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Panto News: September 2014

Published: 28 September 2014
Reporter: Simon Sladen

Lisa Riley (Fairy) and Brendan Sheerin (King) in the Lyceum Theatre, Crewe's 2014 panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: Qdos Entertainment
Suzanne Shaw (Fairy Godmother) and Russell Grant (Baron Hardup) with the cast of the Waterside, Aylesbury's 2014 panto 'Cinderella' Credit: First Family Entertainment
Stephen Mulhern (Muddles) and the cast of the Hawth Theatre, Crawley's 2014 panto 'Sleeping Beauty' Credit: Paul Clapp
Ian 'H' Watkins (Prince) and the cast of Maidstone Arts Centre's 2014 panto 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Credit: Paul Clapp
Keira Lucchesi (Aladdin), Craig Glover (Widow Twankey) and Liam Dolan (Wishee Washee) in the Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: Phil Tull
Josie Lawrence (Wicked Queen) and the cast of the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford's 2014 panto 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Credit: Bryan Allman
Jonathan Ansell (Prince) and Jez Edwards (Muddles) in Leeds Carriageworks' 2014 panto 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Credit: Leeds Carriageworks
The cast of the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: Phill Tull
Dan Osborne (Jack) and Thelma Madine (Fairy) and the cast of the Epstein Theatre, Liverpool's 2014 panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: David Munn
The cast of South Hill Park, Bracknell's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: South Hill Park
Kulvinder Ghir (Baron) and Alex Winters (Buttons) in De Montfort Halls, Leicester's 2014 panto 'Cinderella' Credit: Phill Tull
Allan Stewart (Widow Twankey), Grant Stott (Abanazar) and Andy Gray (Wishee Washee) in the King's Theatre, Edinburgh's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: Qdos Entertainment
Kay Purcell (Carabosse) and the cast of Southport Theatre and Convention Centre's 2014 panto 'Sleeping Beauty' Credit: Phill Tull
Arthur Bostrom (Count Dandini de Tartare), Ian Adams (Madame Zulieka) and the cast of the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield's 2014 panto 'Cinderella' Credit: Paul Painter Photography
Scott Gallagher (Simple Simon) and Robert Rees (Jack Durden) in the Middlesbrough Theatre's 2014 panto 'Jack and the Beanstalk' Credit: John's Studio
Ricky Groves (Comic), Robert Rawles (Dame Dolly Doughnut) and the cast of the Theatre Royal, Margate's 2014 panto 'Beauty and the Beast' Credit: AG Studios
Chris Jarvis (Muddles), Phil Holden (Prof), Jerry Hall (Wicked Queen) and the cast of Richmond Theatre's 2014 panto 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs'
Neil Hurst (Simple Simon) and the cast of the Victoria Theatre, Halifax's 2014 panto 'Dick Whittington' Credit: Phill Tull
Alison Hammond (Genie), Mitch Hewer (Aladdin) and the cast of the Cresset Theatre, Peterborough's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: Chris Brudenell Photography
Helen Watson (Fairy Godmother) and Anna Mitcham (Cinderella) in the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa's 2014 panto 'Cinderella' Credit: Phill Tull
Sonia (Fairy), Bobby Crush (Nurse Nelly), Marc Baylis (Prince) and the cast of the Churchill Theatre, Bromley's 2014 panto 'Sleeping Beauty' Credit: Michael Farenden
David Rankine as Aladdin in Eden Court, Inverness's 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: Phill Tull
Lucy Kane (Alice Fitzwarren), David Ashley (Sarah the Cook), Nigel Havers (King Rat) and the cast of the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon's 2014 panto 'Dick Whittington' Credit: Kate Bentley
Jonathan Wilkes (Dick Whittington), Christian Patterson (Sarah the Cook) and Louise Dearman (Alice) in the Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent's 2014 panto 'Dick Whittington' Credit: Richard Johnson
Andy Owens (Peter Pan) and Craig Revel Horwood (Captain Hook) in the Orchard Theatre, Dartford's 2014 panto 'Peter Pan' Credit: Simon Hildrew
Ruth Madoc (Wicked Queen) and the cast of the Pavilion Theatre, Rhyl's 2014 panto 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' Credit: Rhyl Pavilion
Louie Spence as the Slave of the Ring in the White Rock Theatre, Hastings' 2014 panto 'Aladdin' Credit: White Rock Theatre
Jeremy Edwards (Gaston), Roxanne Palett (Belle), Steve Walls (Idle Jacque the Jester) and the cast of the Playhouse, Whitley Bay's 2014 panto 'Beauty and the Beast' Credit: Paul Clapp

