Star leaves but panto goes ahead

Peter Lathan

NS Pantomimes’ Jack and the Beanstalk goes ahead in Newcastle’s specially built Pantodrome in the city’s Times Square in spite of the departure of its star, Denise Welch.

The show was due to open on Monday but performances on Monday and Tuesday were cancelled because of “technical problems”. Then it was announced on Wednesday that Welch, who was to play Mother Nature, had left the show.

She has issued a statement saying, “I am so terribly upset and hugely disappointed that I will no longer be appearing in the Times Square Pantomime in Newcastle.

“Those who know me and have supported me during my 40-year career will know how passionate I am about my job, Newcastle and its people.

“All I ever wanted was to star in a fabulous, spectacular pantomime that I have been proudly publicising since February.

“If there was anything I could do to change this highly regrettable situation I would. Legally, I can say no more but I write this with a heavy heart.”

Yesterday the company issued the following statement:

“NS Pantomimes have made the decision to continue with the pantomime run of Jack and the Beanstalk without North East actress Denise Welch.

“It was decided that performances should continue from Wednesday 13 December as planned rather than waiting until a later date.

“As a local company our main priority is the customers of the North East that have bought tickets to see our production. Tonight’s charity performance will go ahead this evening and for the remainder of the run with an understudy in place for the role of Mother Nature. The Pantodrome and cast are ready for the North East to come and see the show that they all deserve. We want to assure all customers that the building is safe, warm and sufficient for a production of this size.

“No further comments will be made.”

It is understood that she had concerns about the safety of the building, a temporary structure specifically created for the site, and had asked Equity to investigate.

A spokesman for the company said, “Equity visited the Pantodrome earlier in the week at Denise's request, to assess the safety of the building and the facilities provided and no issues were outlined from this.”

According to a report in The Sun, there are claims—from an ‘insider’—that pay was not arriving on time or at all, that rehearsals were chaotic, that the crew was unprofessional and some had not worked backstage before. These claims, however, are anonymous and unsubstantiated.

The BTG will be reviewing the show this evening.