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Pantomime Roadshow Returns Home!

November 10, 2013

The Pantomime Roadshow 2013

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After six weeks of touring, this year’s Pantomime Roadshow has come to the end of the road for 2013!

Sixty performances, over a thousand miles and 120 get-ins and get-outs through rain and sun, we have finished for the season. Andrew Ryan, Nathan Daniel and I set off on September 23rd and began a two week tour of Redbridge and East London for the Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford,organised by Steven Day,  followed by the Mayflower Theatre Southampton for the week of October 9th. We were looked after by Sara Scott and Mike Evans and played to schools in Southampton, Fareham and Portsmouth during the week.

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Christopher Marlowe

In Southampton we managed to catch up with fellow Dame and old mate Christopher Marlowe. Chris will be giving his Dame at The King’s Southsea this season. He and Andrew toured for a long while throughout the UK and Europe- even to Israel with “The Rocky Horror Show”, and Chris has played Dame at Ilford many times.

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From Southampton we travelled to Birmingham for a working weekend! Andrew & I were filming “David Dickinson’s Real Deal” on the Saturday morning, ap[pearing in the “ident” sequences for “Text Santa”. Effectively we did the Ins and the Outs of the sequences before & after the ad breaks. It was over in a flash, and a jolly time was had by all. What a great bunch the production crew were- a pleasure to work with you all!

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Bradford, arriving on October 14th for the Alhambra Theatre  Pantomime Roadshow. Su Holgate has been co-ordinating the Roadshow for the many years we have taken the show there. During our week in Bradford we got the chance to view the stunning new restaurant in the upper reaches of the beautiful Alhambra, with views over the new square, and over the newly rescued Art Deco cinema next door.

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The Roadshow Company with Su Holgate- At The Alhambra

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The Midland Bradford

We stay at the Midland. This hotel has huge theatrical connections, as it was where Sir Henry Irving died, attended by his manager Bram Stoker- destined to become even more famous than his employer when he created “Dracula”. Irving gave his last performance at the Bradford Theatre in 1905- the anniversary being on the very night we arrived. I relayed this information to Fellow Dame Martin Ramsdin, who was about to visit Whitby as part of a Bram Stoker event! He was delighted with the information!

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A great week in Bradford, with large numbers seeing every show, and then we set off for a weekend in transit (actually IN the Transit) to Blackpool prior to heading North.

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This trip we managed to fit in a visit to the fabulous “Funny Girls” revue and spent an afternoon strictly NOT ballroom dancing in the Tower Ballroom- Mr Matcham’s magnificent, over-the-top temple of all things bling!

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From Blackpool we set off across the border at Gretna for Glasgow. This is a welcome return visit for the SECC Roadshow, and we were well looked after by Scott Rosewier, and by Neil and Marcus from Glasgow’s huge entertainment complex. Nathan went to  see his former stage-mate Jessie J in concert there one evening, and apparently her sound system was bigger than ours? Hard to believe, but there you are. Nathan appeared on stage with Jessie in shows like Titanic early on in her career. I can remember Jessie Cornish appearing locally in Ilford with the WennStageSchool and what an amazing voice she had way back then!

From Glasgow we returned to London, stopping overnight at a hotel I remembered from a panto season in Darlington. It was the Blackwell Grange, once the very stately home of Valerie Hobson, star of the West End in the 1950’s and ‘60’s and her soon to be notorious husband John Profumo. The affair that rocked the nation is currently being recalled in a musical called “Stephen Ward”, by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Christopher Hampton. Performances begin on December 3rd at the Aldwych Theatre London.

I remember it mostly for having Christmas Day Lunch there with Andrew (Ryan) and the lovely Ray Meagher when I did “Cinderella” at Darlington with Ray and Stu Francis and Judy Buxton. It’s a bit faded now and in need of a make-over, but it still has a beautiful staircase fit for the star of “The King & I”, Valerie Hobson.

