August is over! It’s almost time for the Halls to re-open - Croydon Blog 7 - August 2019

August has been another busy month in the world of Cinderella at Fairfield Halls, Croydon. Most people have been enjoying their summer holidays but not so for the team working on the show! The temperature has been rising in the design studios and workshops across the country.

Things are progressing well over at Fairfield Halls. Work is almost complete, and the seats are all fitted back in the Phoenix Concert Hall, where we will be performing. There are painters and decorators everywhere. The venue is well on track for its re-opening in just 2 weeks’ time!

The Halls are re-emerging from behind the hoardings! Source  https://twitter.com/ErmerlindaJ/status/1162748360631246849

The Halls are re-emerging from behind the hoardings! Source https://twitter.com/ErmerlindaJ/status/1162748360631246849

The first piece of panto related news to announce is that we welcome Nina Dunn on board as our Video Designer Nina is a really exciting appointment for us. Nina has worked on some amazing theatrical productions recently including 9 to 5 at the Savoy Theatre and the tour of In The Night Garden. This is the first panto that Nina has worked on and the first time that Imagine have included so much video content into one of their shows. The ideas being discussed are really exciting and we can’t wait to see the finished product. Nina is working very closely with the designer Mark Walters to ensure that the A/V content of the show has the right feel and style to the rest of the show. Having video content in the show has certainly got the creative juices flowing within the creative team.

L-R Nina Dunn (Video Designer), Laura Taylor (Imagine Theatre), Will Brenton (Script Writer) and Steve Boden (Imagine Theatre) met in London recently to talk through how the scripting will integrate with the set and all the other exciting things we have up our sleeves!

L-R Nina Dunn (Video Designer), Laura Taylor (Imagine Theatre), Will Brenton (Script Writer) and Steve Boden (Imagine Theatre) met in London recently to talk through how the scripting will integrate with the set and all the other exciting things we have up our sleeves!

The second big piece of news to share with you is that the script is well under way and our writer is confirmed. This is the last part of the project to fall into place.

We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Will Brenton on board as the writer of Cinderella. We’ve not said much yet about the technology integration within the show, but with his experience in theatre, arena shows, TV and panto script writing, Will became the obvious choice. Will has written many pantos for us and also directed and is currently working as a director on the TV show Emmerdale. We’re looking forward to receiving his first draft of this new version of the show.

The set build is well under way. The newly created Imagine Theatre Scenic Workshops, overseen by Dave Edmunds our Head of Operations, are working their magic to bring Mark Walter’s beautiful set designs to life. Imagine has always been able to build scenic elements - we’ve now just made the set up a little bigger. Things are progressing along well with the build, and we should have some photos to share with you soon but in the mean time there’s a sneak peak below. It’s possibly one of the most complex builds we’ve ever undertaken or worked on, whilst also being deceptively simple in its look. We can’t wait to share it with you!

A sneaky peak of some of the design currently being built, waiting to be painted and then used for… well we can’t tell you just yet! . We can’t tell you how beautiful the overall design is. It literally takes our breath away every single time we see it.

A sneaky peak of some of the design currently being built, waiting to be painted and then used for… well we can’t tell you just yet! . We can’t tell you how beautiful the overall design is. It literally takes our breath away every single time we see it.

Dawn Outhwaite, Head of Wardrobe for Imagine Theatre, is overseeing the costume makes. Mark Walters costume designs compliment the set beautifully. We have a whole team working with Dawn to bring Mark’s vision to life. Dawn recently went fabric shopping with Mark, our designer. Here’s an idea of some of the fabric colours they chose, and she and the team are now working with.

The fabrics are so colourful and vibrant. We can’t wait to see them made up into the costumes.

The fabrics are so colourful and vibrant. We can’t wait to see them made up into the costumes.

So, we move onwards into September, and the venue is almost ready for its handover, the gala re-opening with Dame Judi Dench on Monday 16th September. It really is all go in Croydon!

A Beauty of a Cast for Eden Court’s Panto

Eden Court, Inverness are delighted to announce some familiar faces are returning for Beauty and the Beast this festive season.

Once more the cast will be headed up by the popular duo, panto dame Steven Wren and the hilarious Ross Allan. Chris O’Mara is also returning this year after proving a huge hit with audiences last year when he played the villainous Fleshcreep. New faces to the Eden Court panto stage are Christie Gowans as the title character, Beauty, with Rodney Matthew playing her father, Victoria Compson-Bradford as The Enchantress and Jamie Crockart as The Beast/Prince.

