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February 1st The Panto Continues!

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Here we are- off on the Road To Morocco in search of Abanazar! From the left Ben as Genie, Lucy as Aladdin, Vincent as Wishy, Andrew as Twankey and me as the Slave Of The Ring.

This week we’ve done tea matinees and a lunch matinee to date, each show packed to the rafters with jolly audiences. It really is a great atmosphere- tables and chairs laid out , the auditorium lit and looking festive- and it is now officially February. A few of the long running major pantomimes have just finished- Bradford, Newcastle, Birmingham, York, and we will carry on the traditions into March and then- it’ll be time for Easter Pantomimes once again!

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Lucy, Nigel & Shelby

We are carrying on the noble tradition of a female Principal Boy here at Brick Lane. Lucy has played this role a few times over the past few years, and does so after finishing her own pantomime where she plays Principal Girl. The role played by a lady isn’t seen very much these days- it has come and gone as fashion dictates. When I was young I watched male pop stars play Principal Boy in Panto- a fashion set by Cliff Richard when he was at The London Palladium.

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Then I started to appear in Pantomimes myself, and the tide turned in favour of the ladies- heralded by Cilla Black appearing at The London Palladium.

I did “Cinderella” with many female Princes- Jan Hunt, Janet Dibley, Caroline Dennis, and female Dandinis- including Fern Britton and Anneka Rice. It is refereshing to see Lucy strut her stuff here in Brick Lane and keep up the tradition that goes way back to the mid eighteen hundreds!

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I was heading for the Docklands Railway yesterday, and with my hood up against the icy blasts, I felt secure enough NOT to be recognised (I never am!) to get into the lift with some of our audience. “Oh, I laughed so much my jaw aches”.. I smiled inside my hood … “Beautiful Costumes!”.. I smiled more.. “Lovely songs”.. I grinned.. Then they began an impromptu version of “we’re In The Money” with movement and set the lift alarm off!

I stopped grinning! Thankfully we slowly creaked up to the platform and I got my train!

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That’s a cheeky shot!

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Ben doesn’t appear until nearly the end of Act One- hence his casual attire!

Today we have a lunchtime show, which means we go up half an hour later than Tea matinees- the show is at 2.30pm. The coaches will have arrived and the audience will be tucking into the three course meal as I arrive, and then off we go.

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Here are a few pictures from my V&A visit last Sunday to see Danny La Rue’s costume installed next to Peter & I in the theatre section. The display looks lovely- I’ll be returned to see an exhibition on the Ocean Liners later this month. The Opera exhibition finishes shortly.

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Danny’s “Aladdin” costume (formerly “Mother Goose” at Plymouth) next to Peter Robbins Ballgown and my Ballgown, from “Cinderella”.

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I’m off to get ready for the lunchtime show. If you fancy seeing a fun and furry panto this Easter, here’s a version of “Alice In Wonderland” with the gorgeous Ashleigh & Sully starring!

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Allo Allo- It’s Panto!

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Our first Evening show of the run, joined by the lovely Vicki Michelle, Her Husband Graham Fowler and two of her three siblings!

We’ve got through week one with Two Afternoon Tea shows, and tonight’s Evening Show with Dinner, which starts at 9pm, coming down at around Eleven Thirty. The show has had a few tweaks here and there- no major cuts, only small trims. I’ve slightly altered my “Business” as Slave Of The Ring- it’s a subtle change, but it works better and I’m happy with it.

SONY DSC  SONY DSCBackstage is still pretty fast and furious- Andrew changing frequently and for short periods as Widow Twankey, With Sam, Jordan and Nathan changing almost as many times. We might need traffic lights installed at this rate!. Zara and Lucy co-ordinate this maelstrom of costumic activity, and the audiences reactions are the reward as each new costume makes an appearance.

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Lucy As Principal Boy

Tonight (Friday’s) show had an extra zing that an evening performance brings, and the audience were “up for it” all the way. They have fun and we have fun I guess, that’s the best way to put it! From the Dinner, the first half, the topping up of wine in the Interval and the singalong finale, it all powered along until half eleven.

