I can't quite believe it, as I sit here typing it seems like only 10 minutes ago I was choosing the awards for 2015/16, and yet here we are, at the start of the 2016/17 Season.
An awful lot has happened in the last 12 months, most especially the forming of the Great British Pantomime Awards. Whilst I am a co-founder, I am only one of twenty odd judges, so my decisions on this site, will have little impact on the awards given out by the GBPA.
The hope is for one day the GBPA to be the Nationally recognised BAFTA equivalent for Panto.
This year we a having a soft launch so we can recruit the best judges, agree on fair scoring and ensure everyone knows what they are doing ahead of the Gala Glitzy Awards Night to be held in 2018.
With over 150,000 visitors now to this humble site, and I really do thank you for your support! I hope you still enjoy my rambles, like my reviews and will keep up with my adventure.
Whilst I am looking forward to kicking off in Coventry tomorrow, I have to admit, I am like a kid on Christmas Eve with excitement for Saturday when I get to go to Newcastle and see the Qdos Cinderella. I can't wait, I love Newcastle. It's a great city, a beautiful theatre, and one of THE MOST TALENTED PANTO Cast's in the Country. Under the Directing of the brilliant Michael Harrison, it promises to be a wonderful show.
I'm avoiding the reviews, as I don't want any spoilers, but when you get Danny Adams, Clive Webb, Chris Hayward, Steve Arnott, and Mick Potts on a stage together, you know its going to be awesome!
Of course, they have another Qdos Cinderella to challenge them this year, with the spectacle that the Palladium are putting on. The cast list full of the biggest names in the business. Add the magic of the TWINS to both of these shows and I expect great things.
I am also looking forward to seeing the brilliant returning Matt Slack in Birmingham on New Years Eve, and EMBARRASSINGLY seeing the Krankies in panto for the first time!!!
Evolution have a few crackers out there this season too, I am especially looking forward to Canterbury. As if Lloyd Hollett and Ben Roddy weren't enough, they've added Stephen Mulhern, John Barr and Lisa Davina Phillip. That said the rest of their shows look fab, and I can't wait to see them either.
FFE yet again have the dream team in Stoke, Jonny Wilkes, Christian Patterson and the returning Simon Nehan. I daren't think what they have in store for us.
I'm also really looking forward to seeing Eric Potts back as Twankey!! He's also joined by an epic cast ... Ben Adams, Sherrie Hewson, John Thompson, and Phil Holden!! in Manchester.
Yes some great shows, and I can't wait..... so please fasten your seatbelt, and come along for the ride. Kick off is Coventry as last year, and Dick Whittington....
As with last years Beauty and the Beast, this was a really enjoyable show, played out on a beautiful set. Craig Hollingsworth the key to the whole show as the brilliant Idle Jack. He's comedy kept the whole show ticking over at a good pace, ensuring laughs were never far away!
As I am expecting this season, there was the customary Brexit and Donald Trump Jokes but the main joke seemed to be on some poor member of the audience, who spent more time on stage than he did on his seat!
Indeed the Dame even commented that his Equity Card was in the post. A fun show, if not a little on the long side .. 79 First Half Minutes which resulted in some restlessness in the audience. Still for £15 it delivered great value for money.
Having kicked off the season, I was now looking forward to heading up to Newcastle to see one of my favourite Pantomime Teams.
Yes this is the annual waffle paragraph about my first visit for Sleeping Beauty, Best Panto ever .. etc .. etc..
Well since that date, I haven't missed a year, and I genuinely hope I never will again. Whilst Newcastle may not have Massive Superstar Names, up in the Toon, where panto is concerned there is only ONE Geordie Duo, no not Ant & Dec but Clive & Danny!!
Record Sold Out Audiences watch their heroes night after night after night. Your biggest issue in Newcastle is if you enjoy the show so much you want to see it again ... you don't stand a cat in hell's chance of getting a seat anywhere in the bottom three decks as this show sells out months in advance.
Hardly surprising when the first thing I did on arrival at the theatre, was buy tickets for Peter Pan next year!
Why is the show so popular, simple answer it has EVERYTHING !!
Danny Adams doesn't stop, but this year he has added plate spinning and some truly breathtaking magic tricks to his repertoire. His slight of hand routine will have you mesmerised. It's not just spectacular, its impossible!!
Clive Webb runs about on stage delivering humour at 100 miles an hour, and has more get up and go than most people half his age!
Mick Potts, the other brother, provides some of the funniest moments in the show with his wonderful routines. There is one dance scene that will have the tears rolling down your face.
But of course, its not just about the Potts Family. In Chris Hayward, Newcastle is blessed with one of the best Dame's in the business, and I am not sure ANYONE will be more glamorously dressed this season than he/she was!!
Those dresses certainly weren't picked up at the Fenwicks Black Friday sale, they were jaw dropping.
Having spent a large part of the year, working in Las Vegas with his good friend, the uber talented Paul Zerdin, Chris' entrance would have done any Vegas Entertainer proud. Flying in on a butterfly. Yes the Twins had been hard at work creating yet another of their spectacles.
There was also more from the Twins later in the show, with Cinderella's wonderful transportation to the ball.
Another Newcastle favourite was one half of the Ugly Sisters - Steve Arnott, joined by Peter Peverley in his 3rd successive Theatre Royal show.
Not only was there Magic in abundance, and Spectacular plate spinning, we were also treated to one of the best Slosh scenes I have ever seen.
A Truly wonderful show, highlighting again just how magical Qdos Cinderella's are. I can't wait to see what this dream team have in store next year when they arrive in Neverland!!
At it is still fairly early in the season, I had a week to wait until I headed down south and over the Dartford Bridge. Now normally crossing the Dartford Bridge, I am full of Turkey and Christmas Cake, as its Boxing Day! But this year, I am there early (although of course I will be back between Christmas and New Year).
The reason for my early visit, was a first time visit to Sevenoaks, and their Sleeping Beauty Gala Night.
I am not sure what I was more excited about, going to see Sleeping Beauty, which is one of my favourite pantomimes, or the fact I was (one of MANY) VIP's and got to mingle with the cast after!
To be fair, I should have been most excited about seeing the show, as it was an absolute cracker.
Fast Paced, Original, Well Acted and Really Really funny!!
From the opening catchy number performed by the entire company, to Ricky learning at the song sheet why they say Never Work with Kids, this show had it all.
