Panto Blog 2014-15

By Daniel Dawson


As I make my way on the A50 to Stoke on a fairly mild Sunday afternoon in November, it’s hard to believe pantomime season is amongst us again. As has been the case in recent years, shows are opening up earlier, which means I have even more time to cram in as many shows as possible.

I am hoping to fit in as many shows as possible this season, meaning my pantomime awards at the end of January will be even harder than usual to pick. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So before I begin with my review, I will utter the immortal words, as I do every year, “This views are my personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of any website it appears on or links to.”

Right, formalities over, the tour begins.

Where better place to start, than last year’s joint winner… Stoke. This year, we are treated to their take on Dick Whittington, led by Stoke favourite Jonny Wilkes. As has been the case over the past few years, he was joined by the brilliant Christian Patterson as the Dame. This year’s show also included a return to the team of Kai Owen, Louise Dearman and Debbie Chapman. All in all giving us one of the strongest line ups Stoke had seen in a long time.

The show kicked off at an electric pace, although it did take a little bit of getting used to Debbie Chapman playing the Fairy Godmother, as she had been such an excellent baddie, as the Wicked Queen the year before in Snow White.

Next to join us on stage was West End star Louise Dearman, with her powerfully enchanting voice, showing why attracting Louise to Stoke was such a coup.

It wasn’t long before the audience were treated to the arrival of Sarah the Cook, better known as Christian Patterson. He sped onto stage in a mobility scooter, and Stoke went wild.

That said, it wasn’t long before his glamorous entrance was overshadowed by the arrival of our hero.

The screen came down, and we were treated to a “Day in the Life” of Dick Whittington. With 500 miles playing in the background, we followed our hero from his bed, through a rather awkward visit to the Britannia Stadium Stoke, where he was kicked out by Nick Hancock, before receiving a far more warm welcome on his arrival at Port Vale. He still had time for a pint and a game of darts with Phil ‘The Power” Taylor, before arriving at the Regent Theatre in Stoke, and receiving a hero’s welcome as he came through the audience and on to the stage.

From here on in, we were treated to two hours of non-stop panto magic.

Our hero was not afraid to make fun of himself, as he advised the audience “Those who have thought it for years, now’s the time to shout it” as he introduced himself as “Dick”.

There were plenty of jokes for the “Grown Up” members of the audience. When Dick was looking for Alice, we heard “Alice, Alice, where the … Alice”

Then in the “Ghost” Scene, we had the custom (Sarah the Cook) “I’d hate to be caught by the ghosties”, to which the response came, (Dick Whittington) “and I’d hate to be caught by the...” (Sarah the Cook) “Dick”, (DW) Same thing! “Which received a huge laugh.

The one liners kept coming thick and fast. I like the rest of the audience loved it when Jonny made fun of previous leading man – Joe Swash who had been a bit of disaster on his last Stoke visit.

As you would expect, the “Dick” jokes came thick and fast, always to huge laughs. Poor Sarah the Cook commenting on how “first I was Aliceless, now I’m … I’ve lost Dick!”

As well as the numerous one liners, we were treated to some sensational performances. Louise Dearman showing off her fabulous voice, and had the audience spellbound by her wonderful rendition of “Let it Go”. It really was enchanting.

Kai Owen, returning after the success as an ugly sister two years ago, was an excellent and dastardly King Rat.

As always, when Christian Patterson is on stage, the laughs are never far away. Thankfully his humour is better than his cooking, judging by the Sausage Pie Sarah & Dick made together in the Kitchen. Somehow I don’t think we will be seeing either on Master Chef anytime soon.

The highlight of the show however, was the wonderful 12 Days of Christmas, although this was reworked with a Stoke Theme. Oatcakes at the plenty.

A great fun show, and a perfect way to start the season. I am just looking forward to coming back to see this great show again.

From Stoke it was off to see another Dick, this time in Leeds. It was my first ever Rock N Roll Pantomime.

The one thing that really impressed me about this production, was just how multi-talented the cast were. Not only could they act and sing, but they also seemed to play at least two instruments. Talk about multi-skilling! Although it was slightly strange seeing the Dame playing Sax!

I also thought it a nice touch that some of the cast came out into the audience before the show started and spoke to the children, getting their buy in to scream and shout during the show.

The whole production was excellent, but special mentions have to go out to Liz Singleton as Alice, Kenny Davies as the very funny Billy Bungalow and Jamie Baughan as Alderman Fitzwarren.

Simon Nock at the Dame had some of the best one liners. Having asked his “boyfriend” for the evening in the audience, if he had put his tree up yet, when he replied he had, our Dame informed him that “I put the tree up myself this morning! But I should have taken the Star off first!”

There was also time for Billy Bungalow to remark, “I think I’m seeing stars”. “Not in this panto” came the reply. And whilst there might not have been any instantly recognisable names in the cast, it didn’t stop it from being an excellent show from start to finish.

From Leeds it was a trip to Newcastle, to see one of Qdos biggest shows. Getting tickets for Newcastle is nay on impossible if you don’t book months in advance. They have sold over 90,000 tickets for their run, and after the string of excellent reviews in the local press, this number will keep rising.