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Andrew Ryan, Graham Fowler, Nigel, Vicki, Andrew & Vincent

Popped front of house at the end to join Vicki and Graham (Vicki had called around in the Interval as well) and joined up with Andrew Ryanfor a Dame Fest at the bar! Andrew (Ryan) had just returned from the Palace Westcliff- he’s in “Mindgames” by Anthony Horowitz this week, part of his tour.

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Tomorrow is also an evening show- we arrived around 8pm for the curtain to rise in Peking at 9pm. The guests are already dining by the time we arrive, and once the tables are clear, off we go. It was lovely to see Vicki tonight- she’s currently in Channel 5’s “Costa Del Celebrity” alongside Anne Diamond, Ainsley Harriott, Christine Hamilton and Nick Owen. – Fond memories of working with Nick in “The Krankies” TV series on the racetrack at Carlisle!

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Celebrities In Spain!

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Vicki has just finished Panto at Northwich- As Slave of The Lamp- I have a Sister Slave in tonight! For more info look at http://www.vickimichelle.co.uk

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Vicki in Panto this season

For tonight, it’s midnight and the Magic Lamp can go back in the cave until 9pm tomorrow!

Opening Day! Wednesday 24th Jan

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Nigel & Sam and in the dressing room with David, Nigel and Andrew

Another Openin’, Another Show! This time after a Technical rehearsal yesterday, we did a full dress rehearsal this morning, starting at 10.30am.

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In such a small space it is truly remarkable how so many people can do so many costume changes and exits and entrances and manage not to collide! A testimony to the discipline backstage I reckon, and to Zara co-ordinating everything like a chess game!

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Every nook and cranny  (or Crook and Nanny as we used to say in “Babes In The Wood”) is filled- treasure chests and house themed costumes fill the office corridor. Giant Tutus fill the space above our heads, while every item of furniture from Piano to chair are used to pre-set costume changes. Two dressing rooms. Eleven performers, three musicians and today four technical people, all moving through the space once used by a vicar and the odd curate!

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Yesterday we ran through the show with all the musical numbers and some lighting effects added. Today we added full costumes, full lighting and we didn’t stop. The jigsaw effect I wrote about yesterday came to fruition- the pieces are in place, all we need now is- the biggest piece. The Audience!

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Some photos from yesterday’s Technical Rehearsal

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Today we finished the Dress Rehearsal at around 12.45pm, then started the make-up process- I was trying out something different to Dame today, so mine took longer than I’d normally take. The Slave Of The Ring has more glitter and a different shaped eye area, so once that is settled, it should only take me about twenty minutes start to finish.

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We went up at 2pm to a full house- packed to the very sides and back of the auditorium, and played to a VERY perky audience- great response, at one point in The Busy Bee Andrew and I were behind the cloth listening to shrieking and that wonderful “Whooping” you only get with a variety show or a pantomime matinee!

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First half an hour then the interval where the audience (and the company backstage!) tuck into the cream tea, then resume Act Two at 4pm. We finished around 5pm give or take.

From my point of view I was delighted to get all the lines out and in the right order- get some good laughs on the gags and each costume change- a luxury total of four (after the fifteen a show throughout December that is like a holiday!) completed. All in all we all deserved to feel pretty good about today’s First Performance.

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Hoping to have some Front Of House production pictures to share soon. Joanne Hayes was in today- lovely to see her again, and she took some great backstage and a few FOH pictures. As we progress I’m hoping to introduce the company individually, and share a few backstage pics here and there! Stay with me on this blog for twice weekly updates and a few celebrity surprises when our mates pop in to see the show!

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David Phipps Davis- as Abanazar!

 

 

 

 

Aladdin: Monday 22nd

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The “Books down” day! Usually in a two week panto rehearsal the books are down by the Friday- we’ve had four days, so its good to be ahead of the game! Saturday was a rehearsal for musical numbers- and being a Music Hall there are a lot, and today is our day for going through the show incorporating these numbers and finalising the comedy spots while running through the script.

