A Few Panto Pics- Nottingham & Ilford

Here are a few more pantomime production picures- From Theatre Royal Nottingham with Sherrie Hewson, Ben Richards, Ben Nickless, Andrew Ryan, Danny Bayne, Naomi Slights and Natalie Spriggs. Directed by Andrew Ryan.

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Here are a few photos from the Pantomime I’ve costumed (with thanks to Theatre Royal Norwich) at The Kenneth More Theatre in Ilford. I look forward to seeing their “Peter Pan” in the second week of January- I worked on the costumes from August and have yet to see them onstage! The panto features Marc Seymour,Simon Ward, Loraine Porter, Rikki Stone, Natalie Cleverley, Charlie Jones, Lori Stansfeld, Tami Stone, Jocelyn Prah, Keith Kelly and Akeem Hyman, directed by Steven Day. Sets lights and sound by Rob Mitchell-Geares, Peter Abery and Dave Palmer.

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The V & A Goes To The Ball!

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Peter Robbins & Nigel Ellacott- The Ballroom Costumes unveiled!

Friday 1st December 2017

A lovely and an emotional evening at The Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington – The costumes I donated to the museum were put on display , and I was very kindly invited to have my photo taken with the costumes and the conservators and curators who made this happen!

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Gesa Werner, Textiles’ Conservator, Catherine Haill, Curator Theatre & Performance Department , Nigel Ellacott, Susana Fajardo, Textiles’ Conservator and  Keith Lodwick, Curator  Theatre & Performance Department .

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The costumes, designs and jewellery are now a part of the archive, with huge credit to Margaret Brice who made these two Ballgowns for Peter and myself. In fact over our thirty year stage partnership Margaret made all our costumes- these ballgowns are the third incarnation over the years.

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Cathy and Nigel

The costumes now reside in the Theatre and performance area of the V&A and will be there, I believe for the best part of a year. Next week we will be joined by Danny La Rue’s Pink “Aladdin” costume, designed by Terry Parsons. Anne Galbraith, Danny’s costumier and long time companion will be there to see his costume installed. Clive Roe is next to Dan- a quartet of Dames in one case!

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A great honour- thanks to Cathy Haill and the V&A conservators and curators, to Margaret Brice and to Paul Elliott of E&B and to all at Qdos for giving us the thirty years of Pantoland as “The Ugly Sisters”.

SPOTLIGHT ON GARY WILMOT

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On December 9th this year, Gary Wilmot will play Sarah The Cook in the star studded and spectacular Qdos London Palladium production of “Dick Whittington”,Produced by Nick Thomas and Michael Harrison, and Directed by Michael Harrison.

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Gary has played in major musical in The West End, and still managed to cram in over twenty two pantomimes in his career. A man who never stops working- perhaps he owes his energy to his genes- in particular his Dad, Harry.

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The Southlanders

Gary’s Father, Harry Wilmot was the lead vocalist in  “The Southlanders”, a top singing quartet of four West Indian singers who had hit songs with “Alone”, “Put A Light In The Window”, “Peanuts”, and their most popular, “I am a Mole, and I Live In A Hole”.

The group was a family affair, as it included Harry’s Brother Alan Wilmot and Frank Mannah with Vernon Nesbeth.

At the height of their career they toured extensively and made five television appearances in a week. Harry died in 1961 and Alan left the group in 1974. The Southlanders continued top tour, with Vernon remaining as the only original member.

In his early days Gary worked as a labourer, a scaffolder, a waiter in Benidorm (The city not the television series!) and followed his Father’s footsteps at the age of twenty two.

Here is a list of Gary Wilmot’s Pantomimes from his first in 1986 to this year’s Palladium Pantomime 2017. This is a brief outline. This Spotlight looks at Gary’s career in Theatre, Plays, Musicals and Television and in greater detail about his Pantomimes.

GARY WILMOT- THE PANTOMIMES

1986/87           SNOW WHITE          Lewisham Theatre for Albermarle

With Jennie Fitzgerald and  Danny Owen, Ronnie Cryer & Sue Douglas.

1988/89           ALADDIN                  Bristol Hippodrome

with Allan Stewart, The Roly Polys and Doobie Duck.

1993/94           ROBIN HOOD/BABES IN THE WOOD    Derngate, Northampton

With Jessica Martin  & Powys & Jones for Apollo Leisure.

1994/95           ALADDIN                  Birmingham Hippodrome

1995/96           CINDERELLA          Birmingham Hippodrome   E&B Productions

With Judy Cornwell, Robin Cousins, Bob Carolgees, Nigel Ellacott & Peter Robbins and Jodie Jackson, & Paul Gyngell. Rolf Harris as Baron. Directed by Carole Todd. December 21st – 17th February

1996/97           CINDERELLA          Woking.  E&B Productions

Same cast as above with Jonathan Kiley as Prince.

1997/98           CINDERELLA                      High Wycombe

 1998/99           ALADDIN                              Bristol Hippodrome

 1999/2000       DICK WHITTINGTON        High Wycombe

with Colin Baker,  Brian Cant, Lynette McMorrough, Richard Cawley (Sarah The Cook), Johanne Murdock and Simeon Courtie

 2000/01           ALADDIN                              Plymouth Theatre Royal

With John Inman

 2001/02           ALADDIN                              Woking

With John Inman & Vanessa Feltz

 2002/03           DICK WHITTINGTON        Milton Keynes

With Jeffrey Holland & Roland Rat

2003/04           DICK WHITTINGTON        Plymouth Theatre Royal

With John Challis & Jeffrey Holland

 2004/05           DICK WHITTINGTON        Wolverhampton Grand

With Carly Hillman & The Grumbleweeds

 2005/06           Santa Clause The Musical    Mayflower Southampton

With Roy Barraclough & Anita Dobson

 2006/07           PETER PAN                          Derby Assembly Rooms  PHA

With Mina Anwar & Lee Brennan.

