Purr-Fect Review for the Spa Centre Panto

We are delighted by our fabulous review from the Leamington Courier

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Cats have tended to fare pretty well as fictional heroes in entertainment through the ages.
Puss in Boots, 'rebooted' in the massively popular Shrek films, is one example. Hollywood A-Listers Michelle Pfeiffer, Halle Berry, and Anne Hathaway have all appeared as the Catwoman.

And, of course, the movie phenomenon which was Marvel's Black Panther was released in February. Having the feline character as the action star of the show works just as well for this year's Leamington pantomime Dick Whittington.

Chris Gage as the titular character's sidekick Tommy the Cat brings an acrobatic energy to the stage, which is a welcome new addition to dame and writer JP McCue's tried, tested and successful formula. Throughout the show, multi-talented Gage displays tumbling and martial arts skills and even dons a pair of roller blades at one point.

He's worth the admission fee alone, but there's a lot more going on here. McCue is in top form and obviously delighted to bring another of his scripts to the Spa Centre stage cracking in-jokes with his right-hand man and generally- and genuinely - funny bloke Sean Dodds as Silly Simon.

Again, and as expected, the pair are a driving force behind the weird and wonderful antics which ensue. Returning as the villain, Denise Pitter proves again that she's good at being bad in her role as Queen Rat

And a happy coincidence for the show is that with his north eastern accent, Kieran Morris might remind some of Declan Donnely, who is again currently entertaining TV audiences with his cheeky style on I'm A Celebrity.

The story - about rise of a London folk legend - is serviceable and, as ever with McCue's scripts, allows the various cast members to tie easily together some famous songs ranging from Abba's Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) to A Million Dreams from the recent musical film sensation The Greatest Showman. If the latter will, no doubt, appeal to the younger audience members there's also references to the 'flossing' dance craze and the sounds of the earworm song Baby Shark which will grab their attention. And with familiar 'custard pie', UV dance, Twelve Days of Christmas and 'look behind you' routines thrown in there's plenty in this show for panto goers young and old to sink their claws into and to be left purring contently afterwards.

Please click here to read the review online

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A ‘Purr-fect’ Cast for The Royal Spa Centre Panto

The Royal Spa Centre in Leamington Spa are delighted to announce their casting for the ‘purr fact’ family pantomime Dick Whittington.

The fabulous J P McCue and the hilarious Sean Dodds are back by popular demand and joining them are Denise Pitter as Queen Rat, Kieran Morris as Dick Whittington, John Fagan as Ralph, Georgina Newton as Alice, Ashley Joseph as Tommy the Cat and Kirstie Smith as Fairy Bow Bells.

Denise is delighted to be returning having played Carabosse in last year’s production of Sleeping Beauty. “Being the baddie is great fun as I get to pretend to be really mean to some very nice people (when I wouldn't possibly even think of doing that in real life). It's really quite refreshing!” This year Denise will be leading team of rotten rodents on a quest to take over the streets of London.

Her sidekick is Coventry based John Fagan who will be spending his first festive season in Leamington. He says “I have appeared in a lot of pantos and musicals but in the early noughties so it will be great to get back to it after a few years. I have played Wishee Washee and the Emperor in Aladdin (not at the same time!) and Captain Hook among many baddies which of course are always the best fun to play. This will be my first time appearing in Dick Whittington or in Royal Leamington Spa so I am really excited about appearing in what is nearly a home panto for me.”

“My favourite thing about panto is interacting with the audience and how absolutely invested the children become in the characters and the narrative from the boos to the cheers. In these days of video on demand there is still nothing to compare to the live theatre experience.”

Another new face is Kieran Morris who says “I am really excited to playing Dick Whittington. I have played Peter Pan in panto for the last three years so I am looking forward to doing something different this year and I have heard great things about panto at The Royal Spa Centre.”

With some performances already sold out The Royal Spa Centre recommend booking your tickets now to avoid disappointment. Dick Whittington runs from Saturday 1st to Sunday 30th December 2018.

 For more information or to book tickets please call 01926 334 418 or visit


Junior Ensemble Auditions for Dick Whititngton in Leamington

Young performers from Warwickshire are being invited to take part in open auditions for children aged  9-16* for Dick Whittington at The Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa. The auditions take place on Sunday 16 September and more information can be found on the venue page on our website*. - http://www.imaginetheatre.co.uk/pantomimes/2018-dick-whittington-leamington

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Come Along to Rotherham Civic Theatre for a ‘Purrfect’ Family Panto This Christmas

Rotherham Civic Theatre are delighted to announce that this year they will be working alongside Imagine Theatre, one of the country’s top pantomime producers, on the spectacular rags to riches panto adventure Dick Whittington.