The partnership of Steven and Ross has proved a great hit with audiences over the last few years, and not only does Steven perform as dame but he also directs the panto. He says of their partnership:

Inverness Beauty and the Beast - Copy.jpg

“Working with Ross is a treat as he’s so inventive and so funny.  We bounce off each other really well and trust each other to go with whatever spontaneous thing happens in any particular performance so that the audience knows we’re improvising around the script, but he’s disciplined enough to come right back to the story as soon as we’ve got the laugh.  We're the same sort of performers in that regard and I feel relaxed and confident on the stage with him. As a writer and director, I love the way he plays around with ideas.  Every rehearsal is new.  He never repeats himself until we’ve decided on the best variation, and that’s the one that goes into the show.  he trusts me as a director and acting partner too and that’s crucial for the relationship to work as well as it does.”

“Eden Court is populated with the most adorable people to work with.  The encouragement and support I get from the staff is extraordinary.  So that makes it a complete event for the audience.  It’s not just about what we do on stage, but it’s what the restaurant, box office, bar staff and theatre ushers do that make it a total night out for everyone.  What’s surprised me over the years is the build-up of the audience.  Something like 36 000 people see the show, and some of them come back more than once.  It’s always a wee thrill when someone stops me in the street or in the supermarket and tells me how much they’ve enjoyed the panto (not sure how they recognise me out of make-up, but I’ll leave that aside for now). The best thing about it for the audience is that they get a full story told in a funny and entertaining way that makes 3 year olds and 93 year olds laugh and smile.  For many people, it sets the mood for Christmas and I'm delighted that we can be a part of that.”

Ross Allan has had a busy year so far as he recently performed in Aberdeen in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is currently working at the Dundee Rep. He says:

“I agree with Steven about how wonderful the audience is. The people of Inverness have really made me feel special and welcome over the last six years there and it feels like a second home to me now going in to my seventh panto season. A special mention to everyone that works at Eden Court. They are all a very special bunch of people!”

Christie Gowans is very excited to be taking on the title role of Beauty. Beauty and the Beast has been my absolute favourite fairy tale for as long as I can remember (so much so I can quote the Disney film word for word!), and I think that’s because of its poignant and enduring messages of never judging a book by its cover, always embracing your uniqueness and the power of love! It also has so many wonderful characters that capture your heart, and I particularly love Belle for daring to stand out from the crowd and always standing up for what she believes in!” 

“Panto season is the most magical and laughter filled part of my year! I’m in the Christmas mood from the first day of rehearsal to the final show day, and I love seeing the joy that panto brings to everyone of all ages.” 

Chris O’Mara is relishing getting to be wicked again this Christmas season as he takes on the role of the arrogant Eugene. “I believe my character has a lot of similarities to Gaston from the Disney version and over the last year or so I've become a bit of a gym bunny, so Gaston and I are definitely kindred spirits in that sense. We both probably spend a little too long looking at ourselves in the mirror too...!”

Beauty and the Beast runs from Friday 6 December 2019 – Sunday 5 January 2020.

For more information or to book tickets call the Eden Court box office on 01463 234234 or visit the website www.eden-court.co.uk 

Magical Line Up for The Victoria Theatre Panto

The Victoria Theatre are delighted to announce their full principal line-up for the magical family friendly pantomime Beauty and the Beast.

Joining Dame Adam Stafford and comic Josh Benson are Jenny Perry in the title role of Beauty, Richard Anthony-Lloyd as Beauty’s father Cedric, Matthew Wellman as Eugene, Sam Willison as The Prince and Lydia Rose Bertie as The Enchantress.

Halifax Beauty and the Beast.jpeg

Richard Anthony Lloyd hails from Yeadon in Leeds and has strong links to Halifax “I first got to know Halifax through rugby. From being smashed on a cold Sunday morning up at Ovenden playing Rugby League to playing Rugby Union for Keighley at every Halifax club over the last 15 years - it's always fun. Before embarking on the Calendar Girls tour which I have recently been in, I performed with the Halifax based theatre company Talking Stock touring with Godfrey's Last Summer playing at The Square Chapel Arts Centre in town. I have lots of friends who are active members of the theatre scene in Halifax and I was planning to direct Spamalot in the town until Calendar Girls came along. 