 2007/08           The Wizard Of Oz                  Mayflower Southampton   Michael Rose/Chris Moreno.

With Russ Abbot, Mathew Kelly, Gregor Fisher.

 2008/09           PETER PAN                          Manchester Opera House  FFE

With Gemma Atkinson & John Thompson, Strike (Danny Ball and Liam Richards), Jen Pringle, Mike Toolan, Karen West, Kieran Farnworth / James Chant, Michael Byers / Richard Harris, Amy Jenkins, Julien Roussel, Dharmesh Patel, Angelo Paragoso, Rachel Wrigley

2011/12           CINDERELLA                      Richmond Theatre   FFE

With Jenny Éclair, Kellie Shirley, Graham Hoadly & David Langham

 2013/14           SNOW WHITE                      Birmingham Hippodrome

Gary played his first Dame in this pantomime.With John Partridge, Gok Wan, Stephanie Beacham, Paul Zerdin, Matt Slack

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 2014/15           JACK & THE BEANSTALK           Birmingham Hippodrome

With Jane McDonald, Duncan James, Chris Gascoigne, Paul Zerdin, Matt Slack

 2015/16           ALADDIN                                          Milton Keynes   FFE

With Priscilla Presley & Ben Adams.

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2017/18           DICK WHITTINGTON.  The London Palladium. Qdos Entertainment.

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Impressive stuff, but Gary’s story starts here:

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Gary began at twenty two as a double act Gary Wilmot and Judy with Judy King. They worked the circuit of clubs, working mens clubs, pubs, cabaret rooms and Town Hall matinee shows, including Ladbrook Greyhound stadium, and appearances in “The Publand Show”, which saw them appear at the Victoria Palace Publand Show in 1977.

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1978 saw Gary & Judy expand their act, which featured impressons, songs and dances. I once got to share the bill at Brent Town Hall with them- it was an impressive act. So impressive that ATV’s “New Faces” talent show asked them to appear, and they won the heat in January 1978. Their show also featured Christie G and Anne O’Brien, both singing acts.

In the March of ’78 Gary & Judy supported Ted Rogers in “Starlight Cabaret”, before being called back to “New Faces”. Summer Season was at Clacton in the Westcliff Theatre’s “Summer Showtime”.Throughout ’78 and ’79 Gary & Judy filled the diary with club dates and Sunday shows before a season at Butlins through the Summer of ’78.

1979 saw Gary & Judy appearing in “Rising Stars” on November 11th for the BBC produced by Barney Colehan, (The Good Old Days)  and introduced by Lennie Bennett. They appeared alongside Ian (Sludge) Lees, Malcolm Stent and Golden Brandy.

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 1980 was the year that Gary began his solo career. Managed by Dee O’Reilly he filled his diary with Summer Season for Pontins, with Music Hall in Torquay. The Club circuit filled each week, and a Summer Season “Laughter Time 1981” at Colwyn Bay Prince Of Wales gave Gary opportunity to add to his impressions. In 1982 he was awarded Best London Club Act and followed with lengthy Summer seasons at Pontins, running up to September 30th. Gary appeared in John Plowman’s “The Video Entertainers” for Granada TV.

Gary made regular forays into children’s television shows.

1984 saw Gary invited to appear in The Children’s Royal Variety Performance” at Her Majesty’s Theatre, alongside Rod Hull & Emu, Stanley Baxter, Ward Allan & Roger The Dog, Donny Osmond, Jimmy Cricket and The Grumbleweeds. Gary was described as

“Buoyed up with the confidence of regular exposure in children’s programmes is developing into the complete entertainer”.

 The year ended with Summer season touring for Pontins in The South West Of England.

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March 31st saw Gary appear in “A Royal Night of 100 Stars” at the National Theatre for LWT. Hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck, it starred Gary alongside Russ Abbot, Les Dennis & Dustin Gee, Roy Walker, with Tim Curry, June Whitfield, Emma Thompson, Lulu and a host of stars.

The Summer Season was presented by Billy Marsh- a stage adaption of “The Price Is Right” with Leslie Crowther and Gary Wilmot. This gave Gary the platform to impersonate Prince, Mchael Jackson, Tony Bennett, Stevie Wonder as well as Randy Crawford and Andy Williams in the TV show format.

Across the road in the North Pier were Les Dennis & Dustin Gee, Billy Pearce at the Conservative Club, Cannon & Ball at the Opera House and Burdon & Moran with Ian Calvin at The Music Hall Tavern. Blackpool was a town of “Full Houses” in those days!

1985 saw bookings for “The Gary Wilmot Show” around the country, including a Christmas Show at The Dome, Brighton. Gary hosted a Gala Evening in November alongside Bob Monkhouse, and A Gala Charity at The Dominion Theatre London alongside Rick Wakeman, Roger De Courcey, Paul Shane, Mike Reid and Norman Collier.

That same month Gary appeared in The Royal Variety Show at Drury Lane (Where 42nd Street was playing) performing alongside Joan Collins, Ron Moody, The Hi-Di-Hi cast, Iris Williams and Rula Lenska.

“Gary Wilmot, best known as a TV Performer bringing the house down with a wicked impression of Stevie Wonder rendering “I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” and other Cockney ditties in Tamla Motown accents..”

 Gary was now twenty-nine, and finished the year off in “The Gary Wilmot Show” at Dartford with Katie Budd.

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1986 was Gary’s busiest year to date:

January saw Gary’s debut in TV’s “Copycats”, and appearances with Michael Aspel on the “Six O’Clock Show”. On his Summer tour of “Gary Wilmot & Co” he was joined by Martin Beaumont and Nikki Boughton, along with Danny Owen, Sally Taylor and Livewire.

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During the summer Gary recorded six television variety shows from the BIC in Bournemouth for producer David Bell/ The series included appearances by Lulu, Les Dennis and Jessica Martin. He appeared as a panellist on “New Faces” seven years after his first appearance.He also appeared in Gloria Huneyford’s panel game “We Love TV”.

