Panto Pals!

The past couple of weeks has been a joy, meeting up with pals from Pantoland, and catching up on their news, seeing their shows and generally touching base after our various seasons across the country.

This week-end I’m off to Crufts to see Ashleigh Butler and Sully strut their stuff in the agility ring- the finals being just before “Best Of Show” on Sunday at the NECC in Birmingham.

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Ashleigh & Sully at Crufts last year.

Ashleigh and I have been together in two pantomimes- Northampton and High Wycombe and this year the duo went to The Sands Centre, Carlisle with Ashleigh as Dorothy in “The Wizard Of Oz”. Looking forward to catching up on Sunday and seeing Sully compete in the Agility. There was a taster on TV last night with Claire Balding interviewing Ashleigh, and a demonstration of some of the obstacles Sully will be facing in the ring!

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From last night’s Crufts on TV.

Last week-end (My Birthday week-end- yes, I’m approaching thirty, but I hear you ask “From which Direction?”) we went to Sunny Benidorm. In actuality it was Sunny Brighton to SEE Benidorm Live, at the Theatre Royal with our mate Sherrie Hewson as Joyce Temple-Savage. We had a fun couple of days catching up on things- Sherrie missed panto this year as the tour of Benidorm played the Alexandra Theatre Birmingham for the season for Michael Harrison and David Ian. The tour is continuing for another six weeks. I think this week marks the 200th Performance when they are in Aberdeen!

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In Sunny (actually rainy) Brighton with Sherrie Hewson and Andrew Ryan.

Sherrie and Andrew were in “Beauty & The Beast” at Nottingham Theatre Royal the year before last, and between Andrew and I we’ve been in four, possibly five pantos with Sherrie. we had a jolly time- the picture of Sherrie is at the Brighton Museum, which has a small section on performing Arts in the town. We’ll catch up with Miss Hewson in Wimbledon when Benidorm arrives there.

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Talking of Museums, The costumes I donated to the V&A Performance Galleries are still there on display, so there is still time to take a look at the Ballroom costumes worn by Peter Robbins and myself as we Go To The Ball!

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The social whirl continued with a Joe Allans meal with Chris Jarvis last week. Chris has just finished appearing, writing and Directing Poole Lighthouse “Dick Whittington” and is, in fact nominated in the Best Principal Boy section of the Great British Pantomime Awards! Chris and I did Wycombe Jack & The Beanstalk the year before last, and Andrew Ryan has appeared with Chris in panto as well. Here’s a picture of Chris,Me, Richie, and Andrew.

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Andrew Ryan, James Horne, Nigel Ellacott

A few days before here’s Andrew and I with Panto Dame James Horne. James is the veteran of many a Panto across the country,and a frequent performer in the West End.  He and Andrew played Sister together at Bath Theatre Royal back in the day. Here we are having a jolly evening at Bar Atlantic, in Zedel’s.

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Linking in quite nicely- here’s the current line up for Bath Theatre Royal- and today (March 8th) is our Panto Pal Nick Wilton’s Birthday! Nick was at Blackpool Grand last season, and returns to Bath with his mate Jon Monie for this year’s panto.

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Michelle Potter

Birthday girl (8th March) today is the lovely Michelle Potter, seen here in “Cinderella” with Brian Conley. This was taken at Nottingham Theatre Royal when Peter Robbins and I were Ugly Sisters- I think Michelle was our “Cinders” for four Pantomimes. Happy Birthday Michelle!

It’s a small small world! Crossing the car park of the Kenneth More Theatre today, I ran into the company of “The Feel Good Show”, headlined by Roger Wright that is currently touring. Amongs the cast, my lovely gorgeous mate Denise Pitter! 

Denise was Fairy Godmother in Nottingham in 2009 when Michelle Potter was Cinderella. How apt we met up today on Michelle’s Birthday! Here we are today backstage.

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Nigel & Denise

My joy was walking along the dressing room corridor at The Theatre Royal passing two doors that said “Pitter” and “Potter”. Easily amused! Here is Denise and Michelle with Brian Conley. Brian of course is currently starring in “Nine To Five” at The Savoy Theatre, London.

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Denise, Brian & Michelle

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Victoria Aindow, Lucy Reed, Nigel Ellacott & Sam Sadler. Brick Lane Music Hall.

To finish off a busy few weeks of socialising, we called in to see “Mother’s Goosed” the Panto for Grown-Ups at Brick Lane Music Hall. It was a joyful and different experience to be sitting out front in the packed auditorium watching the fun and frolics onstage for a change. First visit out front in Five Years!

