Easter Pantomimes Preview

Easter Pantomimes are getting more popular each year- especially as Christmas seasons are getting shorter. Gone are the days when The Swansea Grand would open on Boxing Day and Close just after March 1st or longer!

Here are a few Easter Productions and tours to join the previously mentioned  “Alice In Wonderland” from Anton Benson Productions, currently on tour.

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Ashleigh & Sully Now On Tour!

Joe Purdy Productions has two productions on offer for Easter, and one Panto for mid Summer 2018. The first- of the panto offerings  was”RAPUNZEL” at The Albert Halls, Bolton. A “One off Special” three shows in a day.

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George Sampson and Olivia Birchenough joined Tam Ryan, Lee Redwood, Jade Natalie and Yvonne Patterson in this presentation.

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George Sampson & Olivia Birchenough at Bolton.

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The Bolton Cast of “Rapunzel”

Joe Purdy presents “Beauty & The Beast” at The Coronation Halls Ulverston from March 30th to 4th April. Cast as shown below.

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In the Summer Joe Purdey returns to Bolton with “Jack And The Beanstalk” starring Anne Nolan as Fairy. It runs from 27th July to August 12th.

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Touring from March 24th to the 15th April, Enchanted Entertainment presents “Beauty and The Beast” with Bobby Davro and Dani Harmer.

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The tour cast includes Mark James and Andrew Fleming. It plays venues from Carlise to Yeovil, from Dunfermline to Darlington and many stops inbetween. For a full listing of the tour dates take a look at Enchanted’s web site: http://www.enchantedentertainment.co.uk

 

 

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Ashleigh In Wonderland!

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Just a couple of weeks after winning Crufts with Sully, Ashleigh Butler is on the road with an Easter Panto- “Alice In Wonderland”.

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Along with Leslie Ash and Dave Benson Phillips, Ashleigh and Sully opened the tour on Friday (March 23rd) and visit a few places around the UK until April 15th in this Panto style production, presented by Anton Benson Productions.

Easter Panto is becoming more popular each year, and productions are opening or in rehearsal this week to provide entertainment for the Easter school holidays.

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I visited Crufts recently, and caught up with Ashleigh, her Mum, Penny and furry friends Sully and Winter. During panto at Wycombe this year Winter was a very tiny eight week old puppy. Not any more. Here is Winter a couple of months on!

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A great picture for Nation Puppy Day!

Here’s Winter and Sully back in January in “Jack & The Beanstalk”.

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Sully was Small agility champion for 2018- a major win for Team Butler. We were there to see him speed through the agility courses before winning the trophy. Here’s Andrew Ryan and myself after the first round with Ashleigh.

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Crufts at the NEC Birmingham 2018

If you want to catch Ashleigh and Sully in action this Easter, the tour dates can be found here: http://www.antonbensonproductions.com

Here’s a flyer with the dates.

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Happy Easter!

A Merton Make-Over!

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A new Dame is launched today- Paul Merton will be Widow Twankey at Wimbledon for Qdos.

I had great fun assisting Paul with his make-up for this photo shoot a few weeks ago, and got the chance to chat panto with someone who has a great love of pantomime and Variety, and its history. It was a fun afternoon!

Paul’s pantomime roots are in Wimbledon.He saw shows there through his childhood and when he first applied to join British Actor’s Equity, he discovered that his name- Paul Martin- was already taken. He chose the name of the area he grew up in.

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He found his love of comedy in The Comedy Store, Soho. In 1982 he started to make regular appearances , and still performs regularly with The Comedy Store Players.

Paul’s Television and radio career has spanned “Whose Line Is It Anyway”, “Have I Got News For You” (starting in 1990) “Paul Merton- The Series, and Paul Merton in Galton & Simpson performing scripts written originally for Tony Hancock, along with presenting “Room 101”, A South Bank Special and the long running “Just A Minute” radio show.

His fascination with variety and pantomime led him to present the documentary “Paul Merton’s Palladium Story”.

Paul is no stranger to Pantomime on Television. He has starred in four of them:

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In 1998 Paul appeared in ITV’s “Jack and The Beanstalk” as The Narrator. This pantomime featured Julie Walters and Julian Clary. Dame Trott was played by Adrian Edmondson.

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In early 2000 Paul appeared as The Spirit Of The Ring opposite Julian Clary as Slave of The Lamp in ITV’s “Aladdin”. Widow Twankey was Coronation Street’s John Savident.

Later in 2000 the ITV pantomime was “Cinderella”- Paul’s first time putting on the make-up and frock of The Ugly Sister opposite Ronnie Corbett. Julian Clary appeared in the  Fairy Godmother role.

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In 2002 Paul Merton Paul appeared in ITV’s Pantomime “Dick Whittington” playing The Captain, with Sarah The Cook played by Richard Wilson.

During our make-up session we had a great chat about the traditions of pantomime- Paul has a great love of things variety and of the history of Pantomime. It was a joy to be a small part of this transformation- launching a new Panto dame in his home theatre!

 

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.

 “This Is The Moment”

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!