Lewisham Pantomime “Snow White”for Albermarle followed. This was Gary’s first pantomime season. It ran from December 22nd to January 31st. Gary appeared as Muddles alongside Jennie Fitzgerald as Snow White, Danny Owen as Prince, with Ronnie Cryer as Dame, and Sue Douglas as The Wicked Queen. Directed by Basil Critchley is featured David Redgrave, Candida Gubbins and Albert Wilkinson. The pantomime took 250,000 at the box office with sell out performances.

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1987 “Cue Gary” for Central TV was aired, with Gary as front man in a show with comedy sketches and film clips.”The Saturday Gang” for LWT was aired in April.  During the summer he toured with “Gary Wilmot & Co” and appeared in The Royal Variety Performance which starred Eartha Kitt, Anthony Newley and Rosemarie Clooney, Shirley Bassey and Dolores Gray. There was a tribute to The Palladium Legends, and featured Gary alongside impersonators and entertainers Allan Stewart, Hilary O’Neil, Jessica Martin, Peter Goodwright with Bernie Winters and Leslie Crowther.

1988 Gary toured as Fagin in Cameron Mackintosh’s “Oliver!” This National tour went through 1988 and into 1999 with breaks. Gary was not to have a break:

1988/89 Gary was a replacement star for Bristol Hippodrome Pantomime “Aladdin” when Les Dawson was taken ill in the November before rehearsals began.

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Originally Aladdin was played by an actress, Jane Marie Osbourne, with Les Dawson playing Widow Twankey.The Roly Polys were featured in the Pantomime. Gary came into the show as Aladdin, and Jane switched to Princess, with Gordon Peters being drafted in to play Dame.

Allan Stewart was Wishee Washee, and he and Gary had a duel of musical mimickery in the action of the show. George Reibbit played Abanazar with Eddie Tagoe as Genie, Karen West, Ricky Green and Emerson & Jayne in their flying carpet speciality.

1989 Gary appeared for YTV in “The Book Tower”, and presented this children’s series. He also appeared for the BBC in shows including Michael Barrymore’s “Saturday Night Out”, and presented the Olivier Awards, with “The Night Of A 100 Stars”.

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This was the year Gary went into “Me And My Girl” at The Adelphi Theatre London for a run of twenty-two months playing Bill Snibson from June 1989 through to February 1991.

Playing opposite Jessica Martin he appeared alongside Roy Macready, Eileen Page, Andrew Charleson, Patrick Carghill, Meryl Richardson, Carrie Ellis and Lloyd Lamble. Ivor Danvers, a former HTV announcer took over the role of Sir Johm.

In 1991 The role of Bill was taken over by Karl Howman, with Louis English, followed later on by Brian Conley and Joanna Riding.

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1991 Gary and Jessica Muschamp appeared at The Orchard Theatre Dartford in “Teething Troubles” with John Clive and Michael Troughton. It also played Leeds.

Gary became a member of The Old Vic Theatre Company appearing in “Carmen Jones” opposite Sharon Benson for a short season, before joining the Nation Tour of “Me and My Girl” opening at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

The production toured for a year and starred Gary, Jessica Martin, Patsy Rowlands, Nicholas Smith, Sarah Payne, Derek Beard, James Horne and Audrey Leybourne.

He would have ranked as one of the giants of Music Hall had he been about at the time” (The Stage).

1993/4 Pantomime “Robin Hood” at the Derngate, Northampton for Barry Clayman & Apollo Leisure.Gary played Robin Hood opposite Jessica Martin with Forbes Collins as Sheriff,  Powys & Jones (Andy Jones now plays Dame for Qdos), Ken Wilson as Nurse, and The Acromaniacs as The Merry Men, Directed by Ray Cornell. The Pantomime featured The Waterfall Rapids Spectacular.

1994 Gary toured in “Copacabana” as Bartender Tony, playing Plymouth, Manchester and Edinburgh before opening at The Prince Of Wales Theatre in The West End.

Nicola Dawn played Lola, with Anna Nicholas, Richard Lyndon, Rebecca Parker, Petrina Johnson and Melanie Stace in the ensemble. It was directed by Roger Redfarn.

Gary appeared at the Dominion Theatre London in The 1994 Royal Command Performance with Dame Shirley Bassey, Brian Conley, Tony Bennett, and Michael Flatley among a host of stars.

In 1994/95 Gary presented and starred in “Showstoppers” for the BBC.

1995 Gary left “Copacabana” to join the “Me And My Girl” National Tour at Southampton Mayflower in April. The tour continued through to August, when Peter Duncan replaced Gary.

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Gary- interviewed in 1995

Going into “ Me and My Girl” was an incredible shot in the arm, just what I needed- it is the kind of thing you don’t get as a cabaret artiste and write and produce your own one man show.

There isn’t that one big break. You have to work hard for years and years and it just slowly happens. It’s not like some Hollywood blockbuster where a busker is pulled off the street and rocketed to stardom, and its not just about being able to cope with the size of everything and the enormity of it all”

Gary recorded  from August until November, returning to“Showstoppers” for the BBC , continuing the format of Gary introducing numbers accompanied by the 70 piece BBC concert orchestra and guest artists.

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1995/96 Birmingham Hippodrome Pantomime “Cinderella”, the first of two pantomimes I did with Gary, who played Buttons, along with Judy Cornwell as Fairy Godmother, Robin Cousins as Dandini- complete with ice rink, Bob Carolgees (and “Spit” The Dog) and Paul Gyngell (sadly missed) as Prince Charming. Jodie Jackson played Cinderella with Peter Robbins & me as The Ugly Sisters. The pantomime was presented by Paul Elliott and was Directed by Carole Todd, co-produced by Peter Tod. The show also featured Rolf Harris as Baron Hardup.

 

“A name dropping line up of stars, so reminiscent of the grand Drury Lane pantomimes of yore..” (The Stage).