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The Theatre is a hive of activity.On stage the showis being rehearsed, or a music number is being honed. At the back of the auditorium today we were joined by Musical Director (and regular Hackney Empire MD for Panto) Mark Dickman. He arrived to programme the keyboards with the orchestrations and things I barely understand!

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Mark (Left) with Martin.

Meanwhile Stevie Metcalf is in the middle of the auditorium dressing wigs and generally glitzing up the headdresses, while Zara keeps an eye on the rehearsal and script changes, having sorted costumes (and there are many of them) into dressing rooms, and props which are now piling up on the tables.

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David & Paul and Stevie Metcalf

When not on stage people are in corners running lines, Anthony is sorting sound and lights. We have now been joined by Lighting Designer Kevin Roach on his annual panto visit to brighten the show in a big way!

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Kevin Roach

Frank has left, the costumes all complete, and Tom and Martin worked on the music while Chris and his assistants finished the last pieces of set in the auditorium.

You can see that every available space is being used in the giant jigsaw that is to become a show. That is what a panto is- lots of different pieces, worked on by different people- and on Technical and Dress rehearsal those pieces get slotted together. Its the way it has always been done!

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I’ve got my costumes, wigs and make-up sorted, so I’m ready for the off, and once I’ve run through “The Old Bazaar In Cairo” a few more times, I’ll feel a bit more confident!

Today we ran the entire show, stopping for bits that needed working on, or numbers that needed to be worked on. The routines like “The Not Here”, “The Balloon Ballet” and “The Busy Bee” and “The Screen Routine” (New to me too!) are all slotted in to this jigsaw we call Panto.

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The Balloon Ballet – it looks better with tutus.. and balloons!

So we have a show- what we don’t have yet is a running time. In Brick Lane we usually aim for around One Hour First Half, and then a shorter second act. On an afternoon tea show we have a one hour break between Act One and Act Two, for a lunchtime show the interval is Half an hour, and about the same for the Evening Dinner Shows. we’ll have a better idea of the running times tomorrow, and see if Vincent and Zara will be getting out the scissors!

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we finished at around five fifteen- and our call tomorrow is 10.30am.

 

 

 

Aladdin- Wednesday to Friday

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Wednesday-Friday 19th January 2018

A pretty full week of rehearsals here in Grown Ups Pantoland! We open next Tuesday, so it is truncated and therefore pretty busy! During Wednesday we blocked some of the scenes while Jordan (Choreographer) ran through routines in the back of the auditorium with Sam and Nathan.

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Frank Kershaw, costumier arrived with his trusty sewing machine, his overlocker and many bolts of fabric. He will be with us for the week, and between calls everyone (except me- I come self contained!) had costume fittings with Frank in Number Two dressing room.

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We’ve been joined by Stephen Metcalf- Stevie is here with us for a while sorting out the wigs that need dressing and creating a few bits of glitz along with Frank, keeping the BLMH tradition of being “Over The Top” alive and well!

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Sam, Nigel & Jordan

Wednesday finished with all the blocking finished, but with a couple of big dance routines and a couple of comedy routines (or scenas, as we used to call them) yet to be worked in.

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Lucy and Ben

Thursday: A day to try and work lines when possible- David (Abanazar) and I got a few opportunities to run through lines when not called. It’s pretty interesting to think we both finished doing the same subject- Jack and The Beanstalk” for the same Company- Qdos- and that both versions were quite different- the pantos are adapted to suit each venue and each “top Of The Bills” producing very different versions of the same creation!

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Rhys checks the rewrites to the script!

More costume fittings with Frank for the company. Zara has come up with a lot of costume requirements- there are more in this production than you would find in a longer show, which means mainly Andrew and The Ensemble guys will be changing costumes rapidly throughout. Having just finished twice daily fifteen costumes a show (and I’m Sure similar for David at Dartford), I feel for the need for speed, and I’m pretty happy with my total of four changes- Twice an Act !

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Today we went through the show from beginning to end, missing out a routine here and there, just to get a feel for the show. The script, as foretold is undergoing re-writes on a daily basis, with a revised version expected on Saturday.

