The Panto Roadshow- Second Half


The Spirit of Panto-Andrew Ryan captured here by Paul Sampson, resident photographer for Venue Cymru. From

The next leg of the Roadshow went from Blackpool to Glasgow in a day- it rained the entire journey, with a soggy stop at Moffat to break the trip! Great to be back in Glasgow for The SECC again. This is the week when diets can be firmly thrown out of the window as there are so many amazing places to eat- from the Mackintosh glory of the “Willow Tea Rooms” to the Art Deco wonder that is “The Rogano”- with its fittings and furnishing dating from The Titanic and through to the ‘Twenties.

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We had ten packed schools this week, playing to about three or four hundred a show in some places, and a series of get-ins and get-outs from Stepps (no sign of “H”) through Paisley and into Motherwell during the week. The show we’re connected to is “Cinderella” with John Barroman as Buttons and the wonderful Jeanette Krankie as Zips. Ian Krankie is Baron Hardup in a cast that includes the brilliant Graham Hoadley as Ugly Sister!

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Lovely to meet up with Neil and Scott at the SECC again, and to see Chantelle and Nikki during our ten shows there. Had a great week visiting our old haunts- The Pavilion Theatre where I appeared in about three shows during long tours, and the best kept secret Bistro (now up for grabs!) The Black Sheep up from Charing Cross .


Left Glasgow, and Alan who is off this next week, and headed for a night or two of being busy doing nothing (we now have fifty shows behind us!) so headed for a place I have never been to, plucked from the Internet- Grange Over Sands (or as Billy in the Panto Roadshow would call it- Grange Under Pants).

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A big old (1860’s) hotel high on a cliff, overlooking a panorama of not sand but grass- it took over the sands) and a totally restful couple of days pottering about villages like Cartmel and Grange itself, and just enjoying the fresh air and not having to shout twice a day!

Received an email en route from Venue Cymru, with a link to the local paper-The North Wales Pioneer, a really jolly day at thear colwyn with the students and staff.

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A few more of Paul Sampson’s great photographs from

From the Sands of Grange to the familiar land of Wolverhampton and the Grand Theatre. Lovely to meet up with Louise Bent, Julie, Jeanine and the head of the Grand, Peter Cutchie during a great week. Many shows as usual and big houses. Got a chance to call in at the Grand and have a chat to Robin Firth in the Crew Room before their show “Regeneration” opened, and to catch up with the crew and stage door.


Nice to see Nikki Evans smiling at me from the poster each show! She’s playing Fairy Godmother here in “Cinderella” which has Julian Clary, Joe Tracini (a big hit with our audiences from his “Hollyoaks” appearances) and will feature Ben Stock (He was “Sister” here last with Stefan Dennis and The Krankies) and joined by Tony Jackson.

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This week we joined up with Nathan Daniel for the ten shows! Nathan is currently working in Newcastle, where he also teaches, but was able to join us on a break, and have a catch up after a year! We celebrated with our annual night out in Birmingham Bullring and the amazing “Le Truc” restaurant.

Leaving Nathan and Wolverhampton behind, we headed to Manchester for a day or two en route to our final week- Bradford.


Manchester was the chance to join the Circus! We headed for the Palace Theatre and had a fabulous evening being royally entertained by Brian Conley & Company in “Barnum”, the Greatest Show On Tour”.


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Better still, Andrew & I got to sit through the show next to Anne-Marie Conley and had a truly great evening, and a good catch up back in Brian’s dressing room.It seems only yesterday Peter Robbins and I were here with Brian at The Opera House in “Cinderella”.

In the company are a few mates too- a joy to catch up briefly with Paul Bouchier, Sarah Ford, David Burt and Martin Hinkins. Martin introduced us to a new café that will be added to the list of must visit on tour places- The Richmond Tea Rooms, Manchester!


The final week was spent in Bradford, at one of my favourite hotels- The Midland. Circa 1880/1890. Beautiful ceilings and staircases- it even has two ornate Ballrooms, now wedding venues.

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As I’ve mentioned before in this blog, it was on this very staircase that Britain’s greatest actor, Sir Henry Irving took his last steps. Accompanied by his Stage Manager, Bram Stoker, he died after a performance at the Theatre Royal. He died at the Midland and a short time afterwards upwards of 50,000 people applied for admission to his burial at Westminster Abbey.  Bram Stoker of course went on to pen a novel set in nearby Whitby, and “Dracula” became a worldwide best seller!

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The week in Bradford saw us in areas from Saltaire to Keighley, publicising the panto “Snow White” with Billy Pearce in his sixteenth year at the Alhambra. This year he’s joined by Joe McElderry as The Spirit Of The Mirror.


Glad to see that the decaying cinema next door to the Alhambra has been hopefully saved, and is in the very first stages of renovation. It is a grand building with a great view over the fountains in the square. In the town itself a big new Westfield shopping centre is underway, and hopefully opens by next Christmas 2015. It will be a huge draw to the centre, as is the Alhambra with its 1,400 plus seats twice a day at Panto-time!


Enjoyed the second half telling the children about the “Sunbeams” and the Hippodrome in Keighley, and the 35years of Pantomime at the Alhambra since the first one starring George Lacy. I met George Lacy a couple of times- amazing to think of the links we forge on the way!

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Here’s a link to a recent Sunbeams reunion at The Alhambra:

After a week in Bradford we said goodbye to Su Holgate, and indeed said our farewells to Alan Magor, as Andrew & I headed South on a Friday night to unload the set and return the van.

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Its been an amazing seven weeks of Panto Roadshowing- nearly 3,500 miles- all of them driven by Andrew Ryan, and something like 22,000 children educated and entertained on the way. Thanks Will, Alan and Nathan!


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Now just a week off to pack the costumes for Hull “Aladdin” and for Andrew “Snow White”, which are being collected by Qdos on Thursday, and then Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s off to Panto rehearsals we go- we both start on the 24th in London, and leave for the venues the following Sunday. Time to sharpen the pencil, learn the lines, and almost time for this year’s Dame’s Diary!

Here are a few pictures from the Hull Press Call, held while I was in Glasgow!

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 Stand by for this year’s Dame’s Diary- direct from A rehearsal room in London and The Hull New Theatre!




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