1996 saw Gary embarking on a tour of thirty-six full weeks, and Forty-three one nighters with “The Showstoppers Tour”. Accompanied by a ten piece orchestra, it featured Johanne Murdock, Philip Hazelby and Marc Joseph.

 

The 1996/97 Pantomime was “Cinderella” at Woking, with almost the same cast of principals as Birmingham, with Jonathan Kiley appearing as Prince Charming. Carole Todd again Directed this Paul Elliott/E&B Production, and this pantomime saw Rolf Harris retiring from Pantomime.

Gary was once again “The most polished Buttons” (Stage). This production was featured in the Channel 4 Documentary series- “Pantoland” which followed the pantomime through rehearsals and up to the Opening Night.

1997 In April Gary opened in Neil Simon and Don Black’s “The Goodbye Girl” at The Albery Theatre, London. It featured Ann Crumb with Lucy Evans and Shezwae Powell, running until the end of June. The Musical went on tour with Gary Wilmot and Marti Webb.

During the year Gary returned to “An Evening With Gary Wilmot” touring with Rachel Stanley, Johanne Murdock and Chris Holland.

“Pantoland”, directed by Ian Taylor was broadcast in November.

1999 Saw Gary’s debut in Straight Acting! Willy Russell’s “One For The Road” was produced at The Bristol Old Vic, with Gary as Dennis. It went on a short tour.

1999/2000 High Wycombe Pantomime “Dick Whittington” with Gary as Idle Jack, joined by Colin Baker as King Rat, Brian Cant as Alderman, Television Cook Richard Cawley as Dame, Johanne Murdock as Alice Fitzwarren, Lynette McMorrough as Fairy, with Simeon Courtie, William Pool as Sultan and Pixie Thompson.

Produced by Kevin Wood it ran from December 10th to January 16th 2000.

March 2000 Gary Toured in “Gary Wilmot Sings Music To Watch The Girls Go By”, playing Glasgow and then across the country.

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“He boasts the best trained dimples in the Business” (Stage).

 

2000/2001 Theatre Royal Plymouth “Aladdin” with John Inman as Widow Wanda Twankey, and Gary as Aladdin. This E&B/Qdos production ran until January 20th and featured Omar F Okai as Genie, Phil Corbitt as Abanazar, Louisa Cusano as Princess, Malcolm Lord and The Acromaniacs as The Chinese Policemen.

Gary Wilmot-An extremely affable and resourceful Aladdin, a generous helping of panache” (Stage).

From February to May 2001 Gary toured in Alan Ayckbourne’s “Confusions” with Louise Jameson.

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At the end of May he joined the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” where (as Comics say) He showed his Bottom! This production for The New Shakespeare Company led to The “Pirates Of Penzance Opening at the Theatre Royal Plymouth before touring. It starred Gary and Su Pollard.

2001/02 Woking Pantomime “Aladdin” with Gary and John Inman once again, in the same production as Plymouth the previous year- joined by Vanessa Feltz, Russ Kane, Phil Corbitt, Louisa Cusano, Robert Traynor and Malcolm Lord. It was directed by Tudor Davies and ran until January 27th.

2002 Gary toured in Giles Havegal’s adaption of “Travels With My Aunt” as Henry with Jeffrey Holland, Clive Francis and Andrew Greenhough.

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The following year Gary’s pantomime 2002/2003 was at Milton Keynes “Dick Whittington”. The Rat was “Roland Rat”, with Gary in the title role, alongside Jeffrey Holland as Sarah The Cook. Trevor Marshall as Captain, Jennifer James as Alice Fitzwarren, Frances Garvey, Tony Kemp, Mark Willshire as Tommy The Cat, and Caroline Deverill as The Spirit Of The Bells.

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Gary Wilmot, playing the lead role of Dick, positively lights up the stage with every appearance – a cheeky grin with a subtle dose of sex appeal! Gary, a real stage pro, knows how to work the audience and from the moment he walks on stage he has them in the palm of his hand. We laughed at his one-liners, grinned at the subtle innuendo, and sang along during the crowd pleasing sing-a-long section. (The Stage)

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 2003 was the year Gary took over in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at The London Palladium. He played Caractacus Potts alongside Russ Abbot, Caroline Sheen, Victor Spinetti, Sandra Dickinson, Wayne Sleep and Freddie Lees as The Toymaker.

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The 2003/04 Pantomime was once again “Dick Whittington” at The Theatre Royal, Plymouth. John Challis played King Rat.Once again Jeffrey Holland was Dame, along with Jeff’s wife, Judy Buxton as Fairy Bow Bells. The Plymouth pantomime ran until January 24th.

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During 2004 Gary toured in “Gary Wilmot- My Kind Of Music”, presented by our mutual and great friend Ian Sandy, sadly no longer with us. Ian was Production Manager of many pantomimes at The Birmingham Hippodrome, and Gary became patron of his Birmingham “Spotlight” theatre school for young actors and dancers.

Gary returned to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at The Palladium, this time joined by Christopher Biggins, and with Lionel Blair as The child catcher. This was the second year of the show- it featured Louise Gold as Baroness and Freddie Lees .

The 2004/2005 Pantomime At Wolverhampton Grand was “Cinderella”.

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Gary played Buttons, with Carly Hillman as Cinderella, The Grumbleweeds as Brokers Men and Darrock & Howe as The Ugly Sisters. Baron Hardup was played by Spencer K Gibbons, with Michael Howell, Marcia Mantack as Fairy Godmother and Mark Connell as Dandini. This was the last pantomime in Wolverhampton for the Grand’s manager, Brian Goddard.

During the summer of 2005 Gary returned to Regent’s Park to play Dick Deadeye for the Summer Season in “HMS Pinafore” with Desmond Barrit, Lesley Nicol and Scarlett Strallen.

2005/2006 Saw a departure from traditional pantomime for Gary. He appeared in “Santa Claus The Musical” at The Mayflower, Southampton. Gary appeared with Roy Barraclough as Santa, and Anita Dobson in this Michael Rose Production.

