More Sunderland panto casting

Peter Lathan

The final principals’ casting for Sunderland Empire’s 2017/18 panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, has been revealed.

Joining the already announced Bill Ward as the evil Flashcreep and Janine Duvitski as the Vegetable Fairy are Jade Natalie as Princess Jill, Philip Meeks as Dame Trott and David Barrett as Jack.

Jade Natalie, who graduated from the London School of Musical Theatre in 2010, is best known as the bespectacled member of children's TV pop band Go!Go!Go! and appears every day on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr channel. Her previous credits include Enchantress of the Willows in Wind In the Willows (UK tour), Fairy Fabulous in Jack and the Beanstalk (Forum Theatre, Barrow), Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (North Pier, Blackpool) and Fairy Geek in Sleeping Beauty (Chatham).

Philip Meeks was born in South Shields and his family still live there. He began his career as Dame at the Webster Theatre in Arbroath as writer, director and Dame in Aladdin, Snow White and Puss in Boots. Prior to this year, he has appeared four times in panto in the North East: in Snow White at the Sunderland Empire with Su Pollard, twice at the Darlington Civic, as Twankey in Aladdin and Nurse Dolly opposite Linda Lusardi in Sleeping Beauty, and as Nurse Hattie in Snow White at Middlesbrough Theatre.

As a playwright, his credits include Murder Margaret and Me which was a hit at the New York Fringe Festival last summer, Kiss Me Honey Honey! which won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013 and Edith in the Dark at Harrogate Theatre. He spent several years as part of the writing team of Emmerdale, has contributed to Heartbeat and Doctors and has developed original series including Mother Truckers with ITV and family drama Last of the Darlings with World Productions.

David Bennett has appeared in national tours of Godspell, Summer Holiday, Annie and most recently South Pacific on which he was dance captain and resident director. In 2005, he was part of the very successful Malaysian tour of Oliver!, after which he appeared as Yonkers in Dundee Rep’s production of Gypsy. He creates the role of Eddie/Freak in a new show by the Heather Brothers, Teen Scream, which transferred to the Edinburgh Festival. David will play Emmett in the new UK tour of Legally Blonde the Musical which opens in Bromley in September 2017.

Panto credits include Cinderella at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage, Dick Whittington in Swansea and Beauty and the Beast, Treasure Island and the Pirates of the Caribbean and Sleeping Beauty, all at the Theatre Royal, Lincoln.

Jack and the Beanstalk runs at Sunderland Empire from 15 December 2017 to 7 January 2018.