Cleopatra were sensational, their voices so good it was if you were listening to a CD. You weren't!! Unlike many artists today, these ladies were singing LIVE and delivering some powerful notes!!! My only complaint .. I was desperate for a rendition of Life Ain't Easy!! but hey, you can't have everything!
I'd enjoyed Peter Brad Leigh's performance in Dunstable when I'd first seen him a couple of years ago, but he was even better last night.
He had some fantastic one liners, non better than when he put down the magnificent Jasette Amos! "Do you know why I am here?" .. "We couldn't afford Sandra from Gogglebox" came the reply. That resulted in howls for the next few minutes from the audience.
Jasette is very popular in these parts, and with her performance last night, despite being laid low with a bad throat, it wasn't hard to see why she is so loved.
Peter's Dame was funny, imaginative and topical. We were treated to Honey B's Twin Sister .. Nanny B, which was hysterical.
Amongst the very funny scenes, including the nursery scene, where the fantastic Ricky Norwood stole the show as Jangles, we were also treated to a great School house scene, and always funny Wall scene.
The soundtrack that the show played out to was also superb, but the ending of the first half, which was a tribute to the wonderful artist Prince, was just spellbinding.
This great show even managed to breath new life into the Ghost Scene and not deliver the " Same old Sh . Stuff" every year.
This was a really enjoyable show, and I was so pleased I had been invited to share this wonderful evening.
From here I was off to another first time venue.
Now I am going to be completely honest with you, I am VERY VERY lucky, I get a number of you kind readers ( I am still amazed and humbled I have ANY) contacting me, and inviting me to come and see your shows.
Surprisingly, every email tells me that the show is "Fantastic, Wonderful, Always received 5* Reviews etc.." I am yet to receive a "Come and see our show, its Cack, but come and see it anyway" lol.
So forgive me, If I am sometimes a little bit nervous as to what I may find!! To be fair, the first time I went to Newcastle, I looked at the poster, thought "who the hell are Clive and Danny.. this is going to be sh.." and two hours later I had seen, to this day, still the Greatest Panto I have EVER seen, so there are always nice surprises, but they can be few and far between.
So when I received an invitation to see Basildon's Sleeping Beauty, I didn't quite know what to expect.
On buying the programme, I saw Brad Fitt had written the script, so that made me feel slightly more comfortable that I could be in for an enjoyable afternoon.
So how was it, well I'll be honest, I didn't like the show ....
I LOVED IT !!! (My Simon Cowell impression).
Seriously, this was an absolutely brilliant show! Very original, very funny, and with some fantastic acting.
The glue to this wonderful performance was Jangles played by Simon Fielding, who doesn't have enough with the acting, he also Directs!!
Sophie Ladds was also exceptional as the evil Maleficent, but in truth the entire cast we superb, and the choreography was absolutely brilliant. Probably some of the best choreography I have seen in a pantomime EVER ! with a fantastic musical soundtrack to match.
Jane Horn was excellent as Fairy Moonbeam, and she had some great one liners. My favourite came early on as she advised the audience about the death of the Queen. "but not to worry, she has been reincarnated as one of our lovely chorus girls". I loved that one!!
There were plenty of topical gags, even ex England Manager Sam Alladyce couldn't escape! he apparently is to be the new presenter of the Great British Bake Off as he will "do anything for some extra dough"! If the Ex England Manager could be ridiculed, so too the PM .. "Theresa May is 5 years away from playing Ugly Sister in Southend with Anne Widdacombe"
There was a really funny take on the Who, What Where scene when discussing who was to guard Princess Aurora, but the fantastic Time Machine scene had everyone in fits of laughter.
For too long I have driven passed Basildon on my way to Southend on Sea for my panto tour, no more! After watching that absolute stonker, I won't be missing out on seeing Basildon again if the wonderful Simon Fielding is involved!! This has a fairly long run, so if you can get tickets, I would certainly recommend a visit.
Two fantastic shows over the weekend made up for a very long journey. Back to the day job now until Friday night, and my first Evolution show of the season, off to see St Albans and Snow White!
Last year Rita Simons had won Best Female Baddie, as Queen Morgiana in Canterbury, and on this performance, she was in no hurry to hand over her crown. She was yet again SENSATIONAL and had the audience in awe at her brilliance!
Bob Golding was excellent as Nurse Nellie, although I doubt his boyfriend for the evening would have agreed with my assessment!
As you would expect from an Evolution pantomime, there were plenty of new jokes, funny scenes, played out by a very talented cast. These included wonderful performances from Ian Kirkby as Herman and Dave Bibby as Muddles.
The scene with the Dame and Muddles played out with local street signs was one of the best received of the night!
A wonderful show, which filled me with excitement for the remaining 5 Evolution shows I would see this season.
From St Albans, I managed to fit in the Matinee performance in Leicester of Jack and the Beanstalk.
I really enjoyed the wonderful signing of Sam Bailey as Queen of the Flower Fairies. Jon Clegg's wonderful impressions were all on point, but his Michael McIntyre was absolutely perfect! I closed my eyes and actually thought I was at a Michael McIntyre gig!
Whilst it is unfair to single out anyone in a great cast, I have to highlight the performance of Connor McAllister who I thought stole the show as the brilliant Fleshcreep! An early nominee perhaps for this years Pantoinsider.com awards maybe?
From Leicester, it was the shortish drive up the M6 to Lichfield, although it felt more like the Birmingham Ship Canal such was the appalling weather.
Whilst it may have been a difficult journey, it was definately worth it.
Through this site, I have been talking with Evolution Dame, Sam Rabone for a while, although I'd never seen him perform in an Evolution show. He kept assuring me how good he was, and how I needed to come and see him in YEOVIL... 300 odd miles from where I lived!!
Having never made it to Somerset, I was delighted to see he had been moved closer to home ... 70miles for me, and 70 yards from his front door for him!!
Well having seen him perform last night, I have to say, if i'd traveled to Yeovil to see him, it would have been worth it. He was nothing short of sensational!!
The girl sat next to me, kept having to be calmed down by her mother, such was her excitement of the mayhem he/she created!
Lichfield have never had an Evolution Pantomime before, and it was easy to see why the audience spent two hours in awe at this wonderful show. It really did have everything!!