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In the Autumn of 2006 Gary returned to “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at The Birmingham Hippodrome after Brian Conley finished his season.

2006/07  Peter Pan at Derby for Paul Holman Associates, with Gary as Captain Hook.

The pantomime ran from December 8th to January 7th and featured Mina Anwar as The Mermaid, Lee Brennan as Peter Pan, Simmons & Simmons as Smee & Stakey, along with Suzanne David, Shyko and Will Palmer.

2007 saw Gary in “Half A Sixpence” touring from The Churchill Bromley directed by Bob Thomson with Claire Marlowe and David Delve.

The 2007/2008 Christmas Show was “The Wizard Of Oz” at the Mayflower Southampton. Gary joined Russ Abbot and Mathew Kelly in this Michael Rose/Chris Moreno Musical with Gregor Fisher, Lynda Griffiths, Marilyn Cutts, Ian Stuart Robertson and Brian Greene.

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2008 Gary appeared in the Royal Festival Hall’s “Wizard Of Oz” playing the Cowardly Lion joining Hilton McRae as Scarecrow, and Adam Cooper as The Tin Man. Dorothy was played by Sian Brooke.

 2008/2009  “Peter Pan” at The Manchester Opera House with John Thompson and Gemma Atkinson.

2009 Gary played Billy Flynn in the UK tour of Chicago”. Emma Barton played Roxie Hart.

2010 Gary toured as Podgers in “Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”.

 2011 saw Gary appear in “Radio Times” the musical from the Watermill Theatre. He appeared with Anna-Jane Casey in this twelve venue tour of the musical, set in 1940’s London.

Gary didn’t appear in Pantomime from 2009 until 2011.

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 2011/2012 “Cinderella” Richmond. Gary played Buttons alongside Jenny Éclair as Fairy Godmother, Kellie Shirley and Graham Hoadly and David Langham as The Ugly Sisters for FFE.

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First Dame of The Empire. (Well, The Hippodrome!)

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Gary’s next Pantomime was in 2013/2014 in the Qdos production of “Snow White” at The Hippodrome Birmingham. Gary played Dame for the first time in Pantomime. I had great fun in the photo shoot helping sort out his make-up, and being there to see those first shots taken of Dame Gary! The panto featured Stephanie Beacham as The Wicked Queen, John Partridge, Gok Wan, Paul Zerdin and Sam and Matt Slack.

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2014 Gary appeared at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre in “The Pajama Game” taking over from Peter Polycarpou in June as Vernon Hines.

2014/2015 a return to The Birmingham Hippodrome for Gary as Dame Trott in “Jack & The Beanstalk” with Jane McDonald, Duncan James, Chris Gascoyne, and Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack.

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2015 Gary joined the company at London’s Savoy Theatre to play Andre Thibault in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”, joining Bonnie Langford in the show that featured Robert Lindsay, Rufus Hound and Katherine Kingsley.

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in 2015 Gary appeared in “Oklahoma” on tour, as Ali Hakim. With him in this production were Nic Greenshields and Lucy May Barker.

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2015/2016 Gary played Widow Twankey in “Aladdin” at Milton Keynes for FFE. Priscilla Presley as Genie of The Ring and Wayne Sleep as Genie of the lamp. Abanazar was Marc Pickering, with Kev Orkian as Wishee Washee. Ben Adams played Aladdin opposite Aimie Atkinson as Princess Jasmine. The panto featured Phil Holden and David Whitworth. It was directed by Russell Labey.

2016 Gary toured in “The End Of The Rainbow”. This play by Peter Quilter saw Lisa Maxwell as Judy Garland with Gary as Anthony and Sam Attwater as Mickey. It began at the Mercury Colchester in February.

In June Gary appeared as George McMillan in “Big, The Musical” for Michael Rose. The production played the Theatre Royal Plymouth and transferred for Christmas to the Dublin Bord GaisEnergy Theatre. It featured Jay McGuiness, Jessica Martin, Diane Vickers and Irwin Sparkes.

  1. During the Summer Gary played Mr Badger in The Julian Fellowes, Stiles & Drewe Musical “The Wind In The Willows” at The London Palladium. Toad was played by Rufus Hound, with Craig Mather as Mole and Simon Lipkin as Ratty. Wind-in-the-willows-author-Kenneth-Grahame-973476

 Barely a few weeks have passed before Gary has to put his make up back into the dressing room to appear as Sarah The cook in the Palladium Pantomime!

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2017/2018 The London Palladium. “Dick Whittington” for Qdos Entertainment.

This spectacular show is produced by Nick Thomas and Michael Harrison,  Directed by Michael Harrison. Gary plays Sarah The Cook with Julian Clary as Spirit of The Bells, Elaine Paige as Queen Rat, Ashley Banjo & Diversity, Paul Zerdin as Idle Jack and Nigel Havers as Captain Nigel.

Charlie Stemp plays Dick with Emma Williams as Alice, and Lukas Alexander playes Eileen The Cat.

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The Panto is choreographed by Karen Bruce. The stunning costumes by Hugh Durrant, Effects by The Twins FX, Musical Supervisor Gary Hind, lighting by Ben Cracknell and scenery by Ian Westbrook.

The journey through Pantoland for Gary Wilmot has taken him across the country as Muddles, Aladdin, Buttons, Dick Whittington and recently Dame for three seasons, and has brought him to the home of Pantomime- The London Palladium.

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I couldn’t have wished this magical journey on a nicer fella! Here’s to you Gary, and a wonderful Palladium Pantomime!

 

 

Panto Season Beckons!

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This is the week that many pantomime begin rehearsals, with a good few opening around the 8th & 9th December- myself included. Monday I start rehearsals (and the Dame’s Blog!) for what I think will be my 44th or 45th Pantomime. That crept up on me suddenly!

