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BWW Review: PANTOLAND AT THE PALLADIUM, London PalladiumThe London Palladium has a long history of iconic pantomime. Despite an almost 30 year hiatus, with panto only returning to the stage in 2016, it was devastating to think that the show wouldn't go ahead this year.

Opening the show is fairy godmother Beverley Knight with "Finding Pantoland", a lyrical twist on the final song from the musical Wonderland. Starting the evening with those vocals is a really great way to emotionally ruin an audience from the offset. Our host for the evening is Julian Clary whose cutting insults make him a figure to be feared- I would recommend not sitting in the front row!

Pantoland At The London Palladium doesn't follow any traditional pantomime script and this production is all the better for it. With such an all-star cast, the time is better spent allowing each act to showcase their talents rather than trying to shoehorn in a vague plot. Having seen Qdos productions up and down the country, I'm familiar with several of the tricks and gags used in this show. Rather than feeling like a rehash of old material, this is more of a greatest hits and the physical humour is timed perfectly.

A running joke from a previous year, poor Nigel Havers has been left without a part to play in the pantomime. He gamely appears ready for action in most scenes and is happy to be the butt of Clary's withering remarks. Paul Zerdin and his puppet Sam are very well received with their ventriloquist act and manage to safely carry out audience participation that I didn't think would have been possible. The show really has been organised with such care.

This production is jam-packed with talent. Ashley Banjo & Diversity bring the wow-factor with their seriously impressive dance routines. Gary Wilmot excels as the traditional pantomime dame and Charlie Stemp and Jac Yarrow make for a charming double act.

Not appearing until halfway through Act Two, Elaine Paige is well worth the wait and gives the musical theatre nerds everything they came for- and more. A panto-tastic twist on Sunset Boulevard's "As If We Never Said Goodbye" is surprisingly emotional and a delight to listen to.

As would be expected of the prestigious venue, the Palladium has also pulled out all of the stops with costume and set design. Nothing about this pantomime mishmash is anything less than a spectacle.

While I wouldn't normally comment on anything happening offstage, these aren't exactly normal times and it is worth noting the great lengths The London Palladium and its staff have gone to to make the venue feel Covid secure. Timed ticket entry, temperature checks and distanced seating were all in place alongside the audience wearing masks throughout. The empty seats have been paid for by The National Lottery to make it financially viable for some pantomimes to take place this year.

Finishing with the longest standing ovation I have ever witnessed in the theatre, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Pantoland at the Palladium have gone to incredible lengths to inject a little bit of magic into the end of this year.

Pantoland at the Palladium runs until 3 January.

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