“I have always loved panto and the way it is so totally different to any other genre of theatre. I love the fact that every show is different and anything can happen at any time. It keeps us on our toes and is always loads of fun. I love the fact that you look the audience in the eye, break the fourth wall and ask them to participate with you in the storytelling. As a teacher I love the history behind panto as we know it and how it came about. Slapstick and panto were always my favourite units to teach!!”

Jenny has performed in a number of pantomimes, however this will be her first time playing Principal Girl.

“I have played everything else apart from principal girl as I have played principal boy, fairy and even villain (Wicked Witch of the West), but it’s my first time as a princess so I'm very happy to tick off the last box!”

“I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. Obviously the Disney films were a big success, but I also think it's one of the few pantos where the heroine takes control of her situation and doesn't need rescuing! She is strong-willed, clever and kind, which are characteristics everyone should aspire to have!”

Sam Willison played Prince Michael in last year’s production of Snow White and is delighted to be back and Beast/Prince for this year.

“My favourite part of performing at The Victoria Theatre last was the audiences we had. They were full of energy and loved to get involved in all the action! Also the front of house staff and crew that we were very lucky to have! They always had a smile on their face and made it a lovely place to work.”

Get your tickets now for this ‘beauty’ of a show! Beauty and the Beast runs from Saturday 14 December 2019 until Sunday 5 January 2020.

For more information or to book tickets please contact the Victoria Theatre box office on 01422 351158 or visit www.victoriatheatre.co.uk

July, July! Summer’s here and our children are cast - Croydon Blog 6 - July 2019

July is nearing its end and August is almost upon us. That means there’s less than 4 months to go until Cinderella at Fairfield Halls goes into rehearsals!

The main event to update on is that our children’s ensemble is cast! The Imagine team had a fantastic day at the end of June casting our three teams of 8 children. The queue was so long that it snaked around the building and there was a huge amount of excitement in the air from both the children and their families there to support them. It was extremely exciting to see the buzz that is already being created around the production and the joy generated through an opportunity that allowed children from all backgrounds between the ages of 9-16 to audition for their chance to be a part of the Fairfield Halls pantomime.

The queue for the junior ensemble auditions went round the building!

The queue for the junior ensemble auditions went round the building!

Choreographer Lynne Thomas puts the children through their paces in front of the judging panel

Choreographer Lynne Thomas puts the children through their paces in front of the judging panel

139 young people took part in the auditions and the standard was amazing. Our Choreographer Lynne Thomas really had to put them through their paces. The morning cuts led to recalls in the afternoon, and a closely fought but very supportive and friendly second round. Casting the final teams plus a team of reserves was tough but we’re thrilled to introduce you to them. They’ll attend all rehearsals but then split the run between them.

Introducing our three teams of children who will appear in Cinderella

Introducing our three teams of children who will appear in Cinderella

In another casting update, we’re delighted to welcome two more principal cast members to the team. American actress Katie Cameron will play the Wicked Stepmother and James Bisp plays Prince Charming. Katie has worked for Imagine twice before and has always been an absolute smash hit. She played the Wicked Queen in Snow White at the Hexagon, Reading for us in 2016 to rave reviews and will bring her own unique New Yorker twang to the part. She really is fabulous! James is new to Imagine but we’re really excited to work with him and to see how he and Ore Oduba work in the double act of Prince/ Dandini.

It’s been a busy month in the world of costume design. Our amazing designer, Mark Walters, has now finished the costume designs and we’ve started to commission makers. They are fabulous and tie in beautifully with Marks set design and colour palette for the show. Here’s a sneak peak of one of the fabulous designs Mark has done for the Wicked Stepmother.

The Wicked Stepmother costume design which will be worn by Katie Cameron

The Wicked Stepmother costume design which will be worn by Katie Cameron

We’ve also started to make some big progress on the set build. We’ll update you more on this in future months.

Last week also saw another production meeting for the show at our offices in Coventry. This time it was the turn of Production Manager John Young and Lighting Designer Jamie Corbidge to get together with the Imagine head office team of Laura Taylor and Dave Edmunds, to start the detailed planning of how the set will fit up, the lighting designs will work and to understand how all the technology which forms such a critical part of the production will integrate together. To watch John and Jamie’s reactions to the designs and ideas was great for us to see. The concept and model are consistently getting extremely positive and excited feedback and we can’t wait to share it with you!