Rebecca Keatley was magnificent at Fairy Moonbeam, Ian Billings an excellent King, and as for Ben Thornton.. well he supports Spurs so I can't bring myself to say anything nice about him!! No seriously, he was also brilliant. His chemistry with Sam was there for all to see. The two of them worked so well together, its not surprising that Lichfield want them back next year!
I think the entire theatre queued up to have their pictures taken with Ben and Sam after the show!!
This show has one of my all time favourite scenes in it .. the Bathroom scene, where gallons of water get thrown over the Dame and Jangles. Every time I see this scene it gets funnier and funnier. Last night was no exception.
This show received an unprecedented 5* from The Stage Review, and I couldn't argue with that one bit, it was bloody brilliant.
Sunday saw my first of TEN - yes you read that right, First Family Entertainment shows. Yes, I am finally making it up to Glasgow in January and I can't wait.
First off however was a visit to my favourite theatre on my tour... The Waterside in Aylesbury. The one theatre where my knees still have feeling at the end of the show!!
So what were my thoughts on Aladdin?
Well, given that having "persuaded me to bring him donuts" Andy Collins referred to me as "Donut Daniel" in the Shout Outs, and given that I felt like I had been in the Sleeping Beauty bath scene with the amount of water Chris Nelson directed my way during a certain scene in the show, there can only be one word to describe this show .... CRA.... no no, I can't let the actions of two cloud my judgement!
The truth was this was another Christmas Cracker!!
An extremely talented cast, led by local favourite Andy Collins, although with his wig on in the Ballet scene I did think he was Noel Edmonds in his Multi Coloured Swop Shop days!
Andy is a local hero in Aylesbury, and the audience love him and lap up everything he says and does. Even if he was driving Widow Twankey mad with his desire to sing Twelve Days of Christmas.
Michelle Collins was superb as the Genie of the Ring, whilst Nicholas Pound was a devilishly dastardly Abanazer, and Danny Colligan a great Aladdin.
PC Pong was still struggling to capture Aladdin and create any sense of order in Peking, but he was expertly played by Chris Nelson, who was also the Director of this wonderful show.
There were some very clever tweaks to some scenes, and I especially liked their updated version of a well known Christmas Classic scene. I couldn't possible divulge what that scene was, as far as to say, I was dry when the scene started and soaked at the end of it.
As brilliant as they all were, for me it was the outstanding performance of LA Voix that stood out for me. He was sensational as Widow Twankey.
This was another wonderful show, and made me even more excited to see the remaining nine FFE shows, starting on Wednesday in Liverpool.
Liverpool have Snow White this year, and as you would expect from an FFE show, it delivered a fabulous set, fantastic script and excellent acting!
Liam Mellor made for an extremely likeable and fun Muddles, and soon had 1500 Liverpudlians shouting and screaming "Cracking" every time he came on stage.
The star of the show for me was Leanne Campbell as the Wicked Queen. She was superb and commanded the stage.
The magnificent Seven were exactly that .. Magnificent. The packed house went wild as they came on stage.
A really fun show, and another great night on the tour.
Next up was Northampton, and a chance to see my friend Nigel Ellacott. It's his fault I do my blog, as he initially asked me to write my thoughts on his wonderful site www.its-behind-you.com
Indeed his site is my bible. I use it to work out which shows I can see and when. To say i'd be lost without it, is an understatement.
So on to the show, and what a show. As if having one of the best Dame's in the business wasn't enough!!! (I have to be careful here as too many Dame Friends but EVERYONE knows how amazing Nigel is!!).
We had Blue's Simon Webb as Jack Trott, Ricky K as Simon (that has to get confusing) and the wonderful Ashleigh and Pudsey. Although without giving too much away, Pudsey has competition, and the audience went WILD when it arrived on stage!!!
A fun, fast paced and frantic show from start to finish. As I am sure Nigel will vouch!! The entire cast looked knackered as they came of stage. I wouldn't want to have to do that show twice a day! Especially with the fantastic If I Was Not routine that I think nearly killed Ricky and Nigel!!
The auditorium was packed, it looked like a complete sell out, and they were going wild for this fantastic show!
It was then lovely to catch up with Nigel after the show, along with another friend of his, and panto Dame, the excellent Lee Redwood who had a night off from entertaining the crowds in Weymouth.
A lovely evening seeing old, and making new friends, and the perfect way to head into Panto Day, and a trip to Derby Arena.
Thanks to a Police Incident on the M1, the journey to Derby was extremely slow, and I was worried I was going to make it.
Thankfully I got there just in time, because I would have hated to have missed out seeing this wonderful show.
This was a spectacular show, delivered by an exceptionally talented cast.
Cara Dudgeon was magnificent as Cinderella. She has a beautiful voice, and delivered a number of showstoppers to the packed Arena crowd.
Oliver Gray and Dean Horner as ugly sisters Lav and Lou were tremendous. They were funny, mean, and original. The key factors which make for perfect sisters. Their Strictly Come Dancing take off was hysterical, and only bettered by Cheryl Cole and Mel B!
There were a couple of great scenes in this show, including an excellent take of If I Was Not, all about learning instruments. We were also treated to a wonderful Ghost Bedroom Scene.
Eilish O'Carroll was delightful as the Fairy Godmammy, and thankfully Agnes Brown hadn't doctored her script, so it was appropriate for the younger members of the crowd.
Aston Dobson also delivered a great performance as the Prince Charming.
All in all, this was a superb show, and without doubt the best pantomime I had seen in Derby!!
From Derby it was a short hop up the road to my former home city of Sheffield. It was strange to go back having lived there for most of my life.
Even stranger staying at a hotel less than 2 miles from where I used to live!!
I like to take notes when I am watching a show, so I can refer back to them when writing up my blog so as not to forget any of the funny moments.
Unfortunately I was unable to do that for this show, as I was too busy rolling about the floor with laughter.
This show typifies what great pantomime is all about. Belly Laughs funny, great set, story, musical score all played out by super talented actors and actress'.
Wendi Peters was simply magnificent as Queen Ivannah, her performance faultless.
Phil Gallagher was sensational as Muddles, getting the sometimes reserved Sheffield crowd to go wild every time he called them into action.
Oliver Watton was a fantastic Prince Charming, with his wonderful voice and great stage presence.
Joanna Sawyer made for a wonderful Snow White, and Richard Franks an equally good Herman.