We rehearse at the venue this year- with Thirty Five Pantomimes Qdos- now the World’s largest Pantomime Producer has run out of spaces to rehearse in London! I’ll be spending week one commuting from central London- a hotel there saves on the journey time from home immensely, and then will be staying in High Wycombe for the tech week and the run.

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The next few weeks will be busy, and I’ll try to blog whenever I have the chance- the phones are ringing now with Pantomime based articles that papers want supplied, and two TV companies have asked for an appearance- but sadly they pick the busiest time, and so I won’t be appearing on the One Show in a frock breathing heavilly having raced from rehearsals! My costumes, wigs and even my make-up are somewhere on the road as I type, so I’m without the whereabouts!

I will have a special bit of news- in fact two items of interest to reveal, pantomime related, but I’ll be able to do so a little later in the next week or so when I’m given the all clear.

The great news last week was that Panto Royalty visited the real Palace, and returned as Dame June Whitfield! Never was an award so deserved. Congratulations Dame June. At long last!

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Dame June Whitfield

The Stage newspaper this week has an issue dedicated to Pantomime news this week, and makes a great read- and a great interview with my mate Susie Mckenna about her life in Pantomime.

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Susie McKenna

For now its line learning, and packing ready for that “Fallen Off The Planet” state that panto folk get into once we begin rehearsals. Everything stops as we enter Pantoland and we return to normality in a month or so!

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First Panto of the year for me- a trip to Hackney Empire yesterday to see Susie Mckenna’s “Cinderella”. A glorious evening- it was Press Night- watching a glittering show with a packed audience in this stunning Victorian building.

Clapton The Horse with Darren Hart as Buttons. Kat B, Susie McKenna and Tony Whittle

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Peter Straker as Baron Hardup.

Lots of memories of working with Susie in the “Cinderellas” we did back in the day- Susie as Principal boy, or Dandini. She makes a stunning and blisteringly funny baddie these days too!

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Aisha Jawando as Cinderella and Krysten Cummings as Fairy Godmother

Dandini is played by Stephane Anelli with Prince Charming played by Chris Jenkins. Two very lovable mice returned to the Empire (Puppet Master Brian Herring) voiced by Sharon D Clarke and Clarke Peters. A Pantomime horse returns to the stage too- I was just saying in an interview yesterday that the Panto Horse was a myth! I’m proved wrong in Hackney!

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A great way to start the Panto season. Good luck to Susie and the cast for the run, To Chris Hayward and the gang in Newcastle- opening now, and good luck to all who start their pantomimes this week. See you in the blog!

Panto Roadshow & Panto Prep!

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Going up the Beanstalk In Style! High Wycombe- The Swan 

The Pantomime Roadshow 2017

November 8th

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Grant Alvarez, Nigel Ellacott & Andrew Ryan

With the Pantomime Roadshow done and dusted for this season, thoughts turn to packing for Panto Proper. This year my costumes will be heading up for High Wycombe to The Swan Theatre, with Andrew Ryan’s heading for Nottingham and The Theatre Royal.

Dames who provide their own don’t travel light! My selection this year for Dame Trott comprises one packed costume rail (fifteen changes plus spares) two skips- one wigs one shoes, accessories, make-up, dressing room essentials- Kettle, furry blanket, Christmas Tree and balls.. plus assorted objects- Ice Cream Cones & Bean Cans which will be collected on November 13th, and be installed before we arrive to start rehearsals.

Each year the selection changes. The script might be totally new- Andrew is directing and appearing in “Beauty & The Beast”, or an adapation of the previous year- My “Jack & The Beanstalk” has some differences- 3D sequences, new scenes, that mean costumes are changed, or worked in a new order.

Chris Jarvis and I had a working lunch at the beautiful BAFTA building in London today to go through the requirements and changes for this year, and throughout the country Panto folk are starting to highlight scripts, learn scripts, and in some cases- like Newcastle Theatre Royal, start rehearsing the pantomime! Bonfire night hardly gone and Chris Hayward is rehearsing for “Dick Whittington” directed by Michael Harrison for Newcastle Theatre Royal.

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This year’s Pantomime Roadshow toured on behalf of several theatres. Two weeks in East London for the Kenneth More Theatre, promoting “Peter Pan”- ten shows a week with the Roadshow company of Andrew Ryan, Grant Alvarez and myself.

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Great feedback from Schools and Headteachers as always, and around 3,000 children a week getting to experience life backstage at The Pantomime as we deliver “Learning With Laughter!” Thanks to Steven Day for organising this year’s annual Roadshow.

KM Theatre’s Marc Seymour in “Peter Pan”

From London we headed to Basingstoke, engaged by the Anvil Arts and promoting another “Peter Pan” production presented by UK Productions. Thanks to Flis and the Anvil Marketing Department.

From Basingstoke we teamed up with Lee Redwood and “Sleeping Beauty”, promoting the pantomime around the Weymouth area for the Pavilion Theatre. Lee appears as Dame this year once again, and joined us on the Roadshow answering questions from the children on life as a Dame and Panto presenting.

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One lunch break we managed to soar to the dizzy heights of Portland Bill and take in the incredible view of the Dorset coast. Thanks for a great time in Weymouth and a superb tour of The Pavilion Theatre Lee!

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Portland Bill. Lee Redwood at The Pavilion.

From The South Coast to The North Wales Coast- driving to Llandudno for a week sailing with our third “Peter Pan”, for Venue Cymru. My second home this, I love the place, and we had a great week playing to 3,000 children once again. A particular treat hear is an annual visit to an assisted living complex entertaining the residents and visiting children. Thanks again to Karin Bruns and to Sarah Ecob for the opportunity.

The week was, as it always is, a food fest. There are no finer dining experiences than The “Albert”, “The Empire” and of course staying at “The Can Y Bae” as readers of previous blogs will know only too well.

My three panto posters at The Can Y Bae.     Up The Orme!