We’ve been asked on several occasions by people working on the show whose concept this show is? Well, we’re very proud to say it’s the brainchild of our MD Steve Boden, who came up with the principals and concepts of how he visualised this production working. His ideas were then turned into a design concept by the amazing Mark Walters. We will run a more detailed story about it in the coming months, once we have more images of the set build to share. It really is something different and exciting!

So, we move onwards into August, where we will start to physically be able to hold set pieces and costumes.  Script work will continue to progress well, and the venue will be nearing its handover, ready for the re-opening on 16th September and its first gala concert on 18th September. It really is all go in Croydon!

FTH Panto Set To Fly High Again This Christmas

FTH Theatre, Falkirk are delighted to announce that some familiar faces will be joining television star Libby McArthur and singer Barbara Bryceland in Aladdin this festive season.

Falkirk cast.jpeg

The brilliant Craig Glover will be returning to play larger than life dame Widow Twankey, with Scott Watson as her hilarious son Wishee Washee and Derek McGhie as the wicked Abanazar.  Joining them are Emily Cochrane as Princess Jasmine and Henry Sanders as the Genie.

The production will once again be directed by Stuart Bird who says: “I am delighted to see many of our fantastic cast back at Falkirk again this Christmas!  Last year’s first Imagine panto in Falkirk was a great success and the cast and company were just lovely to work with! 

“From Aladdin this year audiences can expect plenty of local humour, coupled with great songs and spectacular special effects, costumes and set. Will the magic carpet fly? No spoilers...book your tickets and find out!”

Scott Watson played Dandini in last year’s production and is delighted to be taking on the role of the comical Wishee Washee this season.   

“Stepping into the comic role is something I’ve always wanted to do. Since I was wee boy going to the pantos in Glasgow and sitting in the audience and seeing the joy the comic character brought to everyone’s face was something I could only dream about doing myself. It was Gerard Kelly at the time when I was wee, and he is a Scottish panto legend so if I can bring as much joy and happiness as he did then it’s job well done.” 

Craig Glover played one of the Ugly Sisters in last year’s show and is delighted to be playing Dame once more. “As the dame, you have a license to do and say things that other characters can't. It can make for an exciting job, especially because no two audiences are the same.”

 “Last year we were so lucky to have excellent audiences for Cinderella. Nothing beats a lively audience who are up for a laugh. You can sense it the second you step onto stage and you know they are with you every step of the way. It’s a remarkable thing, especially in this current era of constant mental stimulation with social media, VR and CGI that a good solid panto can keep an audience of all ages gripped for the entire journey. The beauty of FTH Theatre is that from the stage you can see every single audience member and feel like you could literally reach out and shake their hand. You know you’re doing a good job when you look out to see someone removing their glasses to wipe the tears from their eyes because they’ve been laughing so much.”

“I am delighted to be reunited with some cast members from last year. My ’sister’ Derek returns this year as the baddie - we got to share a dressing room so we had plenty of laughs and fun times, which I know will continue this year. Derek is an incredible panto baddie, so I know the folks of Falkirk are in for a treat. I’m over the moon to have Scott Watson as my daft son, Wishee Washee. Scott and I have known each other for a long time and finally got to work together last year. Having a strong comic-dame partnership is essential for a good panto and I know that Scott and I will be able to transfer our friendship to the stage. I’m also buzzing to get to work with my pal Babs, who returns this year after her panto debut as the Fairy Godmother last year. We have ‘gigged’ together in the past as ’turns’ so it’s a delight to work with her in a full scale production. She is a sensational singer and the audiences absolutely love her. Finally, I’m most looking forward to working with the team at FTH - they’re like a big family. A sensational stage crew and friendly front of house staff. Falkirk is lucky to have a venue (and a panto) like this on their doorstep.” 

Aladdin runs from Friday 6 – Tuesday 24 December 2019 so hurry and get your tickets before they fly out of the door!

June is busting out all over! - Croydon Blog 5 - June 2019

June is almost over and the rain we’ve endured has reminded us more of April showers rather than the start of summer, but in panto world things are literally busting out into full bloom!

