Soap Star Jonathan Wrather to Star in The Palace Theatre Newark’s Beauty and the Beast This Christmas

The Palace Theatre are delighted to announce that soap superstar Jonathan Wrather will be spending the festive season in Newark as the odious Eugene in the brand new comedy panto Beauty and the Beast this Christmas.

Jonathan is a familiar face to soap fans all over the UK as he is currently playing the controversial character of Pierce Harris in Emmerdale.

Jonathan also played bad boy Joe Carter in Coronation Street from 2002 until 2003 as well as having roles in Fat Friends, Clocking Off, Holby City, Casualty, Silent Witness and the US hit series Bones amongst others.

A RADA trained actor, Jonathan has spent much of his career on stage including playing the iconic character of Harry in the UK tour of When Harry Met Sally, as well as starring in productions such as Edward II, The Duchess of Malfi, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and The Grapes of Wrath. This will be Jonathan’s second appearance in pantomime having previously appeared in the Victoria Theatre Halifax’s production of Jack and the Beanstalk way back in 2003.

Jonathan says "Doing panto is always enormous fun. Playing the baddie in one is great fun too as you get such strong reactions from the audience. Beauty and the Beast is a terrific story and I can’t wait for rehearsals to start this autumn.”

Steve Boden, Managing Director of Imagine Theatre who produce the pantomime says, “We are delighted to be working with Jonathan for the first time this year and thrilled to have him on stage with us at Newark. He is a hugely talented and experienced actor and, as per his character in Emmerdale, portrays a great baddie! Our panto character Eugene is similar to that of Gaston in the Disney version – his vanity makes it impossible for him to believe that Beauty does not love him and so he plots to kill the Beast. He really is a true panto villain!

This is our third year producing panto at the beautiful Palace Theatre in Newark with word spreading around the region about the quality and sales going from strength to strength. We are confident that Beauty and the Beast is going to continue the tradition of top quality panto at the Palace and will be another fabulous show.”

Beauty and the Beast runs from Friday 8 December 2017 until Wednesday 3 January 2018.

Jon Clegg Making An Impression at Grimsby Auditorium This Christmas

The Grimsby Auditorium are delighted to announce that Britain’s Got Talent finalist Jon Clegg will be playing Buttons in their spectacular family pantomime Cinderella.

Jon Clegg won the hearts of the nation in the 2014 series of Britain’s Got Talent with his impressions of everyone from Homer Simpson to Simon Cowell himself!

Jon says “I think my favourite impression would have to be Ant and Dec! It's the impression that was so popular on Britain’s Got Talent, and their reaction will always be a highlight.”

This will be his fifth panto with Imagine Theatre having appeared in both Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk at The Hexagon in Reading as well as two years in Leicester at the De Montfort Hall for Snow White and Jack and the Beanstalk.

Since finishing Britain’s Got Talent Jon has toured the world with his one-man impression show and is looking forward to spending the festive season in Grimsby.

“This is my first time working in Grimsby, but I have visited there before - and have worked a few times in nearby Cleethorpes, mainly appearing at Thorpe Park holiday park. Last year I did a show at Cleethorpes Pier with former football manager Ron Atkinson.” 

“I'm really looking forward to playing Buttons again, for the third time. It's probably my favourite panto role, as I get to play the fool but also have some poignant moments too!"

“This year in the run up to panto I am mainly sailing the seven seas on cruise ships, but am also working in hotels across the Mediterranean. So far this year I've been to Dubai, Oman, India, Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, Spain and Cyprus!” 

Steve Boden of Imagine Theatre who produce the panto in Grimsby says “We are thrilled to be working with Jon once again. He is extremely talented and a pleasure to work with and always builds up a great rapport with his audience.” 

“The popularity of the Grimsby pantomime has grown immensely over the last few years and we really enjoy working with the team at The Auditorium. We are really excited to be continuing to build on that success this year with Cinderella and to cementing panto as an important part of Grimsby’s festive calendar.”