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Friday- a long day “putting It Together” I used the time I wasm’t required to sort out a few costume snags- I’m using some Kenneth More Theatre Costumes I had made for other pantomimes, and I’ve adapted them to fit me as Aladdin’s Slave Of The Ring.  I had to sort out a few headdresses, fixing them to my wigs and wiring them, so I’ve ended up with four costumes and four wigs for the show, and all ready for the Dress/Technical rehearsal on next Tuesday & Wednesday.

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Vincent is doing a few traditional Panto routines in this “Aladdin”- among them the “Not Here” Gag, The “Busy Bee” and “The Balloon Ballet”- he and Andrew will be working on these as well as some Musical numbers on Saturday. Me- I’ve got the week-end off, so It is a good time to finish learning the (rewritten) lines!

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Anthony checking microphones while Shelby and David rehearse

The Musical folk- Lucy, Shelby, Jordan, Sam and Nathan will be joining Vincent and Andrew on Saturday. I’m called 10.30am Monday Morning.

Aladdin- Brick Lane 2018

 

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Tuesday 16th January 2018

Welcome back to the world of  Grown Ups Pantomime!

Once again, Ladies and Gentlemen (as they say in The Good Old Days repeated on BBC4 now and then) we return to this sumptuous palace of varieties in East London’s Silvertown, on The North Woolwich Road for a journey into Pantoland that extends to March 3rd and, possibly beyond!

At this moment in time the Adult Pantomime “Aladdin” is all but totally sold out. By the end of this week I believe there will be nothing left for Matinee tea panto, for Panto Lunches and for the Evening shows. It is a tribute to Vincent Hayes and his hard working staff and cast that this show has added extra dates, and they have sold out!

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David Phipps-Davis, Nigel Ellacott, Andrew Robley & Vincent Hayes

I will be keeping my eye on any additional shows that might mean there is room for fun and frolics in Old Peking, but in the meantime I will be keeping my blog going at least twice a week right through until we close.

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ALADDIN – Meet The Cast!

The show opens on Wednesday the  24th January, running through to March 3rd,  mostly one show a day with the odd two performances on Saturdays in March.

For those new to the BLMH Blog , I will be reporting news and taking pictures backstage, adding production photos from this gem of a building, and also adding some Music Hall articles as we go along. This is my fifth year here at Brick Lane- with a “Dick Whittington”, A “Babes In The Wood” and a “Jack and The Beanstalk” and a  “Sleeping Beauty” under my belt.

For newcomers to the Blog- yes, Brick Lane Music Hall is NOT in Brick Lane- it is the third creation of Vincent Hayes since his first two buildings in Brick Lane itself, and then nearby Curtain Row presented Pantomimes after Christmas, thus allowing those of us in a panto to finish, draw a deep breath, and start another one!

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Paul James & David Phipps-Davis

Rehearsals begin today: Tuesday 16th January. The assembled cast as follows!

Aladdin is played in true traditional style by Lucy Reed as Principal Boy, with The Widow Twankey played by Andrew Robley.

Wishee Washee is Vincent Hayes, joined as usual by Paul James as The Emperor and Abanazar is played by David Phipps-Davis making his debut appearance here.

Shelby Morgan is Principal Girl- The Princess So-Shy, with The Genie played by Ben Goffe. The Villagers and our talented ensemble are Sam Sadler, Jordan Langford and Nathan Lodge. I-Nigel Ellacott– will be giving my Slave Of The Ring this year, with all the double entendres that goes with it!

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Co-ordinating all of this will be BLMH Manager and production desaigner Zara Kattan putting together rehearsal schedules, costumes, costume fitting and properties over this coming week, aided in the costume front by Frank Kershaw, who will be making and fitting during the week.

My costumes I have brough with me- And the make-up and wigs and shoes I brought with me from the last night at High Wycombe. My costumes are with Qdos at the moment, and they will be returning to Ilford along with Andrew Ryan’s costumes in a week or so. I brought everything I needed, and I’ll bring them here on Friday. We dress rehearse next Tuesday.

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My costumes awaiting additions!