The Imagine Theatre team all ready to go on a site visit! L-R Sarah Boden (Imagine Business & Marketing Director), Mark Walters (Designer); Steve Boden (Imagine Managing Director), Dave Edmunds (Imagine Head of Operations), Laura (graphics), Laura Taylor (Imagine Production Consultant), Greg (Fairfield Halls Technical) and George Wood (Director)

The Imagine Theatre team all ready to go on a site visit! L-R Sarah Boden (Imagine Business & Marketing Director), Mark Walters (Designer); Steve Boden (Imagine Managing Director), Dave Edmunds (Imagine Head of Operations), Laura (graphics), Laura Taylor (Imagine Production Consultant), Greg (Fairfield Halls Technical) and George Wood (Director)

The most exciting thing that’s almost in full bloom is the Fairfield Halls building itself. There’s still significant work to be done, but when we went for a site visit on 19th June we couldn’t believe how much the building had progressed since we last saw it.

High vis, hard hats and PPE abound, we headed off to explore the building!

High vis, hard hats and PPE abound, we headed off to explore the building!

Most of the scaffolding is now down and most excitingly the painters have moved in – a sure sign that work is nearing completion and focus in some areas is starting to move onto the decoration and cosmetics. It’s an absolutely beautiful building, and the amazing central staircase in the main foyer really is a location fit for Cinderella to lose her glass slipper on!

Last time we stood here, we were surrounded by scaffolding!

Last time we stood here, we were surrounded by scaffolding!

The foyer scaffolding is all down, and the painters have moved in!

The foyer scaffolding is all down, and the painters have moved in!

For the first time we were able to walk onto the main stage area of the Phoenix Concert Hall, where the panto is being staged. When we took the decision not to use the Ashcroft Theatre but to play the panto in the much bigger concert hall auditorium, all we were able to see was ground plans. We couldn’t walk on the stage, and we couldn’t visualise the auditorium as it was all covered in scaffolding. Now that almost all of the scaffolding has been removed it’s a completely different picture and we’re so excited to see just how amazing the space really is. It’s quite something.

The Phoenix Concert Hall is quite a space! And it’s slowly being revealed in all its glory from behind the scaffolding.

The Phoenix Concert Hall is quite a space! And it’s slowly being revealed in all its glory from behind the scaffolding.

There are a few remaining pieces of scaffolding, mainly with painters working from them

There are a few remaining pieces of scaffolding, mainly with painters working from them

Soaking in the atmosphere of the space, the Imagine and Fairfield Halls teams can finally see the space and understand how magical Marks scenic designs are going to look

Soaking in the atmosphere of the space, the Imagine and Fairfield Halls teams can finally see the space and understand how magical Marks scenic designs are going to look

The other project about to bloom is Mark Walters incredible set design. We know we keep on about it, but it is truly a thing of genius. The world of Cinderella that Mark has created is something to behold, and for the first time we were able to talk the team at Fairfield through Mark’s ideas and reveal his white card model. They were speechless. What we can tell you is that the design requires over 550m of LED tape, and is completely unique in the world of pantomime. The white card model just takes your breath away. We did take a sneaky picture of it… but unfortunately Mark himself got in the way so you can only see the edges *wink*

Mark Walters, designer of the panto, shows Ninon (FH), Greg (FH), Emily (FH), Dave (Imagine), Chantelle (FH), Laura (Imagine) and Steve (Imagine) the white card model of the set

Mark Walters, designer of the panto, shows Ninon (FH), Greg (FH), Emily (FH), Dave (Imagine), Chantelle (FH), Laura (Imagine) and Steve (Imagine) the white card model of the set

We’re now in the stages of the set starting to be built. It won’t be long before the first pieces of metal are being welded and the first canvas pieces being stretched.

The Marketing team at Fairfield are also ‘busting out’ with the venue’s very first brochure about to doormat. They have an incredible first season lined up, with so many events that the Imagine team want to go and see! It’s the real sign of progress within the venue, knowing that it’s now less than 3 months until the public can walk through the door and the first events take place.