Cinderella runs from Friday 15th - Thursday 28th December 2017.

A Fairytale Cast for Beacon Arts Centre’s Snow White

Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock are delighted to be able to announce that casting is well under way for their spectacular family pantomime Snow White.

After a hugely successful 2016 season with Beauty and the Beast Beacon Arts Centre are promising another festive treat with many of the cast returning for another year of panto fun. Once again Jane McCarry gets to strut her stuff as the baddie of the piece as she plays the Wicked Queen with Still Game co-star Mark Cox returning to play her Henchman. Donning an array of elaborate frocks will be Jimmy Chisholm as Dame Dolly Mixture with Lee Samuel causing more mayhem than ever as Jingles the Jester.

Jane and Mark have a busy year ahead of them filming series 8 of the hugely popular comedy Still Game over the summer but are looking forward to being back in Greenock for the festive season.

Jane says “Mark and I genuinely had a lovely time at the Beacon last year. It's a beautiful building with a combination of the best view the best audiences anywhere in the UK. This will be my second time playing a baddie and I can't wait..... ohhhh it feels good to be bad and the Wicked Queen will have a costume to KILL for. I might sneak it in my bag after the run!”

Well away from the world of panto, Jimmy has recently been starring as Autolycus in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale at the Lyceum Theatre to rave reviews.

“I am thrilled to be back at the Beacon as Dame again. I had a lot of fun as Dame Betty last year and all those costume changes certainly keep me fit and I am really looking forward to working with Lee again!”

 Snow White runs from Friday 8 December until Sunday 31 December 2017.

River City Star Sally Howitt Returns To The Kilmarnock Palace Panto

Photographs by Alan Peebles

After a terrifying but terrific performance as Deadly Nightshade in last year’s Beauty and the Beast The Palace Theatre are delighted to welcome back River City star Sally Howitt for their hilarious family pantomime Dick Whittington this festive season.

This year Sally will be on the side of good as the feisty and quirky Fairy Bowbells.

“I'm very happy to be asked back to The Palace Theatre again for another panto! Beauty and the Beast was a very enjoyable experience with a lovely company so I can’t wait to return. I loved playing one of the baddies last year and I know that the script will be just as good this year. The character of Fairy Bowbells will be great fun to play and I will once again have another fantastic dress to show off.” 

“I enjoy the live performance of panto. There is nothing like hearing the whoops of excitement from the audience as the lights go down and knowing you are about to take them away fromreal life for a few hours into to a magical story with colourful characters in which they will laugh, shout out loud, and perhaps even be a little scared!”

Sally is currently filming another series of River City in which she plays Scarlett Adams, a role she has played since 2003.

“I find theatre and television very different in that in theatre you get an immediate reaction the minute you walk on stage but in TV in a studio it's very controlled and quiet and it's hard to tell what an audience at home might think or feel about what you're doing until it's broadcast into their living rooms at a much later date.” 

Steve Boden from Imagine Theatre who produce the pantomime says “We are delighted to be working with Sally once again. She is a great character actress so will be ideal for the role of Fairy Bowbells! Poor King Rat doesn’t stand a chance!”

Dick Whittington runs from Saturday 25 November to Saturday 31 Dec 2017.

Sam Kane to Star in Cinderella at Southport Theatre this Christmas

The Southport Theatre and Convention Centre are delighted to announce that television star Sam Kane will be playing Buttons in their spectacular family pantomime Cinderella this Christmas.

Sam is well known to soap fans throughout the country for playing Peter Phelan in Brookside. He has also appeared in both Coronation Street and Emmerdale and appeared alongside Danny Dyer in the movie Vendetta.