Annual readers of my blog will know that I always seem to wax lyrical about the Newcastle pantomime, and it is something I make no apologies for.

Being completely honest, prior to working in Newcastle, I had never heard of Clive Webb and Danny Adams, let alone see them perform. Fast forward 4 years, and I couldn’t dream of a Christmas without seeing their show.

My biggest upset during the two hours of non-stop magical madness was whether I could find a ticket to actually see the show again!

“The Twins” tend to debut their latest and greatest inventions in Newcastle and they had been hard at work again this year.

The Mirror was simply spectacular as it rose out of the Orchestral Pit. That was only the start. Suspended Dwarfs to begin, followed by upside down Reindeer rides, and a confrontation with a Dinosaur.  These effects were certainly not for the faint hearted. I almost forgot the evil witch flying over the audience aboard her bat.

The Twins certainly add magic to pantomime sets up and down the country.

The costumes this year were also a step ahead of the rest.  Chris Hayward creating some wonderful dresses, including my personal favourite, a dress made to look like 70s Children’s favourite Bagpuss.

Not all the costumes however were from designers, Muddles seemed quite upset when the Prince wore an “original Vivian Westwood” telling us that he was in an original “Matt Alan”!

The costumes were also to give Chris Hayward his first ever chorus of “boos” at the theatre. Well if you will dress up as a Sunderland Dame. This was quickly resolved, as he magically transformed the dress into a “Black and White Toon Creation” to huge cheers.

We were also treated to his wonderful Aldi dress!  I’ll keep an eye out for that next time I go in to do some shopping.

The show started at the usual fast pace. The always Evil but highly talented Steve Arnott this year as the Wicked Queen, warned us all of the perils to await Snow White. His make-up and costumes were just like his performance, superb. Every year he undergoes such a transformation to take up his key role as villain.

Once the Wicked Queen had installed fear across the packed theatre it was time for our hero’s to make their grand entrance, in a car.

To kick the show off, we were promised a “big surprise” cue a large explosion and all the lights going off! I believe there were a few on the front row who needed to change their underwear after that.

After we had all recovered, Muddles played by the comic genius that is Danny Adams, started proceedings with his “best gag”!

“What do you call an Egyptian Taxi Driver working in Newcastle?” “Toot and Kamoot”

Then after last year’s 3D effects and complaints about the audience’s eyesight, it was time for Clive and Danny to ensure we all undertook a Geordie eye test, to ensure our sight hadn’t been destroyed.

“YI YI YI YI” phew passed.

After the very successful opening gambit last year with the big screen and video camera, we were treated to an all new routine.

Firstly Clive and Danny went round the audience picking out a few friends, and asking how they were! “Joe how’s your toe” “Fred how’s your head” “Jack how’s your back” until we got to Annie!

At this point there appeared to be some late comers arriving. Yes it may have been obvious to a seasoned professional like myself that they were plants, but it didn’t detract from the hilarity that ensued.

The late comers created quite a fuss, as they were adamant that there were people sat in their seats. Cue a zoom in on their tickets. They had seats to see Sunderland Empire’s Snow White! That show stars Su Pollard, so Muddles kindly told them to “HI-De-Hi, BYE- De- BYE”!

He even helped the lady in the wheelchair leave the theatre, tipping her out as he got to the exit door. A brilliant way to start the show and to get everyone in the mood. The screen and camera were also used to introduce the audience to the worst spot light operator in the business. The always brilliant Mick Potts, otherwise known as the Castle Idiot!

The jokes and the madness continued. Muddles spying on Snow White and the Prince from behind a “moving bush”. Cue plenty of laughs.

Regular visitors to Newcastle Pantomimes will know, if you go to see the show, either sit in the Circle, or come prepared to get wet, sploshed or splished!

It was now time for the “famous” foam scene, or roughly translated “Clive, Danny and Mick make a mess”.

During the next 5 minutes, the stage was covered in foam, as anyone who went near the house they were decorating got covered in gunge. Including the “poor young carol singer” who found a cement mixer of gunge emptied all over her!! “ACCIDDEEENNTTTT”

We also enjoyed Muddles and Rita the Cook telling a story with the use of elaborate props, and before the first half could end, the magic of the flying Rudolph.

As the second half began, it was clear to see that this high tempo treat was not going to slow down. After a rather inventive routine with a wooden spoon and a pan, attached to cast members nether regions, it was time to defeat the dinosaur, rescue the princess and then celebrate.

The first thing that needed Celebrating was the fact that this was Clive & Danny’s 10th successive pantomime at the Theatre Royal Newcastle. Danny then took the audience through an abridged version of the past 10 years, including some of the favourite routines during that time. The reprise of the “Newcastle Places Song” and “Chinese Menu Song” had the audience beaming from ear to ear. At the end of this routine, Clive, Danny and Chris received their first standing ovation of the night. Yes Danny may have asked for it, but not one person begrudged it. The reality is, the audience love these entertainers as much as they love playing to the Geordie Crowd.

Having completed the 10 years recap, it was now time for the infamous “Last Act of the Night”. Last year we had been treated to my all-time favourite routine, “The Twelve Geordie Days of Christmas”. What could they come up with this year? The answer was the most entertaining Music Man I have ever seen. Breaking instruments, destruction of staging and chaos as only Clive and Danny can create.