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Every One A Water Rat! From The GOWR we have Brick Lane Boss Vincent Hayes, Chris Emmett (from The News Huddlines and TV’s “3,2,1”)with Paul James and  Fifties Pop Idol Jess Conrad with Andrew Robley.

Had a great afternoon watching the panto and catching up with everyone at BLMH. We sat near the wonderful trio of musicians, Tom Carradine, Andy Pook and Martin Layzell. Here’s a backstage picture of the company.

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This photo includes Jess’s wife Renee, David Phipps Davis as Demon, Phil Randall as Goose, Mark Hinton Designer and Andrew Ryan and myself.

A great afternoon out. The Panto at Brick Lane Music Hall is a complete sell-out, and has been since well before Christmas. It finishes on Saturday. Next year it will yet again be Extended by a week! So this has to be the last panto still running of the season! Now, all around the UK the new popularity of Easter Panto is about to go into rehearsal! Long live Pantoland and all the mates we meet on the way!

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The Great British Pantomime Nominations 2019

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The Nominations for the GBPA have been announced- here they are!

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BERWICK KALER 40 Years on!

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Sunday 3rd February 2019

Last night, Berwick Kaler was awarded with a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Great British Pantomime Awards. Berwick has become the heart and soul of Pantomime in York over the past four decades,building up an army of fans, old and new who go every year to see a masterclass in Dame-hood, mayhem and mischief!

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Berwick was surprised on stage by his mate, Christopher Biggins, during the final moment of this last performance.

Berwick’s career has spanned 40 years on stage as the resident dame at the Theatre Royal York.

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Berwick Kaler has been awarded the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award ahead of the years Great British Pantomime Awards.Christopher Biggins himself received this award in 2016.

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Chris Biggins who presented the award said ‘I’ve known Berwick for over 30 years and when ever I am asked who is the best dame in the county, my immediate answer is Berwick Kaler, he is unique, he is funny, he is extraordinary, he’s big, he’s brash, he’s simply the best and I cant look at wagon wheel in the same way since he started.’

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The last night of the pantomime was attended by friends and family and loyal supports of the show and Berwick, many who had seen the run of this pantomime, ‘The Grand Old Dame of York’ many times before.

Berwick has been invited to officially accept his award at The Great British Pantomime Awards evening, on April 28th 2019 at the New Wimbledon Theatre,

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Tickets are available from www.pantomimeawards.co.uk/tickets. The rest of this years nominations will be announced on February 17th 2019.

 

 

DUNCAN C WELDON 1941-2019

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It is with deep regret that here at IBY we have heard of the passing of the Impressario, Duncan C Weldon at the age of 77.

Duncan was a solo producer, but the world of Pantomime remembers him as a founder and partner of “Triumph Theatre Productions”.Created in 1970 with Paul Elliott and Richard Todd, the company produced its first show “No No Nanette” at Bournemouth in 1968, and lost virtually every penny. Triumph with Duncan and Paul at the helm went on to produce over 400 Pantomimes, not just in the UK but abroad over a long period- including  London Palladium pantomime- the last being “Babes In The Wood” in 1987.

Triumph Theatre Productions has been in existence for over 54 years.

Triumph was a Pantomime Giant, and Duncan and Paul presented some of the top pantos of the time. In addition, the partnership of Paul Elliott and Duncan Weldon created West End and Broadway productions with stella International names, and of the highest quality in the business.

Here is a link to Duncan’s Obituary in today’s Guardian, and an article from The Spectator about the life of career of this man- a giant of theatre production in three continents. Sadly missed by all who knew and worked with him. Sincere condolences to his wife Ann, and to his family.

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https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2019/jan/30/duncan-weldon-obituary

https://www.spectator.co.uk/2014/07/indiscretions-from-two-veteran-producers/

 

 

 

WINDSOR DAVIES

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Windsor Davies 28th August 1930-17th January 2019

Windsor Davies died on Thursday at the age of 88. He will be sadly missed by all of Theatreland and Pantoland.

I was fortunate to appear in four Pantomimes with Windsor from 1990 through to 1993, all of them “Cinderella” with Peter Robbins and I as “Sisters” and Windsor as our Daddy- Baron Hardup. We did Cardiff New Theatre, followed almost immediately by The Grand Theatre Leeds, and then Croydon and finally Bournemouth Pavilion.

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Croydon Ashcroft:  Cinderella 1993. Left to right: Peter Robbins, June Brown, Ed Stewart, Jan Hunt, Cheryl Taylor, Windsor Davies, Nigel Ellacott- front row , Andrew O’Connor and Amanda Bairstow.