The Dwarfs were sensational. Not only did we have maths genius Jite Ighorodje, but in Craig Garner we have one of the most talented actors on the circuit. Thankfully, Paul Hendy had showcased his enormous talent, and he stole the hearts of the entire audience with his show stopping number at the start of Act Two.
Think that's it, sure I havent missed anyone ... oh wait.
Damian Williams as Nurse Nellie.
What can you say about Damian, No seriously! What can you say?
I don't have a good enough vocabulary to describe how good this guy is.
He is better than brilliant, definitely better than sensational, he is just 100% Comic Genius, and I don't think there is a better "Fat Bloke in a Dress" style Dame anywhere!!
He should be awarded the Keys to the City. How Sheffield rely on this hero to deliver Panto Gold year in, year out.
His performance last night showed why this was his 9th year, and tickets are already selling fast for his 10th Year Celebration with Mother Goose in 2017/18.
All in all this was a simply sensational show, and like Derby had been on Friday, another where I believe this was the best Pantomime the venue had EVER seen!!
And if seeing these two amazing shows wasn't enough for the weekend, its now time to head off to see last years PANTO of the YEAR winning Team and the legends that are Christian Patterson and Jonny Wilkes!
As ever the Stoke auditorium was packed, full of excited families ready to see what the team had in store for us this year.
When you win Panto of the year, to maintain the high standard two years in a row can be almost impossible. How do you top panto perfection from the previous year?
I say almost impossible, because the Dream Team delivered again. This, just as it had been the previous year was hysterical.
Jonny Wilkes as ever delivered a flawless performance as Buttons. His arrival on stage was not only original but led to one of my favourite lines in the show.
Trying not to give too much away .. "His name is "Robbie" "Robbie carries me everywhere"! of course a reference to his famous cousin. Its Jonny's ability to poke fun at himself that endears him to the sold out audiences year after year.
Hannah Potts was excellent as Fairy Cupcake, helping the wonderful Cinderella get to the ball.
Ian Stroughair was excellent at Dandini, and Michael Geary brilliant as Baron Hardup.
Cinderella, Prince Charming, and the dancers all came from the Wilkes Academy, and they were all sensational. Nikki Wilkes choreography adding real production value to this tremendous show.
Just as last year, there is a real abundance of talent coming out of the Wilkes Academy. It's not only Stoke who are enjoying the fruits of their labour. This talented bunch of Actors and Actress' are performing all over pantoland this year, to sensational reviews.
The only problem in this show were the Ugly Sisters, played by Christian Patterson and Simon Nehan. They we just TOO BRILLIANT, no one wanted Cinderella to go to the ball, as everyone was on their side. You didn't want to boo them, however Evil they were, because they were hysterical and panto dame perfection.
Their costumes spectacular , their performances sensational and their script written by Christian himself was hysterical.
The chemistry between Christian, Simon and Jonny was there for all to see. They love working together, and that showed with this faultless performance.
The proof in the pudding in these shows is would you see them again. Well, I don't intend to see the wonderful Busy Bee scene or Twelve Days of Christmas only the once! First thing I did at the end of the show, was book to come back in January.
Whilst Busy Bee may be an old routine, I have never seen it performed better! It was comedy perfection.
FFE have an absolute gem with this talented team.
Having been fortunate enough to see Derby on Friday, and Sheffield on the Saturday, I really had seen three knock out shows over the weekend. I could happily sit through all of these wonderful shows again, but the fact Stoke is 30 miles from work, makes that task a lot easier.
Who knows at this early stage who will win Pantoinsider.com Best Panto for 2017, but these weekends shows have all got to be in with a chance!!
The great news for anyone wanting to see these shows is you still have at least a couple of weeks to catch them, and I can't recommend highly enough that you do!
On Tuesday night, I headed to the Manchester Opera House, and to a star Studded Aladdin.
John Thompson as Abanazer, Sherrie Hewson as Genie of the Ring, Ben Adams as Aladdin, Eric Potts as Widow Twankey and Phil Holden as PC Pong.
As you would expect from such a glittering cast, this show was sensational from curtain up to curtain down.
John Thompson was superb as the evil Abanazer and created comedy gold alongside Sherrie Hewson's Genie of the Lamp.
Eric is one of the best Dame's in the business and his portrayal of Twankey never disappoints. We were also treated to his wonderful "Hello Dolly" routine at the start of the second half. He is also the best in the business when the Russian Ballet scene comes into play!
As they had been last year in MK, Ben Adams and Phil Holden were excellent as Aladdin and Pong respectively.
Ben's great voice (and hair!) was enjoyed by all !!
Phil added great comedy to his role as PC Pong, although I am sure many of us will need therapy to get over his costume change in If I Was Not early in act two!
This was a wonderful show, spectacular, funny and highly entertaining, and made me even more excited to see FFE's Cinderella in Bristol on Thursday.
I was right to be excited about seeing Bristol's Cinderella, as it was even better than it had been in Manchester the year before.
Torville and Dean had grown into the role, and wowed the sell out crowd with their magnificent routines.
Fresh from winning Best Female in last years awards, Rhiannon Chesterman was again simply astounding as Cinderella, with her pitch perfect tones.
Samuel Holmes had developed his brilliant Dandini from Manchester, into an even greater role, delivering laughs a plenty, as well as excellent vocal performances.
Jarred Christmas as he had been the previous year was on top form as the brilliant Buttons. His ability to make funny material from tiny morsels is a huge talent. He was even able to ridicule the audience member he had picked on, who refused to say a single word to him for the whole performance. To many performers, this would have put them off, but not Jarred, he just took it in his stride and continued to deliver laughs a plenty.
This was a brilliant show, that left the audience in awe of the talent they had in front of them.
Next up for me was 20 odd BBC local Radio Station interviews and a 5 minute panto slot at 6.50am !!!!! on BBC Radio Five Live, before leaving Bristol behind and heading to Shrewsbury to see Evolutions Cinderella.
Just as last night, this was a simply brilliant show, and highlighted one very important thing ... Ian Smith (and Michael Batchelor) must NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER EVER be allowed to take Christmas off from Panto again!!
I will come on to talk about Michael when I get to Crawley, but in the meantime, whilst Shrewsbury in its entirety was a sensational cast, led by the brilliant Brad Fitt, Ian Smith was simply AWESOME as Ugly Sister.