This was after the initial song called “constipation” “you haven’t heard of it?”, “it hasn’t come out yet!”

With the music man still ringing in everyone’s ears, it was time for the final bows to be taken. This time there was no request for a standing ovation, but that didn’t stop EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that theatre standing up and showing huge admiration for this sensational cast.

You would think that after putting on such an exhausting show, Clive and Danny would head back to their dressing rooms and relax, not so, they were downstairs in the foyer by the time I got out, signing programmes, posing for photos and chatting to anyone who wanted.

If you have never seen this amazing group of people at work, then make sure you book yourselves tickets to see Clive, Danny, Chris, Steve and Mike next year in Dick Whittington. You won’t be disappointed.

So from Newcastle, it was the short trip to Darlington, or should that have been Oz?

Not only was it a chance to see the Chuckle Brothers in action, but also Clive Webb’s other son Danny Potts who was playing the Tin Man.

This was a really great show. A very talented cast, where I have to single out Lauren Varnham as the superb Dorothy.

The show in truth was the Wizard of Oz, intertwined with Chuckles comedy routines, but that didn’t stop it being a lot of fun and hugely enjoyable.

As in previous years we were treated to their “Give Away Song” and a half naked Barry Chuckle. Maybe treated isn’t the best way to describe that one!

There were some great one liners, Paul taking to Barry about the Scarecrow remarked “What use is a companion with no brain?” to which the response came back “Well I seem to have got away with it”.

We were also treated to some funny acrobatics scenes, and a funny cooking scene.

I had to make a sharp exit from Darlington, as I had only 30 minutes to get to Bristol!

OK, well maybe that’s not exactly true, I had 30 minutes to get to the Teeside Showcase Cinema to see the first ever live beam back of Bristol’s pantomime. This was in the most part the show I had seen last year in Manchester, but swopping Tam Ryan with Andy Ford, and Jodie Prenger with Brenda Edwards.

I won’t go into detail about the show, as it is out on DVD, so it is well worth getting your hands on it. You can pre order it now from Amazon. It launches in November 2015.

The beam back was interesting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t that busy in our Cinema, although that didn’t stop one of the shout outs being for the party that was sat in front of us!

Whilst I enjoyed the beam back, and it prevented me from a 400 mile roundtrip to Bristol, there really is nothing to beat seeing theatre live, and that would always be my recommendation. That said, I was able to enjoy the always brilliant Eric Potts and Andy Ford, and now I have pre ordered the DVD, I can relive it again and again and again, well in November I can!

The camera work was a bit disappointing at times, but hopefully they will learn from this, ready for hopefully next time they give it a go!!

HINT – NEWCASTLE / STOKE!!! You need to do beam backs and DVDs of your wonderful shows!!

From my trip to the Cinema, next up was a first ever visit to the Theatre Royal in Lincoln. Whilst it was a beautiful theatre, my knees are still recovering from the lack of leg room!

I was in Lincoln to see Cannon & Ball in Jack & The Beanstalk. This was an enjoyable evening, although you could tell that the show had only just opened, as there was a fair bit of cast members talking over each other. The script was good, and I am sure it will only get stronger as the days went on.

As you would expect from stars such as Cannon & Ball there were plenty of great one liners and funny scenes.

Bobby telling the audience, that his parents had been in Iron and Steel. “Mum used to Iron, and Dad used to Steal!”

From Lincoln it was time to visit my home pantomime, Sheffield, and see how Evolution would present their first ever Dick Whittington.

Well, with the genius that is Damian Williams at the helm, the answer was in style.

The entire cast were magnificent, but I was left wondering after his performance if the “DW” emblazoned above the stage was for Dick Whittington or Damian Williams.

This was 2 hours of pure pantomime gold.

Whilst Sheffield may not have the largest cast, it was brimming with talent.

Samantha Womack made a wonderful fairy, Jo Parsons made another triumphant return as our hero Dick, and in John Barr, I think Sheffield could well have unveiled the best baddie of the season. He was simply breath-taking as King Rat. Paul Hendy had written a part that played to his strengths, and made it difficult to boo him, so good was his performance.

This show was fast paced and magical from the moment the curtain went up. It didn’t take long for Dolly the Cook to make her grand entrance. Although she was late arriving to the stage, so it had to be done again, so the audience could see “what should have happened!”.

From this moment on, it was obvious Damian was in form, and whenever he was on stage, laughter wouldn’t be far away.

First, he told us how poor he was, in fact he was so poor, he couldn’t even afford a Frozen DVD, so “I’ll just have to let it go”

The props scenes in Sheffield have become almost as famous as the Ghost Scene. This year we were not let down, with a fabulously original ditty, made up using road signs found in Sheffield.

The Fairy, played by Samantha Womack kept an eye out for Dick, whilst trying to ensure her rhyming couplets, did indeed rhyme, but adopting a Yorkshire twang.

Dolly the Cook was then subjected to a 2-3 times a day workout, in the wonderful Sweetshop scene. The one where the kids keep coming in wanting sweets from the top shelf.