With September almost over, it's now fewer than six weeks until some casts begin rehearsing for panto season 2014. Throughout the past month, principal boys have been meeting their princesses for the first time at photo shoots and production launches have taken place at venues up and down the country as the big marketing push for the season goes into full swing.

This month's panto news blog boasts 28 images and provides a fascinating insight into the myriad cast configurations and production aesthetics from a range of producers and theatres. From the images alone, we see 2014 will bring more female Dames and Ugly Sisters than last season with South Hill Park, Bracknell opting for Heather Rayment in the role of Widow Twankey and both the Garrick Theatre, Lichfield and Hertford Theatre too have cast female performers in the role of Ugly Sisters.

Breaking from his seasonal cross-dressing, this year Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood plays Captain Hook having donned a frock as the Wicked Queen in Snow White for Qdos Entertainment since 2009. With Paul O'Grady having originated the part of the Drag Villain Wicked Queen, it is no surprise that Revel Horwood will yet again follow in his footsteps with this month's announcement that he is to play Miss Hannigan in the 2015 tour of Annie, produced by Qdos Entertainment's very own Michael Harrison.

Revel Horwood will return to Dartford to give his Hook, having previously appeared at the Orchard Theatre in 2011, but someone who won't be returning to their usual venue is Tim Vine who hops across South West London from Richmond to Wimbledon to star as Buttons in Cinderella. That First Family's production will boast Vine, Matthew Kelly and Matthew Rixon, three of the country's most talented comic pantomime performers, suggests it will be their strongest panto to date, with news of Wimbledon's headliner expected within the next fortnight...

Changes to casting occur for various reasons and unfortunately Keith Harris has had to withdraw from Hull's panto at the New Theatre due to ill health. Harris is replaced by the Grumbleweeds as the Chinese Policeman and David Witts, who makes his pantomime debut, as the Genie of the Lamp.

No stranger to pantomime or Nottingham, John Elkington and Rebecca Little return to the Playhouse stage in Sleeping Beauty as Nurse Tilly Trott and Queen Gertrude, whilst in Crawley Lauren Cocoracchio beat off the competition in an open audition to be crowned Sleeping Beauty in the Hawth's 2014 production of the title.

Other lucky performers joining panto casts this year are Jamie Papanicolaou as Aladdin in Gravesend and Eleanor Sanders and Holly Ann Hull as Robin Hood and Maid Marian in Dunstable having won Magic Beans's annual Panto Factor competition.

In Hayes, Simon Wegrzyn is set to star as the Man in the Mirror, a role once played by Lionel Blair and most recently Gok Wan, at the Beck Theatre, whilst in Richmond, Bournemouth regular Chris Jarvis joins Jerry Hall for his first season with First Family Entertainment.

At Òran Mór, Glasgow the theatre is set to produce the Emperor's New Clothes after this summer's successful run of lunchtime panto Maw Goose whilst in London Excess All Areas present adult panto Booty and the Biatch at the Lost Theatre after many sell out seasons aboard the Battersea Barge.

And finally, if you're interested in all things panto, why not join me, Roy Hudd, Philip Meeks and Robert Pearce for a full day of pantomime discussions and workshops at The Actors Centre on November 14 for Oh Yes, it really is! Panto in the 21st Century. We look forward to seeing you there!