Don't get me wrong Matt Daines was also sensational as his equally ugly and wicked sister, but Ian doesn't have a reputation for being one of the best sisters in the business without good reason. His facial expressions, comic timing and delivery just filled the room. Panto had missed him last year whilst he was busy entertaining guests at Butlins as Abanazer, but this year it was Shrewsbury who had the benefit of his return!
With Matt and Ian as sisters, is meant that Shrewsbury's resident Dame, the brilliant Brad Fitt wasn't wearing a dress this year. Instead he took on the role of Buttons. Whilst it may be daunting for some to make this move, Brad did it without any issue at all. As soon as his familiar tones filled the room, the sell out crowd were content and could relax and enjoy their favourite as they had never seen him before. Was he good as Buttons? No! He was blooming brilliant!!
From Shrewsbury it was off to the football stadium in Bolton to catch Dick Whittington, with Keith Chegwin and good friend and supporter of this site, Ben Millerman in his debut as Dame.
When Keith finally made it to the stage (some 25 minutes into the show) he was fantastic! It was just a shame we had to wait so long to see him!
For those who didn't know better, you'd have never been able to tell this was Ben's first professional outing as Dame, or that he had 3 days to learn & rehearse before opening.
Yes, it would be nice to see him in some more elaborate clothes, but he gave an astute performance and in truth, it was Ben and Keith who largely carried this show!!
With Bolton's kick off time being brought forward, it gave me the opportunity to head to Rochdale and take in Anton Benson's Snow White.
Lets be totally honest here, Anton doesn't have the biggest venues or the biggest budgets, but what he does have is real heart, real desire and a love for this genre, and that is clear to see in his shows!
This was an excellent show, with a very strong cast, very original script, and really demonstrated to me that you don't need to spend £40 a ticket to see a great show. No one coming to see Anton's Snow White would have been left disappointed with what this talented producer put on! A lovely show, and a great way to head into Christmas Eve!!
For most people, Christmas Day would be a drunken daze, but not for me!! I don't really drink anyway, but knew I couldn't touch a drop today, as before the Turkey had settled in my belly, I would need to hit the road, and head South.
I had decided in my infinite wisdom to go and see a show at 1pm on Boxing Day! That's perhaps not so mad, the fact it was on the South Coast, probably a bit more mad!!
Disappointingly Jason Sutton was laid low, so he had an understudy taking his place in the wonderful show. Whilst she did an admirable job, with 5 minutes notes, I can't help but think, that understudy for the Dame would be better provided by a male. PLEASE understand, that is NOTHING against Jessica Simmons who did an amazing job, (although I did want her to put a sign on her clipboard saying "Property of Stacey Solomon") but some of the jokes weren't landing, because she was a young pretty girl and not some bloke in a dress!
My biggest disappointment however with this show was the people of Portsmouth!
The auditorium was empty, and that was sole destroying, not just because no actor should have to face that sort of reception, but more so because this was a cracking show, with some exceptional performances, especially from Mark Read as Joe, Nicki French as the Ice Queen and Paul Winterford as Jack Frost. The people of Portsmouth should be ashamed they didn't support this great show, and I only hope PHA send it somewhere else next year where it will be appreciated! It was a real feel good Christmas show, and in a full house, I can only imagine how special the atmosphere would have been!!
From Portsmouth, it was a short hop down the road to see a number of my panto favourites conveniently in the same show!! Yes it was time to see Shane Richie in Robin Hood at the Southampton Mayflower.
Ok, Let me start with my annual request to Qdos ... PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE Release a download / cd / anything with the amazing music Gary Hind has written. I'm still humming "Robin Hood" now days later and don't even get me started on other show songs such as If the shoe fits, or Party of the Year !!!
I know there is copyright issues, I know that there may not be enough loonies like me to make it viable, but please... I'll happily provide links to help sell it, have it on loop on this website, ANYTHING... there is nothing more special than the Qdos Musical scores, and it depresses me I can only listen to them in December!!
Ok annual begging over, on to this great show. Well lets be honest, how can it be anything else! Shane Richie... Just Brilliant, but then you add the superb Jesse Wallace, Jeffrey Holland and Pete Gallagher and you already have a sensational cast, but this show hasn't finished yet!!
Oh no, one of my panto favourites, Peter Piper is there as the brilliant Friar "David Attenborough" Tuck, Phil Hitchcock and finally Danny Potts!!
The music is great, the set is great, the cast is great so hardly surprising the show is too! We even get one of my old favourite routines to boot, the Twelve Days of Christmas. If this show hadn't been brilliant enough, it then gets topped off, with coming into the pub on the stroke of full-time to find Sheffield Wednesday have pulled of a win away to Newcastle!! What a great evening!
A Lovely way to spend Boxing Day evening!
Next morning, it was up early to see my mum in North London, unfortunately her health is a challenge, so it was an upsetting visit, but that just emphasises how much of a welcome escape Pantomime is for me, especially this year.
As I left for Canterbury, I was feeling rather low and really quite upset. In those circumstances, anything that can take your mind of things is a welcome break.
Not even I could have imagined the boost that my evening in Canterbury would give me!!
I was delighted to get the opportunity to meet with Paul Hendy prior to the show. Paul has been a big supporter of this site, and shares my love for this genre. I thought we were going to have a quick pizza before the show, but on being taken upstairs in the restaurant, I find the room is full of Panto Royalty.
Stephen Mulhern, Ben Roddy, Lloyd Hollet and Vladimir Georgievsky greet me as an old friend, and make me feel a million dollars. Even more great given the morning I have just had, to which they had no idea.
We have a great laugh, and discussion about all things panto, how Lloyd was in A&E first thing this morning and can hardly move, before Stephen suddenly looks at his watch and realises they'd better get back to the theatre as there was a show to put on!!
And WHAT A SHOW!! WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!
This is one of the greatest pantomimes you will ever see!! It genuinely has everything you could wish for. Comedy, Great Music, 3D Ghosts, Slosh, Killer Scenes and some of the most talented actors in the land.
I don't need to tell any of my readers about how good Stephen Mulhern is! The fact he now presents some of the top shows on TV clearly show everyone that! Having said that, put him in a panto, and he just shines!! (well unless Ant & Dec are undercover and winding him up!).
But Canterbury have also been very lucky to have the returning Ben Roddy and Lloyd Hollett in their ranks. If you had asked anyone in the sold out audience whether they could work out which actor was in absolute agony having spent most of the day in A&E, they wouldn't have had a clue. That is how excellent and professional Lloyd Hollett was. Absolutely brilliant as Captain Crabstick.