The audience were treated to both sides of Damian’s signing, with Dame Dolly’s awful rendition of Firework, and the excellent rendition of Candyman!

There was also time for the almost obligatory “Dick Whittington Sausage Pie Cooking Scene”.

CBBC’s Andy Day helped keep the laughs coming as Captain Crabstick, and Gemma Sutton was a fabulous Alice. Craig Garner was also the best cat I had seen on display this year!

Before this fantastic show finished, we also had a scary encounter with a superb Creature from the Deep, and an even scarier sight of Dolly the Cook in her new bikini.

This was a simply spectacular show, and in my humble opinion, the finest pantomime Sheffield had ever seen.

I am glad I will get to see this wonderful show again, later in its run, when my niece and nephews will be in attendance.

From Sheffield, it was off down South, and the first port of call was to Northampton. Here, the team behind the successful Sleeping Beauty for the past few years had reunited to present to us Peter Pan. This meant, Joe Pasquale providing the laughs as Smee, Ceri Dupree as the fabulous Dame, and Lucy Evans transforming from Princess Beauty to Tinkerbell.

As you would expect from such a strong team, this was a highly enjoyable show, played out on a wonderful set.

We were treated to numerous one liners, but my favourite was the sheer lack of subtlety when Smee remarked that “Nanny was a Shih Tse”, what’s one of those came the reply. “A Zoo with no animals”.

There was a very funny moment, when Smee and Nanny showed us their impersonation of Ashley and Pudsey, which had the entire theatre rolling around in laughter.

We were treated to another funny scene with “The Smee’s” as mermaids, complete with talking boobs!

When the crocodile arrived, it was truly scary. It was obvious that the Twins had been hard at work in Magic HQ creating this wonderful creature that dominated the stage. No wonder Hook was scared of it.

Again, as seems to be the norm this year, the cast were extremely strong, none more so that the wonderful Lucy Evans as the mischievous fairy with attitude “Tinkerbell”.

From Qdos’ Pan in Northampton, it was a short hop aboard the Jolly Rodger to Milton Keynes to see FFE’s version on Pan.

Before I get on to the show, I have to mention the atmosphere in the theatre. To say it was electric was an understatement. The theatre was full of school groups, meaning it felt more like a One Direction concert than an afternoon at the theatre.

It was simply magical. The level of noise, like I have never encountered before. Everyone was there to have fun, and I am sure they all did.

TV favourite Bradley Walsh was the star attraction in this show, and as soon as he arrived on stage, he had the audience laughing.

When the “Darlings” complained about being cold, and needing to shut the windows, Bradley as Smee began to ridicule. “There’s no point shutting the window, there’s no roof!”

“Even Nanny knows …. “ “Nanny what’s missing?” “Wroof!” came the response.

Then when it was time to head to Neverland, to try to find the kids. Smee was hoping he “could find some of those invisible wires” to help him fly.

The FFE “Wall” that had debuted in Stoke last season had made its way to MK for Pan, and created another fun scene.

We were also treated to the old pantomime favourite of the 12 Days of Christmas. Although this time, without a local theme. Maybe 11 Roundabouts, and 12 concrete cows would have been appropriate.

Tinkerbell in this pantomime was played by the talented Fran Mills, who I had been lucky enough to see in “See How They Run”, earlier in the year. She was fantastic in this role, and as I said last year, I love the way Eric Potts and FFE have cast the role of Tinkerbell. It just works so well.

This was a great show, thoroughly enjoyable, but I did think one thing was missing. I was desperate to hear Bradley say “Hook, you have been defeated, and for you, the Chase is over!”.

From Milton Keynes it was off to a first ever visit to The Grove in Dunstable. There we were treated to Magic Beans version of Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. The show starred Neighbours Karl Kennedy, better known as Alan Fletcher. The show also included Steve Hewlett from Britain’s Got Talent, Former X Factor contestant Andy Abraham, and former pop star, Lolly.

This was a fun show, made even more fun for me, as my partner got picked on, and ended up going on stage to have arrows thrown at them!!

There were some funny original scenes, including inflatable horses, that didn’t stay inflated, and a twelve legged man! As you would expect there were plenty of Neighbours jokes.

We were introduced to a number of Steve Hewlett’s friends, including Arthur Larger and Chi Chi.

An enjoyable first time visit to the Grove.

Next up it was off to Nottingham to see Qdos Snow White, starring Lesley Joseph, Ben Nickless and the always sensational Andrew Ryan as Dame.

This was as you would have expected a truly wonderful and magical show. Lesley Joseph was a wonderful Wicked Queen, the only problem was that everyone loves her and didn’t want to boo!

Andrew Ryan made a welcome return to Nottingham. He is a wonderful Dame, and never disappoints. His costumes were as spectacular as ever, although in one scene he did look as if he had put on a little bit of weight!! His fantastic Bikini dress.

The real star of the show however for me, was the returning comic Ben Nickless, who was simply sensational. When he was on stage, laughter was never far away.

He was also very generous, buying Snow White an Iphone, as everyone knows Snow White likes apple!

We were treated to a very funny Elvis routine, before two more of my favourite pantomime scenes, the “Russian Ballet Scene” and of course the 12 Days of Christmas.