Mark Walters (Designer), Steve Boden (Managing Director, Imagine Theatre) and Laura Taylor (Production Consultant, Imagine Theatre) standing in the Royal Box of the Phoenix Concert Hall, scenic plans in hand, discussing the positioning of the band

Mark Walters (Designer), Steve Boden (Managing Director, Imagine Theatre) and Laura Taylor (Production Consultant, Imagine Theatre) standing in the Royal Box of the Phoenix Concert Hall, scenic plans in hand, discussing the positioning of the band

Finally, Sunday 30th June sees the first ‘scheduled event’ in the Fairfield Halls calendar with the children’s auditions for Cinderella. We’re expecting to see hundreds of children all bursting into dance and showing us their talents. We love children’s auditions days as the standards are always incredible. Our auditions are open to EVERY child from EVERY background and take place at Braithwaite Hall. Registration is from 9.30am for a 10am start. As we are expecting a massive turn out, please be aware that we will cap it at the first 350 to turn up, so make sure you’re there early if you’re planning to audition! More details can be found about it at http://www.imaginetheatre.co.uk/pantomimes/2019-cinderella-croydon

So, we move onwards into July, where we expect set builds to be well under way, costume designs to be finalised and commissioned and further progress made on the building, script, casting and marketing. It’s an exciting time!

Photos by Sarah Boden from Imagine Theatre

A Magical Star Line-up for De Montfort Hall's Panto

De Montfort Hall are delighted to announce a truly magical line-up for their spectacular family pantomime Aladdin.

Local star and winner of the X Factor SAM BAILEY returns for her fourth year and will be playing So Shi. Joining her are Blue star ANTONY COSTA as the wicked magician Abanazar, Milkshake presenter NATHAN CONNOR as the Genie of the Lamp, Britain’s Got Talent finalist PAUL BURLING as Wishee Washee, magicians MATTHEW POMEROY and NATASHA LAMB as Aladdin and Princess Jasmine, with BBC Radio Leicester’s MARTIN BALLARD as Widow Twankey.

Antony Costa rose to fame with Blue in 2001 when their debut single ‘All Rise’ reached number four in the UK singles charts, with the album of the same name reaching number one in the album charts.

No stranger to theatre Antony appeared in the West End in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, toured in Boogie Nights and he is currently touring the UK in the musical Rock of Ages as well as appearing in numerous pantomimes over the years. Antony was a contestant in the 2005 series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! and has appeared in both Casualty and Holby City.

"I'm thrilled to be playing Abanazar in Aladdin at De Montfort Hall. The audiences have always been amazing in Leicester so I can't wait to have a great Christmas playing the baddie!"

Sam Bailey is hugely popular with DMH’s panto audience and at De Montfort Hall she has played Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk, Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast and Shoo in Peter Pan, for which she won Best Supporting Female at The Great British Panto Awards, and is delighted to be returning for Aladdin.

“There’s just something about panto isn’t there? Families and friends, young and old all coming together for one afternoon, or evening, of comedy gold.”

“And, for me there is something extra special about panto at De Montfort Hall. I am very lucky that my career takes me all over the world, but nothing quite beats performing in your hometown which is why I am delighted to be taking to the stage at De Montfort Hall once again. The venue is magical at Christmas and performing in front of fellow Leicestershire people is one of my most favourite parts.”

Nathan is a familiar face to children across the country as he has been a presenter on Milkshake since 2017.

“I cannot wait for panto to start and I am most looking forward to showing my body popping moves as the Genie. I’ve always loved Aladdin and to get the chance to play the Genie is amazing! The Genie is funny, energetic and quite cool so I can’t wait to dive in and perform at De Montfort Hall this year. Bring it on Leicester!”

Another familiar face from television is Paul Burling who rose to fame on Britain’s Got Talent, reaching the final with his hilarious impressions of numerous famous people and cartoon characters. Due to his huge popularity ITV gave Paul his own one hour special show called It’s Paul Burling! Alongside his television appearances and live shows he is a veteran pantomime performing, having appeared in nearly 30 pantomimes all over the UK.

De Montfort Hall are delighted to be able to bring some extra magic to the panto stage this Christmas with professional magicians Matthew Pomeroy and Natasha Lamb. The duo have performed all over the world and, as well as being magicians, both Matthew and Natasha have trained in performing arts and are looking forward to combining these talents in Aladdin this festive season.

Of course, panto just wouldn’t be panto without a dame, and who better to take on the role of Widow Twankey than the fabulous BBC Radio Leicester presenter Martin Ballard. Martin is a well-known and hugely popular figure across Leicestershire. As well as his radio presenting his voice will be familiar to Tiger’s fans as their matchday announcer. Martin has been performing in pantomime for nearly thirty years, and is delighted to be popping on a frock once more to play Dame at De Montfort Hall for the fifth consecutive year.

Antony Flint, De Montfort Hall general manager, said: “We are thrilled to have Sam and Martin back on board after proving themselves to be pantomime favourites. Antony, Nathan and Paul will further enhance this remarkable cast.