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The show will star former Heartbeat actor David Lonsdale as Alderman Fitzwarren with Ian Hallard as Dame, Nathan Guy as Dick Whittington, Ann Micklethwaite as Fairy Bow Bells and Ashley Andrew as Alice Fitzwarren.

For David Lonsdale it will be a welcome return to Yorkshire where he worked for many years on the hugely popular Heartbeat and he is looking forward to his first appearance at Rotherham Civic Theatre.

“I definitely need my yearly dose of silliness doing panto as in the last year I have worked on two TV projects for Netflix and the BBC, been the director of the Southport Festival, as well as selling my first radio play which I was delighted about.”

“Pantomime is a very special part of my life. I find myself completely immersed in it for two months each year and it completely takes over! The constant laughter and music have a lovely effect on me and I honestly wouldn’t give it up for the world. Laughing is so good for us, audience and actors alike, and it’s that continual jollity that I love most about doing the shows.”

Dame, Ian Hallard, is also looking forward to a return to Yorkshire having been to university in Sheffield. He says “I have friends who have done panto at the Civic before and they've told me how lovely the team at the theatre is, and how warm and welcoming the audiences are and as some of my university friends are still in the area they will be coming to see the show which will be lovely.”

“My favourite thing about playing Dame is the fabulous costumes - and Imagine Theatre's wardrobe department have really pulled out the stops this year! Plus of course the interaction with the audience. As Dame, you probably get to be a bit cheekier than any other panto character, and the audience participation is really great!” 

Nathan Guy will be taking on the role of the title character Dick Whittington who travels to London with his faithful sidekick Tommy the cat, to seek his fortune. Along the way in pure panto style he has to protect the city from an evil villain, King Rat, as well as falling in love with the beautiful Alice Fitzwarren.

“I am delighted to be playing Dick Whittington. Up until now I’ve only played the comedy side kick in pantos but now I am so excited because I finally get to play the hero. What’s more I’m really looking forward to putting my own little goofy shine on it!”

“The most wonderful thing about panto is it's at Christmas time, and everyone is in a fabulous mood so it's an all-round joyful experience. I love singing, dancing, comedy, acting, storytelling, working with children and interacting with an audience. The audience is the most important part of panto, and as long as I can make sure that they feel a part of our story and the crazy fun, then I’m sure we are all going to have the best time.”

Steve Boden, Managing Director of Imagine Theatre, says “We are delighted to be bringing panto to Rotherham for the first time this year. We have a fabulous cast lined up, all of whom we have worked with in the past, so we are confident it is going to be a brilliant show.”

The show runs from Friday 30 November 2018 until Sunday 6 January 2019.

To book tickets call the box office on 01709 823621 or visit www.rotherhamtheatres.co.uk

A 'Purrfect' Cast for the Palace Theatre Kilmarnock Panto

The Palace Theatre are delighted to announce their full cast for their spectacular family pantomime Dick Whittington.

This year’s panto sees some favourite faces returning to the stage with Fraser Boyle as Dame, Gary Morrison as Idle Jack and River City’s Sally Howitt as Fairy Bowbells. The Palace Theatre are also delighted to welcome back James McAnerney who will be playing Alderman Fitzwarren having been the baddie for the last two years as Dean Castle in Beauty and the Beast and the Demon King in Mother Goose.

James is delighted to be back at his ‘second home’ for the festive season. “I enjoy being at the Palace for panto because the audience are so close to the stage you can see all their reactions really clearly. It always feels like a family working with Imagine at The Palace as the team they put together always get on so well.”

“This year will be a big change for me not playing the baddie as I'm so used to getting booed from the Killie crowd. It will be nice to be able to be part of the story where happiness is happening rather than me trying to stop it all the time. It's also great not being the baddie this year as I'm trying to cut out the booooze in my life – ha ha – I’ll have to try get that one in the script!”

David Haydn, who played Aladdin’s nemesis Abanazar in 2014 is back to play the dastardly King Rat. Amy Scott last appeared in the Palace panto back in 2008 in Mother Goose and is delighted to reprise the role of Alice Fitzwarren that she played at Eden Court in Inverness last year alongside Charlotte Forbes who is reprising her role of Dick Whittington from the same production. Also joining the team as the feisty feline Tommy the Cat is Anna MacDonald.  

As well as performing Charlotte Forbes has had a busy year working on her personal training business as well as running dance and drama workshops. Following on from panto she will be taking to the high seas once more as a performer on Royal Caribbean.

