We were invited to the launch event at the Old Palace in Bromley, and greeted with smiles, goody bags, and actors in costume and already full of panto spirit.
Heading the cast list is Scott Maslen, who is best known for his role as Jack Branning in EastEnders. He’ll be starring as villain Abanazar, and squaring-off against Luke Roberts’s eponymous hero. Young visitors to the show will recognise Luke from CITV’s Hi-5, and they’ll also recognise his love interest Princess Jasmine, played by Milkshake presenter Jen Pringle. The iconic dame Widow Twankey will be played, aptly, by television, stage and variety legend Bobby Crush. Charlie Guest, who recently finished in the West End run of The Gruffalo, is playing PC Pong.
The five stars were in attendance at the press launch, and right from the initial photo call, laughter was free-flowing from the gathered cast and spectators alike. Thankfully the sun came out to have a nosey as well and kept any September rain at bay, at least until cameras and costumes were put away and we were all back inside the reception room. We were lucky enough to grab Luke and Jen for a chat about the wealth of panto experience they have between them and what audiences (and cast!) might be able to expect from this year’s offering.
With a whopping 10 previous pantomime credits between them, we were surprised to learn that neither had watched Aladdin as a pantomime before. ‘I’ve only been it, I’ve never seen it,’ said Luke. ‘They’ve always been so different [when I’ve starred in them]. The main story’s there and obviously the characters are there but the show does change so much.’
‘And the songs are so different every year as well,’ Jen chipped in, ‘because it’s whatever’s in the charts this year will be in this year’s panto.’ Jen also recalled how her favourite panto role to date was Snow White and how exciting it was to have played the princess after a run of fairy-esque roles in her other shows. So, of course we had to ask her which role she had her eye on after Princess Jasmine.
‘Cinders! Because of the dress!’ Then, without hesitation, she pointed at Luke when asked who her Prince Charming would be. When goaded to pretend her co-star wasn’t sitting beside her, she pondered it for a moment and then asked ‘Can I say Enrique [Iglesias]? I’m aiming high, but he’s my favourite!’
This triggered merciless teasing from Luke about Jen’s taste in music. With the abundance of laughter and easy chemistry between the assembled cast this afternoon before they’ve even set foot on stage together, Bromley looks set to be delivering another theatrical treat. Even thirty-something-year-old “kids” seem bound to enjoy it.
‘Children will laugh along even if they don’t get it, but adults love it,’ Jen agreed. ‘And if they get involved and they laugh along it makes our job so much easier. When you’ve got an amazing audience, it just lifts you, doesn’t it?’
The pair were full of excitement at working with Scott Maslen, too, who they’d only met for the first time that morning. ‘I’m watching him like he’s the show,’ Luke said. ‘We need that natural energy.’
‘I just think he’s absolutely hilarious. We feel like we’ve known him for years!’ Jen enthused. ‘We’re going to have a ball!’
Chatting with Jen and Luke was a pleasure you could get a feel for the fun of the panto just from their excitement about it. They were also keen to tell us that Jen will be in another show at Bromley’s theatre, the Milkshake Live Party which you can go see on the 31st October, 2015.
When prompted for closing notes, Luke pitched, “Please book tickets, don’t go and see Shane Ritchie in Dartford. Bromley is where it’s at.”
Jen then leaned in to microphone, keen to provide the take-home message in true tv presenter style: ‘You can see us from the 27th of November until the 3rd of January and we guarantee bundles of fun.’
If the show is even half as fun as our day at the launch we think that is a pretty sure guarantee. To take her up on that yourselves, visit Churchill Theatre Bromley and book tickets!
By Bonnie Britain and Noor Samad
Aladdin is at The Churchill Theatre Bromley
Friday 27th November to Sunday 3rd January 2015
Sunday 20th September 2015