The season at Bournemouth (with June Brown) was especially lovely. In Croydon we all commuted, and Bournemouth was a chance to have evenings out after the show, and Peter cooked some dinners at the bungalow we rented. Windsor and June would arrive by cab, and into the wee small hours Peter and I would sit and listen to the brilliant stories, anecdotes and tales from these two incredible veterans of Theatre, film and Television. Nights like that you cannot ever hope to recreate!

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Windsor began life just a few miles away from where I’m sitting typing this- in Canning Town, East London. His Welsh parents moved to Nant-Y-Moel in Bridgend in 1939 at the start of the Second World War.

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Windsor with Charles Tingley and Margaret Rutherford

Originally he trained and worked as a teacher, but a connection with Stringer Davies, husband of Margaret Rutherford led to stage and later film appearances (as a policeman or Detective) in some of her films, including “Murder Most Foul” (1964) and “The Alphabet Murders”, always with Stringer and with Charles Tingwell.

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He appeared in over twenty films in all, including two “Carry On” films- “Carry On England” and “Carry On Behind”.

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In 1974 Windsor began filming the BBC Series “It Aint Half Mum”, set in a concert Party in India. It ran from 1974 to 1981, making him a huge star of Television with a catchphrase “Shut Up!” and “Lovely Boy!”

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In 1975 Windsor and Don Estelle- “Lofty” in the series made a comedy single of the old crooners song “Whispering Grass” and it became a Number One Hit Record! The pair became a sought after “double act” in Concerts, Variety Shows and of course, Pantomimes.

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In 1978 Windsor recorded “Grand Slam”  for the BBC- a Drama with a Welsh cast including Hugh Griffiths and Sion Probert, set in Paris.

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When “It Aint Half Hot Mum” ended in 1981 Windsor teamed up with (Sir) Donald Sinden in “Never The Twain” about two rival antique dealers. It ran for ten years to 1991. During this time he voiced Sgt Major Zero in the series “Terrahawks” from 1983 through to 1986.

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Windsor made many appearances in The West End, and was a west End regular in Ray Cooney’s “Run For Your Wife” for Paul Elliott, and many pantomimes for Paul up until his retirement. He starred at The London Palladium Pantomime “Dick Whittington” in 1980, alongside Melvyn Hayes.

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This spectacular Pantomime had a dream cast of Molly Sugden, Jim Davidson, Victor Spinetti, Clive Dunn and Lionel Blair.

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Nigel, Windsor & Peter at Paul Elliott’s “50 Years in Showbusiness Party”

I think it was Bournemouth pantomime that saw me at Windsor’s house in Carshalton on Boxing Day morning. He was giving me a lift down to Bournemouth for the matinee. I was early, and the place was a glorious mess of Christmas presents, wrapping paper, family and Grandchildren. As we left the house and got in the car Windsor said “I don’t know if I can do this again- leave everyone here on Boxing Day and go off to work”.

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We chatted away all the way to Bournemouth. He did his silly and ridiculous routine with his pet parrot “Polly”- a terrible prop with an obvious string to open its beak, leaning precariously on his shoulder. “Polly needs an asprin. There’s none in the jungle. Parrots Ate ‘em all…. She loves food.. eats all the time- Polly Filler.. “ total brilliant nonsense, which had nothing to do with Cinderella, but was everything to do with his amazing talent for silly all out panto performance. He was a master of farce, a master of Panto, and a truly lovely man.

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Windsor died just four months after the death of his wife, Eluned. They had been married for 62 years. Our thoughts to Windsor’s family and especially to his Daughter, Jane. God Bless you Lovely Man.

 

 

The Dame starring Peter Duncan

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Some fantastic reviews in for this one man tour-de-force – on at The Park Theatre until the 26th January.

Photos below by Robert Workman

Brexit – The Political Pantomime!

Many of our followers have been in touch following an article in the Sun Newspaper this week following the Brexit Vote. As we draw to the end of the theatrical pantomime season it’s great to see that Parliament is offering it’s own version with this photoshopped picture of the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn!

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One particular follower with a very keen eye spotted the original costumes and knew exactly where the picture had come from! A Cadbury photoshoot featuring our very own Nigel Ellacott and the much missed Peter Robbins.

TWO PANTOMIME DAMES FROM THE CADBURYS PANTOMINE ROADSHOW AT MANOR PRIMARY SCHOOL WOLVERHAMPTON UK. Image shot 2000. Exact date unknown.

‘Fame’ at last!

I’m wearing my Brexit Dress – it’s got absolutely no freedom of movement!

Have you seen my Backstop boys and girls? It’s Behind You!

#No Deal it is – No Deal it isn’t!

………that’s quite enough of that!