Ben Roddy is simply brilliant as a Dame, he says he learnt from the best in the business.. Mr Damian Williams, and boy does it show. If only his question setting skills in quizzes were as good!! (despite being on the winning team, which I have to admit had NOTHING to do with my skill! I think I got my name right!)
But you see, this is where Canterbury steals a march on the rivals. That isn't the end of this talented cast.
You have Vladimir Georgievsky who is best know for his hilarious and highly skilled trampoline act, who delivered a brilliant updated version from that which saw him as a Semi Finalist in BGT in 2015.
But the Cherries on top of the cake are the breathtaking Lisa Davina Phillip as Fairy Bow-Bells and John "Bloody Brilliant" Barr as King Rat. These two are simply electric. Their on stage chemistry is phenomenal and their performances just brilliant.
Put all this together and you have a real crackerjack of a pantomime and one I could genuinely watch again and again and again!! Brilliant.
From Canterbury it was off round the M25 for a double header, starting off in Horsham and a chance to catch up with another good friend Martin Ramsdin who this year had decided not to terrorise poor Cinderella as one of the best Ugly Sister in the business, but instead to become all motherly looking after her two sons Aladdin & Wishee Washee. I had to remind myself not to boo, especially when he came on wearing his fantastic Bee & Angry Birds outfits!
To be fair, no one could boo this fabulous show. Written by MoGo productions this was a refreshingly original show. As you would expect, Martin was sensational as Widow Twankey. His two sons, played by Michael Goble (who is one half of MoGo) and Olly Pike were absolutely brilliant.
I also really enjoyed the fantastic performance of Dani Acors as the Genie of the Ring.
A wonderful first visit to Horsham, and if this talented team are there again it definitely wont be my last!
From Horsham it was a quick hop to Crawley to see the other half of the Dynamic Dame Duo who had been so missed last Christmas, Michael Batchelor. He was joined by another member of panto royalty, the always amazing Hilary O'Neil.
We were also treated to great performances from Shaun Williamson as Captain Hook and CBBC pair Richard David-Caine and Joseph Elliot, who were again brilliant, just as they had been in Derby the previous year.
As you would expect, Michael was simply sensational as Mrs Smee, and had spent all year creating some amazing dresses which were absolutely stunning.
My only complaint about this show was I would have liked it to have been 10 minutes longer, so we could have seen more of the brilliant Hillary O'Neil and given her opportunity to share more of her wonderful impressions with us. That said, it was a fantastic show, and a great way to end my Evolution pantomime season.
Next up was a visit to Wimbledon to see Dick Whittington.
With the brilliant Matthew Kelly as Dame and the very funny Tim Vine as Idle Jack this was another fun show.
I then put my faith in Southern Rail to get me to Richmond to see Sleeping Beauty with the excellent Chris Jarvis. Thankfully for probably the only day this month, they did deliver and I was able to watch this great show.
Whilst Chris and the entire cast of this show were great, for me there was only one stand out performance, and that was the amazing Maureen Lipman, who just delivered a masterclass in acting.
She gave everyone what they wanted!! References to "Ology" and even an impression of Theresa May! It was an absolute pleasure to watch this genius at work.
Next day I headed over to catch up with old friend Mark James in Basingstoke in their Sleeping Beauty.
Another fabulous show, where yet again Mark showcased his comedy skills and entertained the crowd with his various mad cap inventions.
Charles Burden was celebrating 50 years as Dame although he didnt look old enough in some of his elaborate costumes.
Sue Holdness was excellent as Caraboss, and helped make this a really enjoyable show.
From Basingstoke it was time to head to Woking to see Andy Ford and Warwick Davies in Snow White.
This was an absolute corker of a show. I thought Andy Ford would be good as Herman the Henchman, but he was even better than I had expected. He was absolutely sensational! At one point I wanted someone to pour water over him as he's was on comedy fire! The whole audience were rolling around with tears in their eyes laughing at his exploits.
But as sensational as Andy was, and despite being my star of the show, there were plenty more great performances in this amazing pantomime.
Chris Cox was excellent as Muddles with his Mind Reading skills and enough praise can't be heaped on the brilliant Dwarves. Headed up by Warwick Davies alongside his talented daughter Annabel, and sister-in-law Hayley Burroughs.
This was an absolutely brilliant show, and definitely the best one I had seen in Woking.
From Woking it was time to head up to Birmingham for New Years Eve and tradition of the Hippodrome Panto.
Now lets be very frank here! Last year I got some rather harsh criticism for giving my constructive view on Aladdin. People overlooked that I had said it was a great show, and just picked up on my constructive suggestions which could have made the show even better.
One of my suggestions was to allow the brilliant Matt Slack more opportunity to deliver his comedy. This year it did seem that Matt was given more freedom to deliver his own comedy, and the result? For me the best Birmingham Pantomime I had ever seen in the 25+ years I'd been coming to this fantastic venue.
I doubted the last visit of Dick Whittington with Joan Collins could be bettered but this version definitely did that! It was simply brilliant.
2 1/2 hours of NON STOP Laughs. I can't remember the last time's ever laughed as much! It was seriously brilliant.
Matt Slack wasn't good, he wasn't great, he wasn't magnificent, he was literally OUT OF THIS WORLD. Another Comic on top form delivering gag after gag after gag, mixed in with brilliant impressions at 100 miles an hour pace.
But it didn't stop there, when Matt wasn't entertaining the sold out crowd, the Krankies came into play with their top draw comedy and routines.
Then add to the mix the brilliant John Barrowman, Steve McFadden and Jodie Pranger and Andrew Ryan, and what you had was pure Pantomime Gold. Michael Harrison had done it again! Delivered Panto Perfection.
Scene after scene the panto was getting funnier and funnier, and the Twelve Days of Christmas take was just sensational.
This was pant wetting funny. Maybe as it was New Years Eve at times it sailed close to the Adult wind, but I certainly didn't care, I was too busy laughing.
But this show wasn't just funny, it was also spectacular! The Twins FX hard work was yet again on show, including the Giant Rat and the very funny sight of Janette Krankie flying around the stage having been eaten by a man eating Shark!!
It can be difficult sometimes to put into words how brilliant a show is, the best way to demonstrate that is to put your money where you mouth is, and I have done just that, buying tickets to see this masterpiece again before it closes on 29th January 2017.
