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Five-star pantomimes – the best shows of 2017

Julian Clary in Dick Whittington at the Palladium. Photo: Paul Coultas
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Now that pantomime season is almost behind us (“Oh no it isn’t” etc), here’s The Stage’s list of pantomimes that scored the full five stars

1. Dick Whittington – London Palladium

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, camp delivery. Clary has all the best gags and his sparring with Elaine Paige’s eye-rolling Queen Rat is one of the highlights of a show that is packed with laughs.

Dick Whittington review at the London Palladium – ‘Julian Clary is pantomime gold’

2. Rapunzel – Theatre Royal Stratford East, London – five stars

Director Pooja Ghai evidently revels in testing the boundaries of pantomime as a medium. She is ably assisted by a versatile company that brings to life the vibrant array of colourful characters from Juliet Okotie’s outspoken Mrs Bear to Gary Wood’s fey, feathered Egor. The turbulent relationship between Joanne Sandi as Rapunzel and Julie Yammanee as Goldilocks provides the heart of this pantomime, while conflict is supplied by TRSE regular Michael Bertenshaw as the frankly terrifying Witch Maddy.

Rapunzel review at Theatre Royal Stratford East, London – ‘innovative and uplifting’

3. Peter Pan – Epstein Theatre

What’s really special is the addition of some tremendously skilled juvenile actors as John, Michael and the band of Lost Boys. Far from being mere bit players, these young performers show immense understanding of the stagecraft that this company nurtures beautifully.

Peter Pan review at Epstein Theatre, Liverpool – ‘wicked humour and enormous fun’

4. Jack and the Beanstalk – Salisbury Playhouse

Salisbury Playhouse has created a dream panto team in writer Andrew Pollard, director Ryan McBryde and Richard Ede as the dame for this year’s Jack and the Beanstalk. The trio worked on last year’s high-flying Aladdin, but Jack’s beanstalk has taken them to new heights – it’s staggeringly good on all levels.

Jack and the Beanstalk review at Salisbury Playhouse – ‘staggeringly good’

5. Aladdin – His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

Pyrotechnics, flying carpets, seamless choreography, genies, giant cobras and glittering costumes give this production an abundance of energy. Combined with comedy, capable storytelling and superb vocals this makes for a first-rate family show.

Aladdin review at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen – ‘full of warmth and wit’

6. Sleeping Beauty – Theatre Royal Norwich

Writer and Director, Richard Gauntlett has created a fresh and lively pantomime that feels firmly rooted in the best of British popular culture of the past 40 years. The casting of Derek Griffiths as the narrator/butler Chortwood is a stroke of genius. And while panto nods and winks at the adults in the audience, this show magically creates a world in which everyone can connect with their inner child.

Sleeping Beauty review at Theatre Royal, Norwich – ‘exceptional’

7. Aladdin – Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent

This Qdos production is the Regent’s best panto for years. It oozes quality. In his 12th year as a panto star in his hometown venue, Jonathan Wilkes doesn’t disappoint. Everything about this production is fresh and imaginative, not least the genuinely exciting 3D sequences.

Aladdin review at Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent – ‘a seasonal treat’

8. The Wizard of Oz – Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells

Scarlett Leigh Fawcett is a naturalistic, impassioned Dorothy with a fabulous singing voice. Jenny Wills looks and sounds totally convincing as the Wicked Witch of the West. Laurie Denman, a 2017 GSA graduate, is a delightfully earnest Scarecrow and Spencer Lee Osbourne is a nicely coy lion, gradually discovering his inner strength.

The Wizard of Oz review at Trinity Theatre, Tunbridge Wells – ‘immaculately performed’

9. Robin Hood – Loughborough Town Hall

Little Wolf Entertainment has been producing the Loughborough Town Hall pantomime for five years under the multi-talented Morgan Brind – writer, director and designer. This year’s production is its wittiest and most inventive show yet.

Robin Hood review at Loughborough Town Hall – ‘immaculate comic timing’

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