“This will be my first time appearing at the Palace Theatre Kilmarnock and I am very excited to be taking to this iconic stage and working with some brilliant Scottish actors. Dick Whittington is such a great pantomime and he is such a fun character to play. Last year I loved being able to run around the stage fighting King Rat with my trusty side kick Tommy. Playing a principal boy is a huge challenge and it requires a lot of energy to portray their larger than life personalities but it is so rewarding when the audience gets behind you willing you to save the day.”

Don’t miss out on the hilarious swashbuckling panto. Dick Whittington runs from Saturday 25 November to Saturday 31 Dec 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.

The Hilarious Fraser Boyle and Gary Morrison Return for the Kilmarnock Panto

After a hugely successful festive season with Beauty and the Beast, the Palace Theatre in Kilmarnock are already looking forward to their 2017 pantomime Dick Whittington and they are especially delighted at the return of two of their 2016 panto stars, Fraser Boyle and Gary Morrison.

Fraser Boyle will once again don a dress as Sarah the Cook while Gary will play Idle Jack.

The duo proved hugely popular with audiences and critics and were called an “expert slapstick team” by Ayrshire Magazine when they teamed up for the first time last year.

Fraser, who was described as “cheerfully cheeky” by the Kilmarnock standard says “Working with Imagine Theatre and the Palace Theatre was such a fantastic experience. Everyone was so professional and good humoured. We had some laughs backstage! Plus the audiences at Kilmarnock are a riot - you never know what you're going to get! That makes pantomime for me, the fabulous audience. The Kilmarnock lot are my kind of people! I'm so pleased and excited to be back and I'm looking forward to Christmas 2017 already."  

After a well earned break in January, Fraser is going to be touring The Dolls Abroad across Scotland this Spring – including a visit to the Palace Theatre.

Gary will be spending much of 2017 working with a Rep company in the North West of England but he also cannot wait to be back in panto.

“I think the thing that stands out for me each time I have played The Palace is the level of support from the wonderful audiences we had for every performance. They are always full of energy with lots of laughs and I cannot wait to return for Dick Whittington.”

Steve Boden, Managing Director of Imagine Theatre who produce the pantomime, says “we are delighted to have Fraser and Gary back this year as the audiences absolutely loved them and they are both an absolute pleasure to work with. This year’s Dick Whittington will be an absolutely brilliant show, especially with Fraser and Gary’s sense of fun, and I know the Palace audience are going to love it.

Dick Whittington runs from Saturday 25 November to Saturday 30 Dec 2017.

The panto adventure begins for the cast of Eden Court's production of Dick Whittington

The panto mayhem began recently for Eden Court when the Dick Whittington cast got together for the photo shoot.

 In addition to the previously announced Ross Allan as Smee, Steven Wren as Nanny McSmee and Charlotte Forbes in the title role of Dick Whittington, are Colin Little as King Rat, Amy Scott as Fairy Bowbells and Alice Fitzwarren and Euan Bennet as Stinky.

 For Euan, Dick Whittington will mark his second visit to Eden Court in 2016 as he will also be appearing at the theatre in a stage adaptation of the popular Sunday Post comic strip The Broons in October.

 Euan’s character of Stinky is the side kick of the villainous King Rat. Colin Little, who is taking on the role of Dick Whittington’s nemesis says “I LOVE playing the baddie! It's been a role I've played many times over the years and it's definitely my favourite. You don't always get the jokes but you always get some of the best lines. It's so much fun winding up the audience and hearing them 'boooo' until they are blue in the face. It's always such an important role in terms of the story, too. If there's no sense of jeopardy, then there's nothing for our heroes to overcome. This is my first time playing King Rat, I cannot wait to get started.” 

 Eagled eyed viewers may recently have spotted Colin in the BBC Sunday night series The Secret Agent starring Toby Jones.

 “The Secret Agent was an amazing experience, I've been doing a lot more television in recent years and it is very different to theatre. Whereas in theatre you work with a cast for weeks and weeks, you bond, and go through it all together, in TV, it's a bit more solitary. You all work out of sequence and although you are all cast mates, if you don't have scenes together, you might never actually meet! I really do love both disciplines but nothing beats a winter panto! It really is the best job in the world, it's the one time of year where the sole objective is to make sure everyone in the audience has as much fun a possible.”

 Dick Whittington will be Amy Scott’s second for pantomime producers Imagine Theatre, having previously appeared in Mother Goose as Fairy Betty back in 2008 at the Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock.

 “Playing a dual role is going to be quite challenging this year as Alice Fitzwarren and Fairy Bowbells are very different characters but I know it will be great fun so I am really looking forward to it.

 Book your tickets now to see this fabulous cast. Dick Whittington runs from Tuesday 6th December 2016 until Sunday 8th January 2017