“Panto is now firmly in the festive calendar for our audiences – and this year will be bigger and better than ever.” 

Aladdin runs from Saturday 14 December 2019 until Sunday 5 January 2020.

Comedy Favourites Return for Porthcawl Panto

Vern and Kyle.jpeg

The sun has been shining in Porthcawl as summer is getting into full swing in the seaside town, however that is not stopping The Grand Pavilion looking ahead to panto season.

 The venue are delighted to announce that Vern Griffiths and Kyle Tovey will be returning for their magical family pantomime Snow White this Christmas after proving a smash hit in last year’s production of Sleeping Beauty.

 Vern is looking forward to putting on the frocks once more to play Dame and says “The Grand Pavilion is where I saw panto as a child, plus all the locals are lovely, so it has a special place in my heart.”

 “Playing Dame is great as I get to be everybody's Mam - and who wouldn't want that?! It's an honour to be (with Kyle) one of the characters that gets to interact with and be on the audiences' side. We get to draw them into our bonkers panto world, and send them away with a smile on their face! Also, I am hoping I get to soak the audience with water pistols again this year!”

 Kyle, on the other, has mixed feeling about water pistols! “I won’t forget running through the theatre last year with a water pistol only for an audience member to get their own back by throwing a whole bottle of water over me!”

 He continues: “It was an absolute delight being in Porthcawl last year. Having done panto away from Wales for a number of years hearing the roar, from what has to be one of the loudest audiences, really reinforced that I was back in my homeland. This goes hand in hand with how up for a laugh the audiences.”

 “Playing the comic always feels like you make hundreds of friends during every show as very often it’s the comic that gets to know the audience best through participation so I truly do love the role.”

 Snow White runs from Friday 13 December 2019 until Sunday 5 January 2020. With many of the performances selling out each year it is advised that you booked as early as possible for this fairy tale production.

 For more information or to book tickets contact the Grand Pavilion box office on 01656 815995 or visit www.grandpavilion.co.uk

The darling buds of May are shining through - Croydon Blog 4 - May 2019

Ore Oduba will play Dandini in Cinderella

Ore Oduba will play Dandini in Cinderella

The spring sun is shining, the grass is growing well and the buds are breaking out on the trees, leaving a fresh carpet of green and the feeling of fresh, new beginnings. It’s no different in the world of pantomime with the buds of our ideas starting to burst out into full blown concepts and progress.

May is the time when casting starts to fall into place, costume and set designs are being finalised, scripts are being written and the final pieces of the production and creative team are falling into place.

The most exciting bud to spring into life this month is the announcement that TV Star & Strictly Come Dancing Champion Ore Oduba will be joining us at the Ball this Christmas to play Dandini. Whilst he is no stranger to theatre and stage performance, and he’s a brilliant ‘song and dance’ man, this will be Ore’s panto debut. Click here to see the ‘official’ press release

Ore Oduba, Tim Vine, Cat Sandion, Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron all star in Cinderella

Ore Oduba, Tim Vine, Cat Sandion, Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron all star in Cinderella

It turns out that Ore already knows his co-stars Tim Vine and Cat Sandion well, as they’ve all worked together in the past. When they met up at our recent photo shoot, it was like three pals who’d known each other for years having a good catch up over a cuppa. Along with our two outrageous Ugly Sisters Jason Marc-Williams and Alistair Barron, there was a lot of laughing going on. This all bodes well for the panto.

Another bud which is really starting to burst through this month is that of the marketing of the venue and the show. Work is still progressing really well on the building and all is on schedule for the re-opening in September, but we’ll talk more about that in a later blog. Building a marketing campaign from scratch, as the team at Fairfield Halls are having to do, is a huge undertaking. Luckily there is a brilliant team in place, led by Kevin Quilty.

The printing of the venue brochure is under way, and it is due out any day with a brilliant programme of events planned for the opening season. It’s a massive sign that the venue is ready to burst into life and to return to what it does best – providing absolutely top-class entertainment. We’re thrilled to not only be bringing Cinderella to the Halls, but we’re also Justin Live starring CBeebies super star Justin Fletcher. That production will be at Fairfield Halls over October half term, on 22nd & 23rd October 2019.