Sam is an experienced theatre performer having starred in the musicals Boogie Nights, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Carousel and South Pacific. Sam previously appeared at the theatre in 2009 with the UK tour of Hot Flush. “I played the part of ‘The Man’ which was a great part for me as I got the chance to play 27 different roles in the musical. I was the only man playing all of the male roles. It was so much fun and a really challenging gig but I loved every minute of it. There were two different casts; Rula Lenska, Marti Webb, Sheila Ferguson and the second cast was led by Lesley Joseph.”

Sam has also appeared in many pantomimes throughout his career playing everything from Prince to Ugly Sister and this year as well as playing Buttons he is also going to direct the pantomime.

“I’ve been directing pantomimes since the Millennium but have appeared in them since the age of 17, missing just two years since. I started as a dancer, moving onto smaller roles like Little John then onto Prince, Ugly Sister, Wicked Henchman and Baddie. I’ve been headlining since 1995. I love panto as it has to be as equally entertaining for three year olds as it is for grannies and grandads. I love the challenge that it brings when I’m directing but even more so when I’m up there in the spotlight. I’ve been doing both; performing and directing for so long now that it doesn’t feel like it’s ever been any other way. Although, I have to say it’s exhausting for me on opening night but that’s all part of the joy of it.”

“The list of what I love about pantomime is as long a list as you’ll ever see. It’s such a joy to have an audience with every generation sat watching you with great expectation. Delivering that expectation is the biggest joy. Seeing people laugh, even rock in their seats with laughter, is the best feeling an entertainer can have. If we can keep the integrity of panto as it should be and tell the story and we’ve got in as much comedy as we can, with beautiful production values, great songs, great dancers, great routines that make for a full night’s entertainment, then we’ve cracked it. A kid came up to me one day in Cardiff. I was playing Abanazar in Aladdin. The kid said. “I loved hating you. You made me love you and hate you at the same time’. That was one of my happiest moments in panto. My job was done!”

When not appearing panto Sam spends much of the year performing on some of the biggest cruise ships in the world and he is currently in the process of becoming an agent as well as fronting his own show on Sam says “I’ve always fancied having a go on radio but the opportunity never lent itself until recently. I love it now. I’ve been on there for over a year. The interaction is great. And I don’t have to sing all the songs in-between, so that’s even better.”

Steve Boden from Imagine Theatre who produce the pantomime says “we are really excited to work with Sam for the first time this year. He is a wonderful performer and has such an invaluable wealth of experience in the panto industry that we are confident he is going to be a great asset to our new production in Southport this year.”

Don’t miss out on Southport Theatre’s stunning production of Cinderella. The show runs from Friday 15 December 2017 until Saturday 6 January 2018.

Neil Hurst and Adam Stafford Return to The Victoria Theatre

Even though Easter has only just passed us by, the Victoria Theatre in Halifax are already planning for the Christmas season and their spectacular family panto Aladdin and they are delighted to be able announce their first two confirmed cast members.

Once again local favourite Neil Hurst will be returning to play the lovable Wishee Washee and this year will also see the return of Adam Stafford as Widow Twankey. Adam previously played Dame Dorothy Do It way back in the Victoria Theatre’s 2012 production of Beauty and the Beast.

For Neil it just would not be Christmas without appearing in the Halifax panto and this will be his ninth year playing comic.

“I love playing Wishee Washee, I have actually played this particular role more than any other in my panto career. One of my all time favourite panto scenes is the laundry scene where I accidentally get squashed through the mangle. The whole process of this requires me to have a ‘flat’ version of myself made up weeks before, this is usually a life-size photo of me with a shocked look on my face. Obviously at the end of each run the producers have no use for a 5ft 10 cut out photo of me so I get to keep it. I now have 4 of these in my loft at various ages in my career. They used to come in handy too when my daughters were babies. When they were feeling lonely at night and just wanted Mummy or Daddy there to keep them safe we started putting the cut out Wishee Washee’s propped up at the end of their cots… it worked a treat!”

Neil has recently been appearing in The Good Old Days of Variety with Billy Pearce as well as filming Hopping the Pond for US television, filming a number of commercials and auditioning for a few top secret roles!

