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.

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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!

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.

Libby McArthur and Barbara Bryceland to Star in Aladdin at FTH Theatre

FTH Theatre Falkirk are delighted to announce that television star Libby McArthur and singing sensation Barbara Bryceland will be starring in their magical family pantomime Aladdin this Christmas.

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Libby, who will be playing the Empress, is a familiar face on Scottish television as she played Gina Hamilton in River City for eleven years as well as appearing in Taggart, Take the High Road, Hamish Macbeth and Rab C Nesbitt. She was also a founder member of the 80s pop group Sophisticated Boom Boom.

“I have appeared in two pantomimes prior to this, both times in Cinderella. I was at The Palace in Kilmarnock as the Wicked Step Mother and then later with Sally Howitt, who appeared in Cinderella here last year, as the Ugly Sisters. This will be my first time on stage at FTH Theatre and I am really looking forward to it.”

“I have memories of attending panto as a child with my school and being utterly engaged, enchanted, engrossed, encapsulated. Panto, like all good storytelling, is taking the risks for us, scaling the heights and plummeting to the depths that us ordinary mortals can only wish we could navigate, but with panto at least we are taken along for the ride!

“The thing I am really looking forward to about Aladdin more than anything else, is that most Scottish of traditions, the fourth wall collapsing, the banter when the weans chip in! Oh and just panto itself - Christmas, the whole pomp and ceremony and the agreement that we are all of us, just big weans!”

Barbara appeared on both The X-Factor and The Voice, and starred as Fairy Godmother in FTH Theatre’s first professional pantomime Cinderella last year and this year will be playing the magical Spirit of the Ring. She says “I absolutely loved appearing in panto last year as the cast and team were fantastic. It was my first pantomime and so was a great learning experience for me and I cannot wait to tackle a new role this year.”

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

 To book tickets to please contact box office on 01324 506850 or visit www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org

Junior Ensemble Auditions for The Palace Theatre, Newark Panto

The Palace Theatre in Newark are holding open auditions for children aged 9-16* to take part in their spectacular family panto Aladdin this Christmas. The Auditions are being held on Sunday 16 September and more information can be found on the venue page on our website*. - http://www.imaginetheatre.co.uk/pantomimes/2018-aladdin-newark

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Justin Fletcher and Paul Morse Return for More Panto Fun at The Hexagon

The Hexagon are delighted to announce that both children’s TV megastar Justin Fletcher and award-winning panto dame Paul Morse will be back in Reading this year for the magical family pantomime Aladdin.

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Justin Fletcher is adored all over the country for his numerous children’s shows such as Justin’s House, Gigglebiz and Something Special, starring Mr Tumble.  He received an MBE in 2008 and has won numerous BAFTA Awards.
This will be his seventh panto appearance at The Hexagon and his second as Wishee Washee.

Justin says "I love playing Wishee Washee because he's a friend of the audience. It's so wonderful to have that interaction with families and see them laughing and joining in with the show."

He is also pleased to be re-united with on-stage mum Paul Morse. "Paul and I have worked together for quite a few years now and he's a lovely guy. He is a very generous performer and the longer we work together the stronger the chemistry on stage."

As always Justin will have a very busy year before returning to panto-land with live appearances all over the country in both theatres and at festivals as well as filming another series of the BAFTA Award winning Gigglebiz.

Paul, who has appeared in five pantomimes at the venue, says: “It's lovely to come back to the Hexagon as the theatre staff are so welcoming and supportive and the audiences really do come along to join in and kick start their Christmases.

“One of the highlights of playing a dame is always the fabulous costumes and the costume department at Imagine know the more bling the better! 

This will be Justin and Paul’s fourth year working together and Paul says of their partnership “We work very well together and having worked with each other so closely we have great in-sync rhythm and energy and just know what the other one is doing or going to do and the other can go along and support it in the moment. At the end of the day if Justin and I are having fun, the audience can feel that and it's infectious, before you know it even the most reluctant member of the family is joining in!”

Don’t miss your chance to see Justin Fletcher and Paul in the magical family pantomime Aladdin which runs from Saturday 8 December 2018 – Sunday 6 January 2019. With last year’s Peter Pan proving a smash hit with audiences The Hexagon recommend booking tickets early.

For full details call the box office on 0118 9606060 or log on to www.readingarts.com


The Halifax Panto's Magical Cast

The Victoria Theatre are delighted to announce their full cast for their spectacular family pantomime Aladdin.