When you have a cast as strong as Nottingham had, you know you will be served a treat, and we certainly were. I won’t lie, whilst it may not be a topical these days as it used to be, I did miss Andrew’s wonderful Susan Boyle and Anne Robinson acts … subtle hint for next year.

As we left the theatre, all the talk centred on Muddles. Nottingham has found a new favourite in Ben Nickless. He is very funny, has great one liners, gestures and impressions. I am sure ticket sales would go through the roof if he was announced as the lead again next year. Certainly, the first thing I did on getting home was to order his DVD and vow that wherever he was appearing next year, I would endeavour to attend. If you haven’t seen this guy perform, you’re missing out!

From Nottingham it was off to Aylesbury, and chance to catch up with a new Social Media friend of mine, the Director, and Dandini, Chris Nelson. Readers of my annual review will have heard his name before. I think he is a real star and I hope that he will be a Wishee Washee, Buttons or Muddles sometime soon. Trust me, he will have you laughing.

Now, when you watch as many shows as I do each year, the one thing you are desperate for is originality. Seeing something really new.

Stand up and take a bow Aylesbury. You guys delivered!

Picture this, the lights go down and the show begins. The fairy appears, at which point, I turn to my other half and say “not again, we missed Suzanne Shaw last year, and that’s not Suzanne Shaw!”

Then, a 6 tonne weight falls from the top of the stage and crushes the fairy!

Out comes a Stage Manager, who looks remarkably like Chris Nelson (Dandini) appealing for help? “I’m trained in first aid” comes the reply. Then from the back of the audience dressed in full Ambulance uniform is Suzanne Shaw.

Bloody Genius!! Absolutely fantastic, what an awesome start to the show. The role develops with Suzanne being cajoled into playing the fairy.

The show only got better from there. A wonderful cast. The beautiful and highly talented Holly Brewer made for an enchanting Cinderella. Her rendition of Let it Go sending Goosebumps across the entire audience.

Andy Collins as previously made for a superb Buttons, if not highly tanned for December! He gets that remark as he will insist on giving me a shout out at the end of the show!!

Andy is a great performer, and the local lad knows just how to get the crowd in the beautiful theatre eating out of the palm of his hand! They love him, and his 12 days of Christmas. As did I, although, nothing went wrong, no toilet rolls flung into the audience, or props hidden.

From there it was a return visit to Newcastle to see their Snow White again. Yet again I cried with laughter. The whole team deserve my admiration for the sensational show they put on year after year. I wasn’t too upset though when the show was over, but only because I knew I was back up to see it again in the New Year.

From Newcastle I stopped off on the way home in York, at the Theatre Royal to see Old Mother Goose.

I had heard great things about these panto’s and I had very high expectations. I am afraid I was left a tad disappointed. It was a perfectly enjoyable show, with very talented actors, and a few funny one liners and scenes, but it wasn’t as amazing as I had been led to believe.

I was certainly a little shocked when the opening number started, and it was to the tune of “Hello” from The Book of Mormon. We also heard the song “You & Me” from one of my favourite musicals.

I did enjoy the Up & Down Settee scene, the Water bed, and the VT where people of York were asked if the Dame was “Ugly” so maybe I just caught it on a bad day, and I should try it again next year.

From there, I went to Liverpool. My first show in the afternoon was Jack and the Beanstalk at the Liverpool Epstein Theatre. Here is one pantomime I won’t be putting on my must visit list for next year.

My dear Friend, and Owner of, Nigel Ellacott once said to me “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” So with those words ringing in my ears, that evening I went to the Liverpool Empire for Aladdin.

Thank the Lord for Eric Potts, my faith in pantomimes was restored! Message me on Twitter if you are keen to know more of my afternoon exploits.

As you would expect in such a beautiful and large theatre, the atmosphere was electric, as the crowd waited for the pretty much exclusive Liverpool cast to arrive on stage.

As evil Abanzer summoned the Genie of the Lamp on stage, he asked if she was the “Genie of the Lamp”, “No, I’m Brendan from Coach Trip” came the swift reply from the wonderful Claire Sweeney.

We were also treated to my first “Mr Who, Mr What and Mr I Don’t Know” of the season, as well as another enjoyable 12 Days of Christmas, even though the audience seemed far too keen to hand the toilet rolls straight back to PC Pong! A fun and enjoyable night, and got me in the mood for a first time visit to Crewe.

I have to admit to being disappointed by Crewe. It had nothing to do with the fabulous Lisa Riley, who lit up the stage with her wonderful personality. Neither anything to do with the very funny Peter Piper, although I do wish he had been given a bigger role to showcase his comedic talents. It was more down to the very tired sets. I know it wasn’t big budget, but I had hoped for more. Talking of more, when Brendan Sheerin from Coach Trip was on stage he was great, but his role seems to get smaller each year.

Peter Piper as Simple Simon was excellent, he provided plenty of one liners. He promised the lady on the front row he wasn’t going to embarrass her, before asking what she was going to sing for us all that night.

We were also treated to two of his signature routines, His Gorilla / David Attenborough routine, and Basil Fawlty. Both of which are brilliant, and the reason I was so keen to see this show in the first place.

We also saw him dressed up as a Ninja Turtle!