Seriously, don't miss this show, its absolutely sensational!!
No rest on New Years Day either! I was lucky to find my closest professional pantomime to home had a show on NYD, so obviously had to attend. It was a first visit to the Kettering Lighthouse, and a nice way to spend the evening.
Cheryl Fergison was the star of the show as the evil but brilliant Carabosse, but there were other excellent performers in this show, especially Adam McNab who played the Beast/Prince to absolute perfection.
A fun and enjoyable show, and the perfect way to spend New Years Day.
Next up was a trip to London, in the afternoon it was off to the Lyric Hammersmith to see their take on Aladdin.
This was another good show, played out by a talented cast, none more so than the brilliant Vicki Stone as Abanazer. But the main reason for my trip to London was to see the Pantomime EVERYONE was talking about!!
It was time to take my seats at the London Palladium ready for Cinderella.
The house was full and a wave of expectation filled the air. If anyone left disappointed then there must have been something SERIOUSLY wrong with them. This show had absolutely everything, and not for the first time this season, was a Michael Harrison Qdos Masterclass of how to deliver a perfect panto.
It is one thing bringing together a stalwart cast, its another to make them gel and deliver a show as sensational as this one.
Where does one start? The set? simply breathtaking, the most extravagant, magical and perfect set I have ever seen.
The Costumes? Simply perfection, from the dancers to the elaborate concoctions worn by Julian Clary, they were all sensational. They must have taken hours of sheer dedication to deliver this breathtaking result.
The special effects? Well what do you think ? TwinsFX at their very best again, from flying horses, butterflies to a tiny moped that flies into the audience with Julian Clary on board and rotates him upside down! Everything you could wish for and more!
Then there was the cast, and what a cast! No effort or expense spared in bringing together some of the biggest names in showbiz on one stage.
There were simply no weak links, Paul Zerdin was his usual brilliant self with Sam, Amanda Holden enchanting as the Fairy Godmother, Paul O'Grady magnificent as the Wicked Stepmother.
Julian Clary superb as Dandini alongside Lee Mead as the excellent Prince.
Nigel Havers and Count Arthur Strong added excellent comedy to proceedings and Natasha J Barnes was spellbinding as Cinderella.
I was excited to see the brilliant Wendy Somerville as a Wicked Stepsister and as ever, she didn't disappoint, was was amazing alongside the equally brilliant Suzie Chard.
Yes the tickets may have been expensive but you got a phenomenal show nearly 3 hours in length and left believing in magic!
Thank You Nick Thomas, Michael Harrison and all at Qdos for bringing Panto home to the Palladium and for delivering this faultless show. Oh and the musical score? what do you think ..... GET IT ON A DOWNLOAD!! it was brilliant.
After spending the evening being mesmerised at the Palladium, next up was a trip to Windsor, where I would meet up with Mark James fresh from his starring role in Basingstoke.
We were treated to a fun afternoon in the company of Steven Blakeley who had written this show and was the Dame, Kevin Cruise, Timmy Mallet and Anthea Turner.
A good show, with a nice original script.
Next up was a trip to New Brighton on the Wirral to see Cinderella with Tam Ryan.
The magic of a walk on the seafront was lost on me in the freezing cold weather, but luckily, that was because all the magic was inside the Floral Pavilion for this wonderful show.
Tam was as you would expect superb as Buttons and very funny, and ensured those in attendance had a great night, but he wasn't the only star of the show.
George Olney was superb as Dandini, but it was the fabulous voice and stage presence of Olivia Birchenough that really blew me away, she was magnificent.
This was a lovely show and in a rare occurrence also included real ponies in the transformation scene. Definitely worth a trip up to the Wirral on a cold dark January evening.
From New Brighton, it was off to Lougborough for a first visit to their pantomime.
I had heard lots of good things about Morgan Brind's shows but even that couldn't prepare me for just how good this show was.
Morgan and the team at Little Wolf productions don't do things by half! They write the show, star in the show oh yeah, and build the set and make the costumes!! and Alan perfectly choreographs it as well.
The result is an absolutely sensational show which is highly original, very funny, and played out on a fantastic set and wonderful costumes.
Ashley Tucker made for a charming Cinderella, whilst Alan Bowles was excellent as Buttons. His energy ensuring the capacity crowd joined in with the plot at every opportunity.
Natalie Simone and Simon Kent were also excellent as Dandini and Prince Charming, but for me the stars of the show along with Alan Bowles, were the Ugly Sisters played by Dan Smith and Morgan Brind. They were both excellent, and the scenes with Buttons simply hysterical. Especially the trip to the beauty salon!! There faultless performances topped off with some sensational costumes.
This was a wonderful show, complete with flying coach and horses. The production was so lavish, and breathtaking that it wouldn't have looked out of place in a 1500 seater major theatre. The Little Wolf team need to be very proud of the excellent production they have here in Loughborough, from the set to the sensational acting and everything else in between.
This show has been so popular, they had already sold out of programmes and half of the merchandise before the final week of the run. Hardly surprising, a real hidden gem, and another venue I will need to visit every year whilst this team are in charge of proceedings!
From Loughborough it was off to Milton Keynes to see Dick Whittington.
As I had come to expect from FFE shows this season, it was another cracker of a show. The star for me was the brilliant Sam Womack as Queen Rat, and her highlight had to be her lip-sync battle where she took on the part of Honey G!
I have been lucky enough to see Sam before in Panto, and she is absolutely fantastic, and she only cemented my view of her again in this years show.
Stacey Solomon was also great, and looked absolutely stunning as Fairy Bowbells.
Kev Orkian is a real favourite in these parts and yet again demonstrated why, with numerous one liners and comedy routines.
A lovely show, well choreographed and entertaining.
From here it was my furthest journey on the tour, and a first ever visit to The Kings Glasgow for my final FFE show of the season. The first time I had managed 10/10 and perhaps a poignant year to have done so.
I didn't know what to expect, I thought I probably wouldn't understand half of it.. (Bring doon the Cloot) but just hoped it would be good, as I family with me who hadn't been to panto in years, and I didn't want to disappoint them!!
There was no need to worry, I understood 80% of this wonderful show and everyone had an absolutely brilliant time!