The set and costume design ‘bud’ has so nearly also burst into flower. Mark Walters is continuing work on the designs, and every time we see them, they literally take our breath away. We’re so excited about his designs and cannot wait to tell you more about them. It’s unlike anything you will have ever seen in the pantomime world before. We just can’t quite tell you yet…

So, it’s onwards into June where we will see the final designs of set and costume before they head off to the workshops to be made, and the auditions for the children’s ensemble, which take place on Sunday 30th June. We cannot wait.

At this stage we just have a ‘white card’ model of the concept of the set. with lots more detail to follow. Watch this space!

At this stage we just have a ‘white card’ model of the concept of the set. with lots more detail to follow. Watch this space!

Josh is a smash hit in Halifax!

When we decided to introduce new panto comic Josh Benson to Halifax, we knew it’d be a fun day. We didn’t realise just HOW MUCH fun it would actually be!

Hailing from York, Josh is very much a Yorkshire lad. This year he joins the cast of Beauty and the Beast at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax as the comic, playing the role of ‘Josh’ (see what we did there?).

Whilst Josh is new to Halifax audiences, he is absolutely no stranger to panto, having taken Chesterfield audiences by storm last year.

Josh has got some big shoes to fill, taking over the role that Neil Hurst inhabited for 10 years. However, all those who met him around Halifax recently will vouch for the fact that those shoes will be more than filled by Josh’s wonderfully effervescent personality, amazing comic timing and brilliant clowning ability.

Knowing how much the Halifax panto audiences love a custard pie or 10, we decided that the best way to introduce him to the town would be just that - a pie in every location!

We thought we’d take you through our day so you can see what we got up to! (and keep an eye out on social media for the video!)

Getting a pie in the face outside Harvey’s

Getting a pie in the face outside Harvey’s

Erm, are you sure you’re allowed to do that, Josh?

Erm, are you sure you’re allowed to do that, Josh?

Off to Halifax Borough Market…

Off to Halifax Borough Market…

Next up it was time to head to the Piece Hall (after bumping into the Halifax pink running man, but we didn’t get any photos) - surely Josh was safe from the custard pies here??

Next up it was time to head to the Piece Hall (after bumping into the Halifax pink running man, but we didn’t get any photos) - surely Josh was safe from the custard pies here??

Josh was very relieved to hear there were not going to be any pies at the Library, just a chance to borrow his favourite book, “Josh’s Joke Book”.

Josh was very relieved to hear there were not going to be any pies at the Library, just a chance to borrow his favourite book, “Josh’s Joke Book”.

Surely the staff at Eureka won’t pie Josh? Nope, wrong! Of course they will.

Surely the staff at Eureka won’t pie Josh? Nope, wrong! Of course they will.

Surely Josh is going to be safe outside the Minster with Revd Canon Hilary Barber?

Surely Josh is going to be safe outside the Minster with Revd Canon Hilary Barber?

Introducing Josh to some critical panto props

Introducing Josh to some critical panto props

Josh met Theatre Manager Tim Fagan - who was the first to put a pie in his face!

Josh met Theatre Manager Tim Fagan - who was the first to put a pie in his face!

We headed to Harvey’s to film - and the staff had fun pie-ing Josh (again!)

We headed to Harvey’s to film - and the staff had fun pie-ing Josh (again!)

I want to ride my bicycle….

I want to ride my bicycle….

Josh stops off to get himself a ‘new job’ card at Paper Wishes in the market

Josh stops off to get himself a ‘new job’ card at Paper Wishes in the market

…. and another pie in the face outslde Woresman’s Greengrocers, courtesy of Mick from Grosvenors butchers.

…. and another pie in the face outslde Woresman’s Greengrocers, courtesy of Mick from Grosvenors butchers.

Nope, of course not! This time it was a pie courtesy of Al’s Emporium!

Nope, of course not! This time it was a pie courtesy of Al’s Emporium!

Josh, we DEFINITELY know climbing up there isn’t allowed!

Josh, we DEFINITELY know climbing up there isn’t allowed!

5 minutes of down time outside the Minster…

5 minutes of down time outside the Minster…

Ha ha ha! Of course not. Nice shot Revd Hilary!

Ha ha ha! Of course not. Nice shot Revd Hilary!

The final visit of the day was to Shibden Hall… and naturally they wanted to play the new game ‘let’s pie Josh’ too!

The final visit of the day was to Shibden Hall… and naturally they wanted to play the new game ‘let’s pie Josh’ too!