It may be 12 weeks until Christmas but it is time for Pantomimes around the country to launch their shows. Today was the Churchill Theatre in Bromley’s turn to launch Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Every year the Churchill Theatre have a lovely launch but this years location was just perfect. We were invited to Hever Castle. Built in the 13th century, Hever Castle was once home to Anne Boleyn, the second queen consort of King Henry VIII of England.
We started the afternoon off with a nice introduction to the cast, Pete Firman who will be playing Muddles, Jason Sutton as Nurse Nancy, and Jessie Wallace as the Wicked Queen, from Qdos’s executive producer Jonathan Kiley.
Jonathan explained to us that last years panto at the Churchill had a record attendance of 99% and this year is already set to beat that. Qdos Entertainment is the worlds biggest pantomime producer and said they will produce Snow White and Seven Dwarfs “featuring all the traditional pantomime ingredients Bromley theatregoers have come to now expect in a fantastic new production or the well-loved fairy tale“. All three actors were in full costume – Jessie looked the part in her wonderful Wicked Queen costume that fitted right in with the castle surroundings as if that was where she lived. Jonathan also announced that the Prince in this year’s Snow White will be played by West End favourite Oliver Tompsett who he is very excited to be working with.
I was invited to take some photos in the grounds of the castle and then have a chat with Pete, Jason and Jessie. They are all very much looking forward to spending December in Bromley – the main emphasis from all of them is they want to have fun so the audience can have fun too.
I asked Jessie about her experiences of pantomimes as a child, Jessie told me about one special moment she will never forget. “I remember going to see Cinderella when I was about 8 years old, and when they threw out the glass slipper to the audience it landed in my row, all my school friends were passing it down the line and as I was at the end I had to go up on stage and put it on Cinderellas’s foot. Tony Blackburn then came out and took me backstage, that’s a moment you just don’t forget as a child. It’s the audience participation that when you are a child is magic! When the fourth wall comes down and you are part of it you just never forget it“. Jessie also spoke about why things like that make her feel it is very important for children to be going to the theatre and panto can be just the start of the theatre journey.
Jessie is currently performing in Death Trap on tour, she had two shows yesterday and after today’s panto launch it is back to Southend for another show. If you want to catch the tour you are not too late as they are only half way through their tour dates. Even though Jessie is very busy now she is confident the panto will be “the best Panto in England“.
This will be the first time Jessie plays a wicked character after previously playing a fairy godmother and Maid Marion, when I asked what she is planning to bring to the new evil role she said, “I don’t know yet, I’m going to surprise people as I’ve never done evil before, but it will all be about the fun“.
Pete Firman is one of the UK’s leading comedian/magicians and a TV regular seen most recently on The Next Great Magician on ITV. This will be Pete’s debut in a panto and he joked Bromley is ‘popping his cherry‘.
Peter told me he will be bringing the jokes and the bag of tricks to the show. I asked what the plan is right now and if he is involved in the script at all. “It’s all being birthed at the minute so I am figuring out the best way to integrate the magic into the show, and I’m working with Jonathan on the script to see how we can work in spots of magic and I also will get my own bit in the show where I do some magic tricks with the audience. My favourite bits in pantos are when the cast crack each other up when they may come off-script and get the giggles so I think the script will be the frame but we may wonder a little and have some fun“.
Pete has more TV to do after panto and will be part of ‘The Generation Game’ with Mel and Sue, and he is also looking forward to going on tour and bringing his solo show back to Edinburgh festival in 2018. To see his dates you can go to his website. www.petefirman.co.uk
Jason Sutton is one of the UK’s best-known drag comedians and you may know him better as Miss Jason. Jason’s television credits include Channel 4’s Come Dine with Me, and Antiques Road Trip for BBC 2, and on stage The Boys in the Band and Privates On Parade. I asked Jason which he preferred, drag or straight? “I love the dressing up, to be honest, I like the frocks and I can look even more glam than I do today“. Jason has a lovely Nurse Nancy costume on and as all the costumes we have seen today this is a bit special, Jason agreed it is a very nice costume.
Jason has completed eight pantos previously and he said he always loves it, and he is especially excited about working with Qdos, and says playing a panto dame for them is like a dream come true. “When I was a kid we always used to go to the panto in London at the Palladium, which Qdos brought back there last year, of course, I went and loved it, panto has always been a big part of my life, and even before I started working on the cabaret circuit I always wanted to be a panto dame. When I went to panto I always fell in love with the dame and not the hero so I’m over the moon I get to play the dame“. Jason told me he thinks Nurse Nancy will be a bit saucy and says his cabaret act is a bit saucy too so he will be bringing that – but not to worry he will not be too saucy as it’s a family show.
Jason and Pete both also talked about how they were very much looking forward to being part of a cast/team as they normally are on their own on tour. The cast are all very excited to start working on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which will start in Bromley at the Churchill Theatre on Saturday 2nd December and will run until 31st December.
I can not wait to see what this year’s Panto is like and advise if last years sales are anything to go by you should get booking now.
By Bonnie Britain
Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, don’t miss the fairest pantomime of them all!
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be spectacularly brought to life with an abundance of comedy, sensational song and dance numbers, fabulous costumes and stunning scenery.
Star of stage and screen Jessie Wallace will be joined by comedian and magician Pete Firman as Muddles and hilarious panto dame Jason Sutton as Nurse Nancy.
Throw in a magical Mirror, a beautiful princess, a handsome prince and plenty of audience participation as we outwit the Wicked Queen and let love prevail in this glittering festive treat for all ages.
Please be aware this production contains pyrotechnics, strobe lighting, smoke and loud noises. During the Relaxed Performance, strong lighting and loud noises are reduced and all pyrotechnics are removed.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
2 – 31 December 2017
Churchill Theatre, Bromley