The entire cast was exceptional and put on an absolutely brilliant show, and whilst it is unfair to single anyone out, I do have to!! Des Clarke was absolutely brilliant as Buttons, he was a cross between Danny Adams and Stephen Mulhurn (which can only be a really good thing), he had phenomenal pace and stage presence and kept everyone entertained.
The other, is the simply sensational Gregor Fisher as one of the Ugly Sisters. Everytime he was on stage he had the audience in stitches. One of the funniest men I have ever seen perform. He was just sensational!
The show also included one of my favourite jokes of the season. Buttons advising the crowd that he was going to "keep asking Cinderella to marry him until she said yes! Most places call that a proposal, but here we call it a referendum!" The entire audience were rolling with that one.
A magnificent was to end my FFE season and complete my 10/10 shows. It may have been a 800 mile round trip, but it was definitely worth it!!
So as 8th January passes, so many great shows close, or have already closed, so it becomes harder to pick shows up during the week.
Luckily however there are still some super shows open, and I will get to prolong my panto tour until the end of the month.
Next up (for now) is Nottingham Theatre Royal on Saturday night, where I am really excited to see Tony Maudsley as Dame Trott!!
I was right to be excited to see Tony, as he was absolutely sensational as Dame Trott. He looked like he was enjoying his first outing as a Dame, and the packed crowd were responding to his wonderful performance.
As you would expect, this was a colourful, fast paced and enjoyable show. The Chuckle Brothers were throwing back the years in another wonderful performance. Perhaps passing on some of their 50 years of Panto Experience to the new boy!
A fabulous show that had got me so in the mood for a Qdos show, that I went and booked a return visit to London for the following night and the final performance of Cinderella at the Palladium.
No need to add to the wonderful comments I made first time round, apart from to say it was just as good second time round, and I am still humming "On Argyle Street" as I type up the reviews now!!
With a number of shows now closed, it was a few days until my next panto. A first time visit to Stevenage to see Peter Pan. As with a few new venues this season, it certainly won't be my last visit there.
This was an exceptional show, and thoroughly enjoyable. Tom Lister was a different class as Captain Hook. I remembered he had been great in Sunderland a few years back, but he was even better this evening.
Twist and Pulse were sensational as Pirates, and their showcase routine in act two was worth the admission money alone. Simply brilliant.
Amanda Coutts was Tinkerbell and played it just as well as she had the previous year in Stoke.
The show was played out on a wonderful set, including a Ball Pond and fountains. A wonderful show, and I am very grateful I included it on my tour this year. Having seen the show, I wasn't surprised the last few performances were a complete sell out!!
Next up was York Theatre Royal, back home after performing last year in the Signal box Theatre.
Another fun show, but I did prefer last year and felt that as beautiful as the new venue is, it was definitely more unique last year.
Still Berwick defied his health and age to deliver a top notch performance, and in a VT we got a glimpse of Martin Barass who was sadly missed this year due to his nasty accident earlier in the year. We wish him continued recovery and hope to see him back driving Berwick mad in the flesh next year!
Harry Hughes made for an excellent Buttons but the star of the show, as he had been last year for me was the sensational David Leonard as Baroness Von Naff. He is a real favourite in these parts and thats no surprise to those who see his wonderful performances.
From York, via a stop off in Sheffield to see the Wales Panto Players amateur production of Cinderella, it was off to see Nottingham Playhouse Aladdin and their last nights capers.
As usual this was a wonderful show, and the crew certainly played a few tricks on the cast, but having lost a few of the key cast members from previous years, the new cast weren't as up to speed with the tricks and reactions.
Tim Frater and Anthony Hoggard used to give as good as they got, so the fact they were missing this year did detract from the mayhem that would normally occur. Who could forget Anthony's Cat last year!!
In truth, as great as this show was, and it was!! especially John Elkington as the wonderful Twankey, Kevin McGowan as evil Abanazer and Rebecca Little as PC Ping/Genie of the Ring, it did miss Playhouse favourites Anthony and Tim.
That said, it was still a great show, with plenty of laughter both scripted and unscripted. Including the miners coming out of the cave once Aladdin had opened it!!
From last night at the Playhouse to Last Night in Wolverhampton for their Aladdin.
This was without doubt the best Wolverhampton Panto I had seen, since probably Billy Pearce and Bobby Bennett in Aladdin, donkey's years ago!
It had a really really strong cast which delivered a truly wonderful afternoon's entertainment.
Joe McElderry was fantastic as Aladdin, with his wonderful voice filling the packed theatre.
Lisa Riley was excellent as the Slave of the Ring, and looked to be enjoying herself on stage as much as the audience were off it!
Ian Adams was excellent as Twankey, Ben Faulks as PC Pong but for me, the star of the show was the incredibly lazy Doreen Tipton, who was just hysterical as the Lazy Empress. Inspired, hysterical and perfection casting!
Adam C Booth was also wonderful as Wishee Washee and had great way of getting everyone involved.
A wonderful show, as the panto tour starts to wind down.
Indeed there is only a return trip to Birmingham and a visit to Bradford before Panto season 16/17 is over!
Birmingham revisited was another great night, so much so, I booked to go to the final show on the Sunday! No surprise that it has won my Panto of the Year then.
My last new show was Peter Pan in Bradford, with the excellent Billy Pearce. This was another colourful, high tempo masterpiece that was thoroughly enjoyable.
Darren Day was excellent as Captain Hook, trying to defeat the sensational Jon Lee as Pan. Although a quick rendition of Reach as he flew to the stars wouldn't have gone a miss!
Charlie Hardwick was brilliant as Mimi the Mermaid and there aren't enough adjectives to describe the brilliance of Billy Pearce who yet again defied his years to put on this non stop action spectacle.
We were also treated to a fabulous Twelve Days of Christmas before this wonderful show ended.
So that is it for another season.
5,500 miles driven
43 different shows seen
46 pantomimes watched
43 programmes taking up another drawer
14 New Venues Visited
1 Irate Bank Manager
1 Very Happy Amex / Visa Card Manager !
Thank you to all the front of house, back of house, crew and casts for making this such a wonderful and memorable season.
To the friends who have accompanied me on my travels at various points .. Thank You.
To the friends I have shared drinks / dinner with after the shows this season Thank You.
To the New Friends I have made - Thank You
and to those new friends who I didn't manage to see perform this year .. I'll make it happen next season!!
Thank you everyone for a great season! See you all in November to do it all again.
Well - Easter for the Easter Panto and Summer for Whittington Rocks !!!