During this blog I’ll get the chance to introduce everyone here at BLMH over the next few weeks, and also feature some of our visitors at the same time! Rehearsals today began for the Singers and the ensemble joining our Music Director Tom Carradine and Martin Layzelle at 10am, with the rest of us joining at 10.30 for a cup of tea, a quick catch up on what’s been happening in pantoland and in Music Hall Land before a read through of the script at 11am.

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Scenic artist Chris Floyd worked with his assistants transforming the stage into Old Peking, and props started appearing along with some of the finale costumes. Anthony Friggens– in charge of sound and lighting checked out lighting and scenery ready for spending the rest of the week focussing the  rather sophisticated LED lighting array.He will be joined by designer Kevin Roach later in the week.

All of us sat around one of the vast tables in the Music Hall auditorium, and went throughg  a script that is never “set in stone”. Over the next few hours and days and even weeks it will evolve, it will enlarge, it will be cut and it will be honed to fit the individual talents and the style of this very unique place of entertainment. More of a think tank than a rehearsal at times!

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A peek preview of David as Abanazar

While we worked on script bits in the auditorium, Tom and  Martin ran through numbers in the Green Room , followed by the Long table with lunch as supplied by Brick Lane’s chef, Saleem- aways a highlight!

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Tom and the boys in The Green Room

Short afternoon for me, as it was a  music call, and I have only one shared number to worry about, so not long after Iunch I was headed for the Docklands Light Railway, heading home.

Call tomorrow is at 10.30 for music and the start of the blocking of scenes.

 

 

The Final Show! Farewell!

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With The Jackie Palmer Blue Team

Hard to believe, but today was our final show. The time has flown, and the energy never flagged right up to the end. We all agreed we could do another two weeks with ease!

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The Blue Team getting ready for the final two performances.

Visitors today included Laura Barrocliff and her daughter, Georgia. Laura was marketing at E&B Pantomimes with Lara O’Connor, and is now with Imagine Theatre – so lovely to have met up with both Laura and Lara from the Paul Elliott days here at The Swan, Wycombe!

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The day flew by, as last days always do. A final game of tuggy with Sully and Winter, a last interval chat with the “Interval” clan in Dressing Room A, and a flurry of pre-packing ready for the last show.

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What a lot of lovely memories!

Delighted to see my Brother Vivyan, Owen Smith and Isobel Hurll at the last show, and to get a lift back to East London via the crowded streets of London- everyone queuing on the bridges to watch the fireworks due at midnight along the Thames.

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I Scream For Ice Cream!

The last show was suberb, with a hugely appreciate audience. Lizzy, Clare and Phil helped pack up my costumes, Ice cream cone and Baked Bean Can as we went, so that by the final curtain everything was packed and ready. The set stood quiet, awaiting a get-out on Tuesday. Always sad to see a finale set unlit and empty!

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We mostly all said our goodbyes during the interval, as everyone dashes off as soon as the curtain falls, and heads for parties, or long journeys home. In a day Ashleigh will be on a plane for South Africa, and warm weather, helping out with animals on a reserve. Lizzy leaves me and the joys of our tiny Quick Change room and takes over at Wimbledon pantomime for the next two weeks. I have two weeks before starting “Aladdin” rehearsals for Brick Lane Music Hall- that takes me to March 9th or later!

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Farewell from The Wycombe Swan!

Here we all are in the final interval. It has really been a joy. We’ve all got on like houses on fire, and enjoyed performing together and enjoying the odd night out together over the past four/five weeks. A finer Crew you couldnt not wish to work with, superb Qdos Stage Management and Wardrobe team, and a very lovely staff here at the Swan from Stage Door to Marketing, Box Office and Front Of House. A very big thank you from all of us to Nicola,and her team, Barney & his band, and especially to Katherine for choreography- and the biggest thank you to Chris Jarvis- for a fantastic show!

Thank you all for a lovely “Jack and The Beanstalk” at The Wycombe Swan! Goodbye from all of us. Hope you enjoyed the blog- let me know if you did!

Watch This Space for the Brick Lane Music Hall Blog coming shortly!

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