Great views from the Orme, and a side trip to the amazing PortMerion (known now as the setting for the Television cult series “The Prisoner”.) Everytime I visit I remember being there on tour with Theatr yr ymylon and The Welsh Drama Company in the 1970’s and having wonderful times.

The guest house (right) where Noel Coward wrote “Blithe Spirit”

So- Roadshow finished, Costumes awaiting collection. Andrew Ryan has a few more dates touring in the thriller “Mindgame” before starting rehearsals for Nottingham.

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Eastbourne & Swansea Grand before Panto

All that remains for me is to complete the costumes for Ilford’s “Peter Pan” over the next fortnight, and I will be joining Ashleigh, Sully, Simon and Chris for adventures in Wycombe. We rehearse on November 27th.

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The annual Panto Blog will start from that date and continue through into the New Year. For those rehearsing, or about to rehearse- see you on the other side!

Marie Lloyd in “Dick Whittington”

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Marie lloyd & Fred Griffiths 1898

MARIE LLOYD & THE CROWN THEATRE PECKHAM

Today I acquired a programme from 1898. It is “Dick Whittington” and starring in the title role was “The Queen Of The Music Halls”- Marie Lloyd.

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It is a humbling feeling to handle a document so fragile it is falling apart in my hands, knowing that the person who first held this almost 120 years ago actually saw this pantomime, and thought it so memorable that they kept the programme. They stored it away through two world wars, through the decline of Music Hall and Variety, the emergence of Radio and Television, and somehow, even in its fragile state, it still evokes feelings of awe!

London, Peckham, Crown Theatre - showing vintage horses and carts

Marie Lloyd was a huge star- the biggest and highest paid “Queen Of Comedy”. Born in 1870 she was in her prime, and had appeared at The Drury Lane Pantomimes among others alongside Dan Leno.

She lived in fashionable St John’s Wood in London,at her home, “Granville Lodge”, and could perform in any central London pantomime she wished, and yet here she in a theatre that had just been built away from the bright lights.

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Centre: John Wood, Matilda Wood & Marie Lloyd (Seated) Back Row: Daisy Wood, Rosie lloyd, Johnny Lloyd Grace & Alice Lloyd. Front Row: Anne, Maud and Sydney.

The reason was family, and the belief in Marie’s mind that Charity begins at home.

The Wood family as they were, were a very large theatrical clan. There were nine children, and Marie’s siblings appeared in theatres following in her wake.

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In this pantomime programme you can see that Marie’s sister Daisy Wood played opposite her as Alice Fitzwarren. Daisy was engaged to be married to the new Theatre Director, Donald Munro. Marie’s appearance in Pantomime there would be a huge boost to the success of the theatre, and the finances of her future Brother-In-Law.

Daisy was the only one of the Wood theatrical clan to retain the family name- the others changed their names to the Lloyd brand name.

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The Stage commented:

“The choice of Miss Marie Lloyd was a good one that this clever lady has already justified. She partakes in all the fun with zest, sings with her well known vigour, and throughout exercises the charms of Marie Lloyd over the audience.

Miss Daisy Wood- a bright and vivacious dancer, makes so dainty an Alice that Dick’s affection is easily understood”

 Daisy Wood had planned to retire after her marriage, as fashionable and well to do ladies of the theatre often did upon meeting an Earl or a Duke. Donald, who also ran The Pavilion Whitechape, had money. Marie grumbled that o Daisy began to affect airs once she became “Mrs Munro”. They were married the following year. Daisy did retire, but returned to the theatre and became a big star in the USA from 1908 onwards.

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This was to be the first of Three Pantomimes Marie appeared in at The Crown,- in her career she appeared in a total of eight- and her name on the bill brought in her many fans.

“Encore” reported:

Her true inwardness of genius was never more demonstrated than in this production, and I was not surprised at being told that patrons from far away Highgate, now that the all night trams are in full swing, come down to see the show”

 Miss Lloyd also wore some very short tunics- dangerously short, that did not hurt the publicity. The programme shows us that a new song “Holloa!” was specially written by popular writers George Rollit and George Le Brun.

 Typically, it was a naughty but nice song, about folk up to shenanigans in parlours and hot houses! One verse runs:

A lot of things we perpetrate are very nice, no doubt,

Until we’re, by some blunder, unexpectedly found out-

For instance, take the fellow who at Ball or Garden Fete

Retired to the conservatory to have a tete a tete with Kate..

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Marie’s latest hit song she loaned to Sister Daisy, “Everything in the garden’s lovely”, although she did feel it was a little too gentile for her own use!

Playing Old Tom, Dick Whittington’s cat was Fred Griffiths. He and his brother Joseph had played Cow in  the Drury Lane “Jack and The Beanstalk” with Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell. The Dame- called Mistress Pansop (too early for Sarah The Cook to have become the norm) was played by Tom Fancourt.

This pantomime featured an aerial ballet and a speciality from The Royal Welsh Glee Singers! It featured a Harlequinade, even though these were going out of fashion. The tradition of following the pantomime with the comic skits and dances were dropped by Augustus Harris at Drury Lane almost ten years previously.

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Marie’s eight pantomimes were one each at Hoxton and Liverpool, three each at Drury Lane and three at The Crown Peckham.

The following year 1899 Marie Lloyd  returned to The Crown Theatre but this time without Daisy. Her Sister Alice played Cinderella, with Marie starring as Prince Heliotrope. She made an impressive entrance on horseback, in full riding costume. During the Pantomime she wore “nine different costumes, each one more costly and becoming as the last” (The” Stage”)

 After extensive touring abroad, Marie returned to The Crown Theatre in 1902 for what was to be her last Pantomime- “Aladdin”. This time it was the turn of her Sister Rosie Lloyd to join her. She was twenty two. The Pantomime ran at Peckham until the end of February, and then played a week at Stratford East London in March 1903.