Neil says “I am thrilled to be in panto with Adam once again as we worked really well together and he is a fabulous dame.”

Five years after his last appearance in Halifax Adam says “I am excited to return to Halifax for panto. I had a great season when I did Beauty and the Beast.  I love Halifax and working with Neil and the rest of the great team at this lovely theatre. The audiences were fantastic and always up for a good laugh.”

“I live near London but have strong family links in Bradford and Leeds (my uncle ran the education department at the National Media Museum for many years) and so I try to travel North for the Christmas season whenever the opportunity arises. I have been Dame for the last few years at The Bradford Alhambra and always pop to see the Halifax show. I really enjoy its traditional panto roots - fast moving comedy and strong story, which to me is the basis of any good pantomime.” 

“Like all self employed people, our business can be a juggling act of dates, and I have moved into theatre directing much more over the last few years. I do a lot now at my local venue ‘down south’, The Wilde Theatre at beautiful South Hill Park, and have been blessed with some fantastic productions including Oliver!, Just So, Fawlty Towers and last Christmas, my first panto as director, Cinderella. I have been asked back to do the same this year. The lovely people at Imagine asked if I would like to come back to Halifax but dates have clashed, until now! So this year is perfect, I am getting my cake and eating it!! I will direct my local panto then head north to start rehearsals as Widow Twankey (my favourite dame) in Halifax. How lucky am I!!”

“I have a long history with shows for families and a younger audience, starting off for many years as assistant director to David Wood OBE. David is the National Children's dramatist, having a number of fantastic original plays and being the original adaptor of Roald Dahl's stories for stage including The BFG, The Witches and The Twits. My years with David have taught me the absolute value of theatre for young people as well as adults and a number of fun projects for me as a director. The most recent is the world tour of Hello Kitty Live which we opened at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, and has now been trundling around areas of the globe, now looking to tour South America.” 

“I am currently writing a proposal for another show…. but won’t say too much until we get the go-ahead… I don’t want to jinx it!! Meanwhile I look forward to getting back to Halifax and a fun, funny, action-packed Christmas season! (I can’t believe I’m saying this and its barely spring)!!”

With last year’s panto breaking box office records The Victoria Theatre advises booking tickets early to ensure the seats and performances you would prefer. Aladdin runs from Saturday 16th December 2017 until Saturday 6th January 2018.

Jolyon and Nathan Return for Panto at the Grand Pavilion

The Grand Pavilion in Porthcawl are delighted to announce that audience favourites Jolyon Dixon and Nathan Guy are returning to star in their spectacular family pantomime Cinderella.

The pair have proved a huge hit with audiences over the last few years with their hilarious interplay, clever slapstick routines and witty audience interaction.

This will be Jon’s third year as Dame at the venue and he is delighted to be returning “The people and the crew and the audience at the Grand Pavilion are my favourite things about spending the festive season here.”

“I am overjoyed to be renewing my comedy partnership with Nathan - although it will be strange for him not to be my son this year - he'll still call me mum in the dressing room! It's been eight years since I played ugly sister and it's a nice change to be a bit of a villain - funny and friendly though with it!”

Nathan is delighted to finally have the chance to play his favourite pantomime character. “I've wanted to play the part of Buttons since I first started performing in pantomimes as a juvenile in the chorus all the way up until today! I like to think the comic character is always a favourite with panto audiences, but Buttons steals the hearts as the character who doesn't get the girl even though we want the best for him and Cinderella.”

“I can’t wait to work with Jolyon, he is a force of energy and fun. He never stops making me giggle on stage in the wings and off the stage. He has a twinkle in his eye that's so warm that invites the whole audience to enjoy his performance.”

Cinderella runs from Friday 15 December 2017 until Sunday 7 January 2018.

Star Studded Line Up for De Montfort Hall Panto

After breaking box office records last year, De Montfort Hall today announces their star studded line up for this year’s spectacular family pantomime Beauty and the Beast.