In addition to the previously announced Neil Hurst and Adam Stafford some more familiar faces will be returning to the venue this year. Andrew Piper who played Captain Hook will be back to continue his wicked ways as the evil magician Abanazar, Lucy Keirl, who played Tiger Lily in last year’s production of Peter Pan will be tackling two roles – So Shi, handmaiden to the Princess, and the Spirit of the Ring, alongside Katie Faye who played Wendy last year, as the Princess. After an absence of two years Felicity Skiera returns to the Victoria Theatre to play the title role of the mischievous and daring Aladdin. Felicity previously played Jack in the 2015 production of Jack and the Beanstalk.

Felicity says “I have played Jack for three years now and although it has been a fabulous three years climbing the beanstalk I am definitely ready for a change. Aladdin is such a fantastic story that everyone knows and loves, so to be playing the title role is so exciting! I'm really looking forward to getting on that magic carpet as who knows where it will take me. I'm also thrilled to be working with my on-stage brother again, the wonderful Neil Hurst. He's super talented and never fails to make me laugh - usually at the times I'm not supposed to be!”

“I have so many fantastic memories of my time at the Victoria Theatre, but one that really stands out is during a scene where we all had to freeze while Fleshcreep came onstage and stole the magical golden harp. Every night without fail Fleshcreep would do something horrid to Simple Simon (played by Neil), such as sticking his finger up his nose, or putting a sour sweet in his mouth, and Neil could do nothing about it as he had to remain frozen! Every night we'd all be crying with laughter whilst trying to remain still, it was brilliant and the audience loved it too!” 

One new face is Aaron Gibson who is taking on the role of the larger than life Genie of the Lamp. Aaron has previously played the role in both Southport and Barnstaple and is delighted to be spending his first festive season in Halifax.

“The Genie is great fun to play and although I have played the role twice before I am just as excited as ever. It will be a new script for me this year as this version of Aladdin has been written by Eric Potts and I am intrigued to see how he has written the character of the Genie. I am sure he will be just as flamboyant as ever and I will still get strange looks off people when I go out in-between shows covered in glitter!”

The show will once again be Directed by Robert Marsden. “I am delighted to have so many familiar faces in the cast for Aladdin. We broke box office records with the pantomime last year so we need to make sure that we put on a spectacular show again this year and I am confident we will have no trouble doing that with such a wonderful cast.”

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.

Grimsby auditorium panto cast ready for a flying start!

The panto mayhem begin recently for the Grimsby Auditorium magical family panto Aladdin when the cast got together for the photo shoot.

Joining the previously announced Coronation Street bad boy Nigel Pivaro as Abanazar are Phil Hoyles as Widow Twankey, Gareth Bennett-Ryan as Wishee Washee, Mary Viscomi as Aladdin, James Houlbrooke as Genie and Helena Gullan as So Shi / Spirit of the Ring.

Phil and Gareth are bringing a local flavor to the show as both of them were raised in Grimsby, where their families still live and Gareth even worked at the venue including being a spotlight operator for panto!

For Phil playing the iconic role of panto dame in his home town is a real honour. He says “I always see Grimsby as my hometown and no matter where I am living or working, Grimsby is still my home.  As they say, you can take the boy out of Grimsby, but you can’t take Grimsby out of the boy!”

Nigel Pivaro has fond memories of a previous appearance at the Auditorium and is looking forward to be being back there at Christmas. “I remember appearing at the Auditorium when I was doing the tour of John Godber’s Bouncers quite a few years ago now but it stays in my mind as the venue was packed with a really appreciative audience who loved the show.”

For Lincoln’s Mary Viscomi this will be her second panto at the Auditorium having played Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk two years ago.

“I am happy to be back at the Auditorium this year as it is a great venue, and it also means I get to spend Christmas with my family. I was in Barnstaple last year which I really enjoyed but it is a long way from home.”

Another returnee is James Houlbrooke who will once again Choreograph the panto as well as playing the flamboyant Genie of the Lamp.

“Starring in the panto as well as choreographing it is always a challenge, particularly as it can be hard to tell what a scene looks like when you are appearing in it rather than watching it. However, the Genie is a brilliant role and I absolutely can’t wait to get started.”

Don’t miss out on seeing this fabulous cast. Aladdin runs for two weeks only from Friday 9th until Monday 26th December 2016.