Becky Wallis (@beckymusicals) discusses the recently accounted casting for Dick Whittington at the London Palladium
It might technically be summer (it’s a shame no one has told the weather) buts it’s never too early to start looking forward to Christmas. And when it comes to Christmas in the West End, there is one theatrical event not to be missed; a trip to a good old pantomime. Having been absent from theatreland for a 29 years, last year pantomime made a triumphant return to the West End in the home of variety, the London Palladium. The production of Cinderella was met with rave reviews, and it was very quickly announced that there would be another Palladium Panto this year, this time the equally popular Dick Whittington.
Now, if there is anything that big pantomimes are famous for (other than silly fun for the children and naughty jokes for the adults) it is celebrity casting. It appears to be a competition between pantomimes all over the country of who can get the biggest celebrity to perform in their show. Everyone wants to be able to put a big name on the posters. Last years pantomime production of Cinderella was as star studded as it could be, with celebrities including Paul O’Grady, Nigel Havers and Julian Clary taking to one of London’s most famous stages. It can not be argued that big names on the advertising pulls in the audience, people love to see a star on stage and celebrities in panto is becoming as much of a tradition as panto itself.
This years palladium panto production of Dick Whittington stays to this growing tradition of big names on stage for the must see Christmas event. Nigel Havers and Julian Clary (armed with his innuendo filled jokes I’m sure) return with comedian Paul Zerdin also coming back with his gang of funny puppet characters. The newly announced cast also includes Gary Wilmott (fresh from playing Badger in Wind in the willows in a limited summer palladium run) and much loved dance company Diversity led by Ashley Banjo. Also announced to join the cast this year is a member of musical theatre royalty, Elaine Paige as queen rat. This cast will please those who want to see big name television celebrities and those who wish to see some true musical theatre performers.
Yet both last year and now this year, the London Palladium panto casting has stayed true to the west end and cast a break out star of the year in the title role. Last year it was Natasha Barnes in the role of Cinderella. Barnes received rave reviews when she understudied the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and took to the role of Cinderella like a duck to water, achieving more positive reviews in this much loved role.
This year it will be one of the biggest breakout stars of the year who takes on the title role. Half a Sixpence’s Charlie Stemp fresh out of his critically acclaimed role of Arthur Kipps will play Dick Whittington and I for one can not wait to see him take on this new role. Stemp has received praise for his portrayal of the role made famous in the 60’s by Tommy Steele (who coincidentally played the role of Dick Whittington at the Palladium in 1969), receiving the What’s on Stage award for best actor in a musical and being Olivier nominated in the same category. I am sure that Stemp is going to shine in this role, with his cheeky chappie smile and seemingly endless energy.
I have my tickets booked to see the show near the end of its run and I am very excited to see it. I didn’t see the show last year and am interested to see this star studded cast in action.
What do you think of the cast of Dick Whittington ?? Will you be booking tickets??