness, as is the scene in which he operates ventriloquist dummies worn by an adult couple he drags onto the stage.
In fact, there's so much talent in this production that some of the stars, such as Count Arthur Strong as Baron Hardup, Amanda Holden as the Fairy Godmother, and Natasha Barnes and Lee Mead as Cinderella and her Prince, don't really get the chance to shine. Although Nigel Havers turns this to his advantage by creating comedy out of the very fact of being outshone. And all of the cast unite on stage towards the end of the second act to showcase their talents in a tightly choreographed song and dance number called If I Weren't In Panto
, which may be the best pantomime routine you'll ever see.
If there's one problem with this show it's that it's too
good. There are too many great acts in the cast and there are almost too many great numbers. By the time Paul O'Grady emerges in a Salvation Army uniform and launches into a rousing gospel anthem you've almost passed the point of being blown away. And at nearly three hours in length, you could argue that this Cinderella
offers too much of a good thing.
But strap yourself in for the ride and treat yourself to an absolute masterclass in pantomime. This is certainly the best panto I've ever seen and I'd be surprised if it could ever be bettered.
Cinderella is showing at the London Palladium until 15 January. To book click here. For more of the best deals on tickets and shows, visit tickets.attitude.co.uk.
Words: Matt Cain
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