Richard ‘Dick’ McCourt of children’s TV’s Dick and Dom fame will star alongside the star of ITV’s Heartbeat, David Lonsdale and Leicester’s very own singing sensation Sam Bailey; who returns for a second year. Also returning again is everyone’s favourite pantomime dame, Martin Ballard, from BBC Radio Leicester.

Antony Flint, De Montfort Hall General Manager, said “I’m really, really pleased with the line-up, and not just because it provides the celebrity that people always expect from us, but also because it gives us a great platform for all the gags, comedy and mayhem that Leicester has come to expect from the De Montfort Hall Panto”.

Children’s television star Richard McCourt has been part of the BAFTA Award winning duo Dick and Dom for twenty years and has appeared in some of the most popular shows in CBBC history including Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow, The Legend of Dick and Dom and Absolute Genius amongst others.

David Lonsdale is an accomplished singer and theatre actor but is probably best known for his TV work in the role of David Stockwell in the long running TV series Heartbeat and as a teenage Peter Barlow in Coronation Street.

Leicester’s Sam Bailey shot to fame in 2013 when she won X-Factor and proceeded to have a Christmas number one as well as a number one album. Since then Sam has gone from strength to strength, releasing her second album in 2016 as well as touring as Mama Morton in Chicago and this year sees her touring the UK in her Sing My Heart Out tour.

Sam Said “I’m so excited to be back on home turf at De Montfort Hall again this year. I absolutely love Beauty and the Beast too so it’s a double bonus for me.  I had a great time last year and I can’t wait to see everyone again this Christmas.”

No Leicester panto would be complete without BBC Leicester broadcaster Martin Ballard who’s donning the dame’s frock once again, as he returns for his seventh pantomime season at De Montfort Hall.

Steve Boden, managing director of Imagine Theatre who co-produce the pantomime with De Montfort Hall, commented “We are really excited about our Beauty and the Beast cast. We are delighted to welcome Richard and David for their first De Montfort Hall pantomime; and it is great to have both Sam and Martin back again this year as in addition to being outstanding performers they are both very well known and involved in the local community and give the show a real Leicester feel”.

Beauty and the Beast runs from Saturday 16th December 2017 until Sunday 7th January 2018, and with the panto breaking box office records last year we advise people to book as early as possible for this ‘beauty’ of a show.

Justin Fletcher Returns for Pantomime at The Hexagon

The Hexagon in Reading are delighted to announce that children’s TV megastar Justin Fletcher will be returning to star in their spectacular family pantomime Peter Pan.

The local star is known to millions of children all over the world for his award winning television shows including Justin’s House, Gigglebiz and Something Special, starring Mr Tumble.  

This will be Justin’s sixth panto at The Hexagon as he takes on the role of hapless trainee pirate Mr Smee in a special panto version of the popular children’s classic written by BAFTA Award winning writer Will Brenton.

Steve Boden, who regularly directs The Hexagon panto as well as being Managing Director of Imagine Theatre who produce the panto says “We are delighted to be working with Justin once again. He is such a natural talent with a genuine love of performing, particularly of the sort of slapstick humour that is part and parcel of panto.”

Justin’s love of slap stick humour comes from being a huge fan of legendary duo Laurel and Hardy since the age of five and as regular panto-goers at The Hexagon will know, he is never shy of taking a custard pie in the face during a show!

Life as one of the most popular figures in children’s television is always hectic. Before spending Christmas in Snow White at the Hexagon, Justin took on a different role, that of Mr Perks in the West End production of The Railway Children at the King’s Cross Theatre. Following on from panto Justin is currently starring in a UK wide tour of Justin’s Party – all of this in addition to his myriad of filming commitments with the BBC.

Don’t miss out on your chance to see Justin in Peter Pan this Christmas. The show runs from Saturday 9 December 2017 until Sunday 7 January 2018 and tickets are already ‘flying’ out of the door!