From Crewe, it was a return visit to Sheffield and the fantastic Dick Whittington Cast. This time I was joined by my Niece and two nephews.

This shows the magic of panto. My 3 year old nephew decided he was going to leave just before the interval. The reason was, having come up from London, to see Uncle Daniel, he was now very upset he was back in London already. Let that show you how real pantomime is to children, and how magical it is for them too.

Whilst he preferred to go round the shops with his mum and dad, the other two sat there screaming and shouting throughout the entire show. Well until Andy Day read their names out, and all of a sudden they went all shy!

We then headed backstage so they could meet Dame Extraordinaire, Damian Williams, and were also fortunate enough to catch up with the superb John Barr and Andy Day. The kids absolutely loved the show, and I was delighted I got to see this fabulous show again. If you didn’t get to see it this year, let me tell you, you missed out!

From Sheffield, it was time to visit Nigel Ellacott and Sherrie Hewson in Aladdin. The pair who had last been together a couple of years ago in Wolverhampton, were reunited again, this time ably supported by the new look Grumbleweeds.

As you would expect from such a talented cast, this was a wonderful show.

The Grumbleweeds treated us to a number of their funny routines, although it was rather strange, and sad seeing Robin taking the role of funny man, after the sad passing of his former colleague Graham the year before.

That said, it didn’t stop the packed house enjoying “the application form” Ali G, Ozzie Ozbourne and the Teletubbies scenes.

There was also fun with a “handbag plant” when having stumbled across a handbag on the floor, the audience were asked if anyone wanted an Xbox 360, and were promptly offered the house keys!

As I had come to expect in pantoland this year, there was also the customary Frozen reference. This time, Aladdin being referred to as “He’s the frozen one, I mean the chosen one” “you just had to let it go”

Nigel and Sherrie were magical on stage together, although it wasn’t until the Second half that they finally got the stage time their immense talents deserve. I had to admit to enjoying the “drunken scene” where Twanky and the Empress polished off a whole Magnum of Champagne in the palace gardens, although by the end it was more like Wetherspoons on a Friday night.

After the show, it was a chance to head for Dinner with Nigel and Sherrie, and catch up on all the news. This made for a truly wonderful evening, and I was just disappointed I couldn’t manage a second visit.

From Hull, it was off to my first visit to Stockport Plaza for their take on Cinderella. The Plaza is a beautiful theatre, and like in old fashioned cinema halls, you are treated to an organist entertaining you prior to the show starting.

There were a few good one liners in the show, for example, “There is a Party in from Virgin Rail in Stockport, but they are late”, and I did see my only “If I was Not” scene of the year, but in truth, I found this a very “strange” take on Cinderella, and it really wasn’t my cup of tea.

Regular readers of my blog will know that Christmas Eve for the last few years has only meant one thing, a trip to Manchester Opera House to see the extremely funny Tam Ryan in Pantomime. Thankfully this year was no exception.

He knew that the packed house were keen to know he had work lined up after panto. He soon put us all at ease declaring he had been scheduled to be Katie Price’s husband between March & June.

Of course, there was the obligatory Frozen reference. This time, when the Queen had grabbed hold of his nipples, Muddles let out a chorus of “Let it Go, don’t hold my nipples anymore”.

Former Brookside Star, Phillip Olivier was cast as the Prince, and arrived on stage aboard his horse, well two coconuts being banged together! “Bit of a gamble that, no, not the coconuts, a Scouser on the stage in Manchester”.

As I had come to expect from this talented team, and well written show, the next couple of hours flew by.

We were treated to Prof winning Moravia’s Got Talent, and rather than his usual Elvis act, I guess because Mrs Presley was starring in the show, we were treated to Warwick Davis dressed up and performing as Freddie Mercury. It was brilliant.

My favourite line from the entire show though, had to come from Tam Ryan prior to driving us all mad with his “£1 fish” song!

He was reading out the Birthday’s and Hello’s when he spotted he had a Television star in the audience.

“Boys and Girls, we have a very special guest with us today, from the Great British Bake Off, its Mary Berry, oh no sorry, it’s the Mayor of Bury”.

A fantastic show, and the perfect way to begin the Christmas celebrations.

After a wonderful Christmas with family in Manchester, it was time, or so I thought for my next show. Half way en route to Mansfield on Boxing Day the weather turned really nasty, and snow was falling very fast. With it settling, the decision was made to turn back and head home. In the end, I had to abandon the car half a mile from the house, and amid reports some of the cast ended up sleeping at the theatre that night, it seemed like the best decision.

Thankfully the weather slightly improved, and that allowed me to set off down south for pre New Year tour. The next few days would see a double dose of panto fun every day, and me frantically hoping there were no travel issues, so I could get between the theatres in good time.

I kicked off at the Orchard Theatre in Dartford. This year, Craig Revel Horwood had lost the Dress and transformed from Wicked Queen to Captain Hook. He was joined by the brilliant impersonator Paul Burling.

With such a talented cast, it was hardly surprising this was such a fun show. There were loads of gags, and a few unintentional mess ups too, like poor Peter Pan tripping as he made his way into his hideout!

