When Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote South Pacific they probably never realised how one of the songs “There is nothing like a Dame!” would be appropriated by so many people for so many other purposes. The original tune was meant to be the lonely moanings of a North American Seebees set down on a remote Pacfic Island ready to try and stop the Japanese. Luck is with them as some dames turn up later but the song and its insistence “there is nothing like a Dame, nothing in the world, that is anything like a Dame” has lent itself to Panto in a way so perfect it makes you wonder if they did not write it with that in mind.
There truly is nothing like a Panto Dame. The most ludicrous and outlandish outfits are always reserved for the male character actor prepared to don them. With the makeup caked on with a trowel they saunter on to the stage with a presence that is rarely matched. The cast sometimes sings it, or the Dame herselves, usually with a few suggestive looks at the audience. One of the best renditions can be heard at the Panto Preston yearly production. Panto Preston Listings are available at the link should you wish to see them.
It’s an old tradition of the stage for men and women to swap roles. At one point there wasn’t any other choice but to have young boys playing the girls characters as women were banned from the stage!