Pantomime is many people’s earliest experience of the theatre. With its vivid colours, slapstick comedy, and catchy songs, there’s enough happening onstage to keep even the tinies transfixed over two acts. The entrancing play of lights and the frenetic, if bewildering, action can hold our attention long before we reach the developmental stage of being able to empathise with or understand the motivations of characters or even to follow the simplest of plots. No doubt about it, pantomime can be the start of a child’s life-long love for live theatre. It can even set some young people on a path to explore their own talents, in acting, singing, dancing—or any other of the many other skills which can be put to use within the theatre.
In short, this popular Christmastime tradition does more than simply brighten the gelid winter evenings; panto can also inspire and ignite the imaginations of even the youngest members of the audience. This is reason enough to celebrate the Grand Theatre’s announcement that 2017 marks its twenty-first year of working with UK productions to bring its annual panto to Blackpool.
Their first panto, way back in 1996 (was that really twenty-one years ago? Gosh, I feel old!) was Cinderella, starring Northern Irish comedian and Catchphrase presenter Roy Walker and television presenter Jenny Powell. This year, they are commemorating twenty-one years of working together by returning to this beloved rags-to-riches tale, this time with a cast that includes JJ Hamblett of Union J as Prince Charming, Olivia Birchenough of Channel 5’s Milkshake as Cinderella herself and Melanie Walters of Gavin and Stacey as her Fairy Godmother.
For many of those twenty-one years (the last fifteen years to be precise), BBC Radio Lancashire presenter Steve Royle has appeared in every one of the Grand’s pantos. This year is no exception as he takes on the role of Buttons, Cinderella’s best friend who proves himself a true friend by helping her win her prince.
While the Grand’s production of Cinderella will be a memorable introduction to the theatre for many children, many others won’t be so lucky. With that in mind, the Grand has just launched Magic & Sparkle, a scheme which enables theatregoers to make it possible for someone, who might not otherwise have the chance, to attend the pantomime. The Grand’s Marketing Manager Andrew Howard explains: “We’d like our customers to think in these hard times of others that might not be as fortunate as themselves and how much of an experience they would be giving if they purchased one extra pantomime ticket at a very special rate. The theatre will then donate these Magic & Sparkle tickets to organisations and community groups who really need a special treat at Christmas.” Anyone who would like to make someone’s Christmas in this way can ask at the box office or look for the Magic & Sparkle ticket add-on when they book online.
Cinderella is at Blackpool Grand Theatre to Sunday 7 January 2018. All tickets are available from blackpoolgrand.co.uk or you can call the box office on 01253 290190. If you’re alarmingly organised, you may also want to book tickets for next year’s newly-announced panto, Beauty and The Beast. It runs from Friday, 7 December 2018 to Sunday, 6 January 2019.
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