When bungling Smee was told to bring Pan to Hook, he got hold of some poor unsuspecting man from the audience and delivered him to Hook on stage. At least his embarrassment was reduced by receiving a signed photo from the star for his troubles.

When Hook was asked about his dancing skills, again there was a cue for more one liners. “What about your Ballroom”, “Well my trousers are a bit tight” came the reply.

Then the audience we asked “what lives 20,000 leagues under the sea?” “Dartford FC came the reply.”

There were a number of funny scenes in the show, including one where Chocolate Bars are used to tell a story. However the highlight of the show, had to be Craig Revel Horwood’s magnificent performance of My Way. Showing he is not just a talented dancer.

A fun show, and the perfect way to kick off my mini tour.

From Dartford it was a quick shoot along the M25 and Crawley. It was my first visit to this lovely theatre, and in a real shock and something that perhaps others should take note of, PARKING WAS FREE! Yes, a theatre who really valued their patrons.

If that didn’t put a smile on the faces of those in attendance, the next two and a half hours certainly did.

The show kicked off in the only way an Evolution show kicks off… with Bring Me Sunshine. At this point I half expected Damian Williams to appear.

Whilst he didn’t, those who did appear made this one of the shows of the season.

We had the spectacular entrance of Stephen Mulhurn. A contraption arrived on stage, and yes it was obvious he would appear from it, but what wasn’t so obvious was how! Normally, having seen a large number of magic acts, and watched the secret magician etc, you can usually work out where, albeit squeezed the magician is hiding, ready to appear. This time, I genuinely hadn’t a clue, it really was MAGIC.

To be fair, magic was a great descriptor of this wonderful show. The talent on that stage was breath-taking. Hilary O’Neil as Carabose was nothing short of sensational. Although with her talents, the audience could have been forgiven for thinking they had seen Joe Pasquale, Louis Walsh, Tess Daly, etc etc.. As I rant on each year, its people like her I want to see on Prime Time tv, not some fame mad chavs sitting in a house!

Having been fortunate to see both Michael Batchelor and Ian Smith in Sheffield a few years ago, I knew they would be good, but they were simply sensational. It was great to see them in a different light, not being nasty as Ugly Sisters.

Ian was a wonderful King, and had a magical ability to get the entire audience really involved in the show. Michael was not only a wonderful Dame, but had made some exquisite costumes that must have taken him weeks to bring to life.

In Stephen Mulhurn the show had a performer who is incredibly talented. He wowed with his Magic, and his comedy timing was spot on. It’s easy to see why he is one of Televisions Biggest Stars at the moment.

There were some fantastic scenes in this show, including the story telling using vinyl records, and the fabulous school room scene, but the biggest treat was a favourite from Sleeping Beauty in Sheffield when the King and Nurse visit the Haunted Bathroom. Let’s just say they get a bit wet!

Carabose got her own back when the audience laughed at her misfortune, “This is my job, I don’t laugh at you on the check out in Asda!”

Before this fabulous show finished, there was still time for Muddles to show us the “Magic Disappearing Marshmallows and donut! Although I think the King knew where they went! We were also treated to the Nurse helping rescue Beauty dressed as Spider Woman.

I had laughed so much during this wonderful show, my stomach was still aching as I went backstage to meet this talented cast.

What made this show even more enjoyable, was finding out how genuinely nice the team behind it were. It was such a pleasure to meet them all, and grab a drink with Ian, Michael and Stephen in the pub after.

So back to the hotel to relax after one of my favourite nights so far of the tour. Ready for an early start the next day to head to Woking.

Woking was a second chance to see an FFE Aladdin, and I have to say that I did much prefer Woking's performance to that of Liverpool.

Having not got children, I do not find myself watching Cbeebies, so wasn't sure what to expect from Justin Fletcher. I wondered whether his performance would be solely for the kids, but in truth, he was excellent throughout, and whilst I may not of known some of his "songs" or much about Pandora the Panda, he really was fantastic.

He introduced himself by asking the audience if they knew who he was ? "Mr Tumble" came the reply. " No, but I am aware of his work"

Justin was joined in the talented cast by Ben Adams playing Aladdin, who like the rest of the panto, was far better than his counterpart in Liverpool.

I had read with interest / bemusement the line "introducing Steven Serlin" as Abanazer. Bemusement, because I didn't think this talented actor needed any introduction having seen him many time before, notably twice as the baddie in Stoke and in Boogie Nights. Interest, because having seen him before, I knew what an excellent actor he was, and that his performance of Abanazer would be simply superb. I wasn't let down!!

The funny PC Pong had flown in from Weatherfield, in the shape of Steven Arnold.

This was a fantastic performance, full of energy, and included a great 12 days of Christmas, but probably the funniest version of the Russian Ballet scene I had ever seen. Including Justin warming up with a false leg.

Jason Sutton also played his part in making this a wonderful show, as the Widow Twankey.

A fast paced, fun show and definitely the best Aladdin I would see this season.

From Woking, or should that be Peking, it was off for the short train ride to Wimbledon, for the FFE showcase pantomime.

I know from reading various press articles that this show had mixed reviews. I don't know why because I absolutely LOVED it !

