Panto Season 2014
We may only be a quarter of the way through the year, but so far 142 productions have been confirmed, along with a number of key castings. For a full list of productions organised by location, see the Confirmed Pantomimes by Location (2014) page.
At present, panto season 2014's top five titles comprise Cinderella (27), Aladdin (26), Snow White (19), Jack and the Beanstalk (15) and Peter Pan (13). This will change as more titles get announced over the coming months, but it will be interesting to see how this season compares with the last, where Jack and the Beanstalk came out on top with 37 productions, compared to Cinderella's 36 and Aladdin's 31.
So who will we see treading the boards in Panto Season 2014? Having played Muddles for five years touring the country in Sleeping Beauty, Joe Pasquale returns to the role of Smee in Peter Pan at Northampton's Royal & Derngate, a role he played for nine years alongside Leslie Grantham's Hook in the 1990s and early 2000s. It's also a change of title for Craig Revel-Horwood, whose Wicked Queen hangs up her skirts after five seasons to see him play Captain Hook in Dartford, a role David Hasselhoff will reprise for Qdos in Southend in his second year for the company.
Qdos regulars the Chuckle Brothers are set to star in The Chuckles of Oz in Darlington whilst Lisa Riley plays the Fairy in Crewe's Jack and the Beanstalk. In Glasgow, John Barrowman and the Krankies will be reunited for the fifth time at the SECC in Robin Hood with Edinburgh seeing the welcome return of Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott in Aladdin. In Newcastle, Clive Webb and Danny Adams celebrate a decade of pantomime at the Theatre Royal with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and with over 49,000 tickets already sold, the Newcastle audiences are no doubt looking forward to seeing them both in their first Snow White at the venue alongside regular Dame Chris Hayward.
Resident panto performers have just as much pulling power as the biggest A-list celebrities and whilst we don't yet know the names of any big stars making their pantomime debut this season, regulars Andrew Pollard, Richard Gauntlett and Berwick Kaler return to Greenwich, Norwich and York in Jack and the Beanstalk, Peter Pan and Old Mother Goose. This will be the second season on the trot that Gauntlett hasn't played Dame, having played Buttons in last year's seaside-themed Cinderella and taking up the role of Smee this year, whilst Pollard returns to also write Mother Goose for Salisbury Playhouse and Sleeping Beauty for the Watford Palace.
Last year over 25% of Peter Pans incorporated a Dame into proceedings and 2014 will see Brad Fitt return to Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury to star in his first Peter Pan as Mrs Smee, a title he previously penned for the Towngate Theatre, Basildon. Evolution Productions have so far announced that almost all of their regular Dames will return, including Ben Roddy as Widow Twankey in Canterbury and Damian Williams as Sarah the Cook in Sheffield's Dick Whittington, a title not produced by the company since 2006. As well as their regular Dames, Evolution regular Gareth Gates will perform as the Prince in Snow White at Croydon's Fairfield Halls and regular comic Stephen Mulhern returns to Crawley as Jangles the Jester in Sleeping Beauty alongside last year's Ugly Sisters Michael Batchelor and Ian Smith who are set to play Nurse and King for the first time. As well as Roddy, Canterbury also sees the return of CBeebies' Mister Maker aka Phil Gallagher as the two begin a second year as Comic and Dame in Aladdin.
Other performers returning 'home' for Christmas 2014 include Steve Walls for Blue Genie Productions in Whitley Bay's Beauty and the Beast and Stu Francis at the Bolton Albert Halls as Buttons. Johnny Mac, Stephen Purdon and Michelle McManus return to the Glasgow Pavilion to celebrate the theatre's 110th anniversary in Treasure Island and a host of Magic Beans Pantomimes' regular performers join the company for another season of fun, including Jasette Amos as Fairy Godmother and Lucy Reed as Cinderella at the Stag Theatre, Sevenoaks, Robert Pearce and Ant Payne as Widow Twankey and Wishee Washee at the Woodville Halls, Gravesend and Anna Kumble as the Fairy of the Forest in Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood at the Grove Theatre, Dunstable. Last year's headliner at Dunstable Ryan Maloney, aka Toadfish from Neighbours, moves to Sevenoaks to play Buttons and Sevenoaks' Andy Abraham transfers his Little John to Dunstable, whilst 2012's Abanazar, Boyzone's Shane Lynch, joins the cast in Gravesend for the company’s first season there.
2014 will see John Altman continue his reign of pantomime Villains as Fleshcreep at the Middlesborough Theatre and Simon Bashford returns to the Harlequin Theatre, Redhill after last year's Snow White to play Madame Fifi in Beauty and the Beast for Paul Holman Associates. Robert Hopkins and Donovan Christian-Cary are to be reunited in Aldershot's Snow White, having celebrated two decades and a decade of pantomime at the venue in 2013, whilst in Reading Paul Morse celebrates his 11th consecutive pantomime season as Dame playing an Ugly Sister alongside Anna Williamson's Cinderella for Imagine Theatre.
There are still many months to go before this year's first pantomime opens on Saturday 15 November at the Oldham Coliseum, which means production companies are still looking for casts, crews and creatives for the season ahead. Don't forget to follow @BritTheatreGuid on Twitter, like us on Facebook and keep checking our Panto Auditions and Technical Positions page for all the latest details.