So, having marvelled at this fragile piece of history- I’ll frame the centre pages to preserve them better- I realised that History has come even closer. I’m writing this article in Ilford, East London. It was at the Ilford Hippodrome in 1944 that Rosie was taken ill during a performance of “Cinderella”,the third performance of the day, and was taken to hospital where she died. She was aged Sixty-Five.

Her  daughter took over her role for the last performances.

This from my Brother Vivyan’s website on Theatres:

Extract from “Entertaining Ilford”- Page 60

(available online at www.overthefootlightd.com)

(1943) The year ended with  a two week run of  Dick Whittington with the well known comedian Hal Monty making his first ever appearance in pantomime, playing Idle Jack.

1944 was to be the last full year in the history of the Hippodrome.  It started with the second pantomime:  a two week run of  Cinderella with Alice and Rosie Lloyd (sisters of the famous Marie Lloyd).  During the third performance on Saturday 15th January Rosie Lloyd complained of feeling ill, and, after the show,  was taken to Sutton and Cheam Hospital near her home.  She underwent an operation on Sunday.  For the two shows on Monday Alice Lloyd brought her own daughter to cover the shows for the rest of the week.  Rosie died on Tuesday evening

Curiously the Hippodrome staged a third pantomime the following week, this time Aladdin with Georgie Wood as Wishee Washee .  This played just one week of twice nightly, but with matinees every day, and was followed by a variety bill headed by 24 year old Betty Driver, billed as the radio and stage star (and whose career would last until 2011 and include 2,800 episodes of TV’s Coronation Street, famous for Betty’s Hotpots!)

A year later in 1945 The Ilford Hippodrome was bombed during a performance of Pantomime, and was later pulled down.

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The Crown Theatre in Peckham didn’t survive the days after Marie Lloyd was the bill topper. By 1912 it had closed, and was later used to show early silent pictures.The magnificent building, renamed The Peckham Hippodrome was demolished, and in 1935 a Gaumont Cinema was built on the site.

Site Of Crown Peckham

This cinema closed in 1961 and was demolished. A modern block of apartments taking their name from The Gaumont stands there today.

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The legendary Marie Lloyd died in 1922, aged fifty two. Thousands lined the streets for her funeral. Her songs are still sung and remembered to this day- “My Old Man”, “Oh Mr Porter”, “The Boy In The Gallery” and many more can still be recalled.

Daisy Wood retired in 1928.

All this from one fragmented theatre programme!

 

 

 

 

 

The Wycombe Swan Press Launch

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Wednesday 13th September 2017

Ten years to the very day, I returned to High Wycombe for Press Day at the Swan Theatre! I know this because Facebook brought it to my attention with the very poignant picture below.

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Peter Robbins, Brian Conley Nigel Ellacott 2007

The last time I played Wycombe was “Cinderella”, as Ugly Sister, and here I am as Dame Trott with my mates from last year, Simon, Ashleigh, and Sully , joining my old mate of twenty years Chris Jarvis in “Jack & The Beanstalk”!

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Sadly earlier this year the much loved Pudsey died. A beautiful boy, he was joined last year at Northampton with Sully (or Sullivan, to give him his proper name) and we had a great show- you can read last year’s blog if you haven’t already!). I had the great joy of going to Crufts this March to watch Puds in his retirement lap of honour in the Big Arena, and see Sully go on to win in agility- he’s now represented the UK in the same skills in France this Summer.

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Ashleigh & Sully

It is not often I am gobsmacked as I enter a dressing room, but Wycombe Swan acheived that! I’d sent my costumes up overnight by courier. I arrived early to unpack only to walk in to the dressing room to discover this!

It may look like a lot of tights and Dame’s bits- but there it was- all unpacked, all beautifully laid out! How lovely- a huge Thank You to the fabulous folk who looked after us! Gloves next to rings, make up out, everything ready to go! We could open tomorrow!

we even have our very own personalised mugs- that’s a first for me! I went to show Ashleigh who had just arrived only to discover Sully had his own dog bowl from the theatre! Here he is looking very delighted!

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Adrian LeSurf from Qdos and Mike Green from The Swan looked after us all during the day- The show is produced by Jonathan Kiley. We had photographs and press interviews, along with a live stream from the launch, and a lot of fun along the way!

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Great to see Simon and Ashleigh and with Penny Butler again, and to catch up with Chris, and to find a few minutes to explore the building that has so many memories from a decade ago.

CBeebie’s Chris Jarvis & Blue’s Simon Webbe

we were told that we’d be playing a game today to camera- Bean Boozled. Sounded fine until all was revealed. In pairs we spin a wheel to reveal a choice of magic beans- Jelly Beans. Both the same colour. One nice, one not nice. The winner was the one who didn’t end of spitting out the offending bean. Perfect for a Wednesday up Wycombe.

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Choices could be “Lime or Grass Cuttings”, or Apricot of Tinned Dog Food”, or “Apple or Smelly Socks”. Smelly socks was the worst. Believe me! Ashleigh won, with Dame Trott second! Sorry Guys, it was a ladies winning combo! Here’s Chris and I in our episode of Beanboozled!

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We had a great day, were all looked after just magnificently, and did a fair amount of press before heading back home. Looking forward to a second year with Simon and Ashleigh, and to my first with Chris, and to meeting the rest of the “Jack & The Beanstalk” gang in rehearsals which start on November 27th. Before that I’m off with Andrew Ryan and Grant Alvarez once again with the Autumn tour of The Pantomime Roadshow- visiting East London, Redbridge, Newham, Weymouth, Basingstoke and Llandudno.

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Oh and the small matter of completing the costumes for this year’s Kenneth More Theatre’s “Peter Pan”- fittings throughout October! I’ve designed some pretty fun costumes for resident Dame Marc Seymour once again!

Until November, Goodbye Wycombe- and Thanks to Adrian & Mike and all the staff for a great welcome!

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Some Facebook videos from the launch

Beanboozle Challenge – Ashleigh and Simon

Ashleigh and Sully

Simon practicing his climbing

Nigel and Chris having a natter