Back home with a week out- it being half term, and duty bound to pop onto Eurostar for a few days in Paris, staying at my all time favourite hotel “Le Lutetia”- a glorious Art Deco hotel that has been the pre panto treat every year. Sadly this will be the last visit for several years, as the Hotel is closing in April for a major revamp, and it might be four years before the dust sheets come off.

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Returning to unpack- I had already packed for the next days return to the roadshow a week ago- clever move that. So many suitcases and so many hotels- Nathan and I had a discussion: We have both woken up and had no idea where we were on at least one occasion, and no alcohol was involved!

Just before returning to Wolverhampton, a chance to celebrate Barrie Stacey’s 87th Birthday at the CAA in The West End. A short hour but great to see so many old friends celebrating a legend’s Birthday!

photo Barrie Stacey at 87 years young!

The final week of the Panto Roadshow was for the Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton. A return to the Novotel, where I’ve worked out I have now spent a grand total of ten weeks this time! Lovely to meet up with old mates from last year’s Grand Pantomime “Jack & The Beanstalk”, and had a visit to the crew room to catch up, as well as a drink with the gorgeous Fiona who looked after me throughout the quick changes last season in our cosy Quick-Change room on Stage Right!

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Great to meet up once again with Louise Bent who, as she has done for several years, organises our Roadshow and looks after us as we visit Wolves, Dudley and the surrounding areas. Sadly this trip there was no visit to see Tallullah! Regular blog readers will recall my beautiful adopted Tapir from Dudley Zoo? Well, Tallullah grew up, and, as part of an international breeding programme she has now been relocated to another Zoo- either Howlets in Kent or to Longleat I believe- I will be finding out where this week. I will be making a trip to say hello in the spring, never fear!

Wolverhampton Grand very kindly invited Andrew, Nathan and myself to attend the Panto launch dinner of “Sleeping Beauty”, held in the football stadium function rooms. The grand evening was in football theme, and lovely to see Adam Starr from the Grand making an appearance as Panto Dame, alongside Matt and Scott from the theatre. Louise looking resplendent in a Grand Theatre Panto “Onesie”- a charity event that raised some vital cash for theatre community projects.

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The event was hosted by “Sleeping Beauty” herself Lucy Evans, and it was great to see Adrian LeSurf from Qdos there. The Cabaret and highlight of the evening was Ceri Dupree- Faaaaabulous as several of his glamorous ladies from showbusiness- Dolly Levi, Channing, Dietrich and Zsa Zsa Dahlink! A wonderful finale to a great evening. I know that Ceri & Lucy will have THE best of times at the Grand this coming season. I certainly did last year!

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Ceri Dupree & Lucy Evans at the Panto Launch Wolverhampton. Faaaaabulous!

We had a great week in Wolverhampton and did ten shows, then headed back to London on Friday night. Amazing to think something like 17,000 plus children have seen a bit of panto magic over the past weeks. Thanks to Andrew, to Nathan and to everybody involved in supporting the Roadshow over the past two months. For now.. well Nathan starts rehearsing tomorrow (Monday) in Newcastle-joining Chris Hayward- he’ll be in “Jack & The Beanstalk”, while Andrew will be heading firstly to Mansfield- he’s directing “Cinderella” at the Palace there, before he starts rehearsing for his “Robinson Crusoe” in Southampton with Brian Conley and Lesley Joseph.

Me? Well, I get a couple of weeks off to pack my costumes and check I’ve done everything for the Ilford KMT Panto costumes, then I set off to rejoin the wonderful John Evans once again in a return to a favourite venue- Llandudno for “Sleeping Beauty”.

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The brilliant John Evans in action!

Joining me again this year, at Venue Cymru- he was with me last year at Wolverhampton is David Laine, Musical Director Supremo! I’m very much looking forward to meeting Vicky Entwistle and Brendan Sheerin, and to meeting up with Director Michael Gyngell once more. My panto is five weeks in total this year, inclusing rehearsals in London and in North Wales.. and after that… well, I may have a little bit of news to announce.. Panto isn’t just for Christmas you know….!! Watch this space!

For now- Farewell Roadshow. Great memories, see you same time next year! Huge thanks Andrew & Nathan!

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