At Churchill Theatre Bromley Christmas 2014 is the traditional pantomime Sleeping Beauty.
Playing the role of the Good Fairy is 80s pop icon Sonia. Sonia released a number of hits during the 80s and 90s but is probably most famous for her number 1 hit You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You and representing the UK in the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest where she came second. She has also appeared as Bunty Savage, Lily Savage’s daughter and in the reality TV show Reborn In The USA.
A face the children will know is Jamie Rickers who is playing Silly Billy. Jamie is a familiar face on CiTV and Nickelodeon, with hosting Toonattik and Jamie and Anna’s U-Pick Summer.
Bonnie Britain, from LondonTheatre1.com, chatted with Sonia and Jamie Rickers at the recent Sleeping Beauty Press Launch, and this is what they had to say.
Sonia – The Good Fairy
You have a fabulous fairy costume, will you be taking it home to wear around the house?
Well, my little girl who is only 4 is always wearing fairy outfits. Last year I played Fairy in New Brighton, and every day she wore a fairy dress exactly like me, all day and all through the performances.
Will your daughter be coming to see this panto?
Most definitely. She will be in the wings with her little fairy dress on. The magical thing about this year is that I am going to be flying. She didn’t see me fly last year, so she is going to be amazed.
What else are you looking forward to in Sleeping Beauty?
I have never done a panto in or near London before, so that is really exciting. It is such an amazing and strong cast, it is a company of singers. The show will be fabulous.
As well as acting on television, you have also performed in the West End, including Sandy in Grease. After panto, is there anything you would love to go back into?
I do love acting. I would love to do a gritty drama on television, and I love treading the boards, musical theatre for example. But, I am loving doing my Rewind shows at the moment, with 20-40,000 people all singing the song back to you. It’s amazing and is like one big party, a big trip down memory lane.
Have you a favourite song you like to perform?
Everyone looks forward to the number one, ‘You’ll Never Stop Me Loving You’, so that’s going to be the favourite. Everyone knows the words, and sing the words straight back at me, which is such an amazing feeling.
How do you manage your family life with performing and touring?
You just have to juggle everything really. My husband is my tour manager which is fantastic. Most of the shows we take Gracie with us, and she just loves it. Since she was born she has been on the road with us. It is kind of what we have always done, it is our life really. We love it, as we can all be together.
Why should people come and see Sleeping Beauty?
Please come. It’s going to be lots and lots of fun. Amazing songs and traditional family fun.
Jamie Rickers – Silly Billy
Have you been in many pantomimes?
I have been in a few. I usually play Buttons in panto, that is my usual character. I have been Wishy Washy in Aladdin and Smee in Peter Pan, and have also played a baddie. But I have never been in Sleeping Beauty.
What are you looking forward to most in this production?
Learning a new script! Most of my shows have been as Buttons, so it is quite nice to get hold of a new script, and look at new gags. I usually work with the Ugly Sisters whereas now I have a mother figure in, so hopefully some slapstick.
How much ad-libbing will you do?
I am not a storyteller, so I am not integral to the plot, but there will be markers and pointers that help drive the story forward. You can expect to see different versions each time you come and see the show. Sometimes you can have a small audience and a gag will bring the house down, and then another time with a full house with the same gag, and there is nothing. You never know whether the gags will work or not, as it depends on the audience.
Did you go to panto as a child and what is your fondest memory?
One of the first ones I remember was being at The Palladium, with my parents and grandparents, when Jim Davidson was Dick Whittington. I kind of grew up at The Cliffs Pavilion in Southend, and I always wanted to be on the stage there. So, growing up and going to the panto each year at The Cliffs was my fondest memory. When I finally got to be in my first panto it was as Buttons.
Is it important to bring children to panto to spark their interest?
Yes it is very important. Sometimes panto is the first experience that young children will get of theatre, so it is important that we get it right. If you get it wrong, you can put kids off for life.
As well as pantomime what do you do?
For 16 years I was a children’s tv presenter, CITV, CBBC, Nickleodeon, Discovery, and all that kind of stuff, as well as GMTV, Daybreak. I do work for Heart FM. I still do late night stuff for ITV. I do have my fingers in many pies – my work is non-stop. Working in panto, I like to make my character quite slapstick, so it is quite a physical performance. So if it is a 3-show day, I am ready to stop.
Something fun: are there any Disney films that you might like to adapt into a Panto?
Maybe Rapunzel or Frozen, which would be a fantastic one to do as there are great costumes, great music, good story and lots of interesting things going on. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do Frozen on Ice.
Would you be interested in doing any acting elsewhere on stage when you are not in panto?
Absolutely, I have a new agent who is into musical theatre. I am not a classically trained singer. Maybe some comedy style acting – One Man, Two Guvnors or that kind of thing. Performances where it is fun, fast and witty. But you do have to learn and know your craft and hold an audience. It isn’t just learning the part and performing it, it is about engaging with the audience in those roles to make sure they are with you. Which is for me an added layer.
Why should everyone come and see this panto?
The Churchill Theatre is a beautiful theatre, with one of the best traditional pantos on there, and a fantastic cast. The show has a great script and will be very funny. Just come along and have some fun and we will make a fuss of you.