Even before the show started, there was laughter in the audience, as a camera zoomed in on various audience members, and put their faces up on the big screen at the front of the stage. They also included captions. So one poor man, sat next to his wife saw his face put up on the screen with a thought bubble saying "I don't know why they got Matthew Kelly as an Ugly Sister, they could have used my Mother in Law."

As you would hope with so many stars on one stage, this show was exceptionally funny, and top class comedy.

Amy Lennox was sensational as Cinderella, and with the King of One Liners, Tim Vine, laughter was never far away when he was on stage.  He had just set up a new Chicken Dating site, but it was "Hard making hens meet".

Once we had been introduced to Buttons, it was time to meet the truly awful but absolutely sensational "Ugly Sisters" played by father and son duo Matthew Kelly and Matthew Rixon. They were returning to Wimbledon having played Twankey & PC Pong last year. "It's great to be back in Wimbledon .. it's still a dump".

Given that they are father and son, and genuinely look alike, the Ugly Sisters for the first time ever, did actually look like sisters. Their costumes were fantastic, and their put downs superb.

"That's a lovely dress, weren't you lucky to get that much material."  "did you go to the hair dressers this morning? was it  shut ?

So after the introductions, and the Ugly Sisters taking all of Baron Hardup's money, he had to face up to where it had all gone wrong. "Well you can start with the script" came Button's reply.

It's no good, said Baron Hardup, it's time to close down Hardup Oil.

At this point the lights went out, and the voice of Brian Blessed could be heard. It was panto, and we couldn't let the show stop without the fairy-tale ending.

It was time for a hero to be found. Queue the most fantastic entrance of the season.

In a direct Knock Off from the Dallas Theme tune, the credits rolled, and with the Dallas theme playing in the background, visuals of Wimbledon appeared on the screen, as we built up to the arrival of the Fairy Godmother.

When the VT was over, the curtain came up, and just as Pamela Ewing had appeared, out came Sue Ellen Ewing from the shower cubicle!

Yes the Fairy Godmother had landed in Wimbledon, along with her trusty flask of alcohol !

A wonderful performance by Linda Gray as The Fairy Godmother, had her commenting "If this doesn't get me a part in Downton, I don't know what will!"

The Ugly Sisters continued to provide plenty of laughs, and boo's, as well as displaying some wonderful dresses, including a Fire Hearth complete with smoke!

Many pantomimes like to tell stories using various different props. Here we saw a highly original and very funny scene using chocolates and sweets. My favourite line being whilst holding up a packet of Werthers Originals.. "We're They?" Well "That's Original".  trust me it worked a lot better than my trying to describe it.

As you would expect, there were plenty of references to Dallas. Perhaps one of the corniest, and funniest, was when Button's trapped his finger in the door. "It's Sue Ellen Up". cue a mixture of groans and laughter!

A Fantastic night, and this would in the end be the first of two visits to this excellent show.

From Wimbledon, it was off to the Hexagon in Reading, for my first ever visit. After finding myself sat alone on the front row, I quickly visited the Box Office, and arrange to move to a far SAFER seat.

Having seen what the Ugly Sister's had in store for their poor unfortunate boyfriends, it was probably the wisest decision I made all year.

This was a good show, albeit rather different in how it told the story. The show started in the kitchen, and Cinderella had received her invitation to the Ball, before we had even met the Ugly Sisters.

Indeed it was 40 minutes into the show before we even met the Prince.

That apart, this was a fun show, thanks mainly to the brilliant Jon Clegg, whose many voices had seen him make the final of BGT in 2014.

We were also treated to yet another wonderful pair of Ugly Sisters.

Their costumes were sensational, their menacing of poor Cinders believable, and they still had time for some great one liners. Including picking on an over eager audience member clapping, who was told "don't clap on your own, they will throw you a fish".

They also terrorised their poor victims, I mean boyfriends for the night, including getting them onstage to join in with the show!!

I may have been sat right at the back after my seat change, but boy was I glad.

We were also treated to a very funny bathroom scene with Buttons and the Sisters.

The show also featured Dave Myers of Hairy Biker fame, as Baron Hardup. Whilst I understand where his fame comes from, it was rather strange that at any given moment, he would start handing out cooking advice!

All in all, a very fun show, and certainly worth another visit next year.

From Reading, it was a short hop down the road to High Wycombe, and the chance to see Shane Richie.

As I had come to expect from other Dick Whittington's this season, it was all about how many "Dick" jokes you could fit in!!

"Right everyone, say Hi Dick",  after a muted response we got, "I'm not feeling much love for Dick!"

Shane then tried to find himself a lady. "Right Kids, put your hand up if you are sitting next to a Yummy Mummy".

"You can put your hand down kid"

Unfortunately Dick was very poor growing up. "We couldn't afford laxatives, my mum used to put me on a toilet and tell me ghost stories"

We were then introduced to Alice.  "Hi Everyone, my name is Alice Fitzwarren", "I'll have to change my name to Warren" came the reply.

Next up was a very funny bedroom scene. With Sarah the Cook in bed, "she" announced. "I'm going to pull the covers over me, and wait for Dick!".

As in previous years, we were treated to Shane's Contemporary Dancing, and his Female lead getting a face full of apple.

When the path of love wasn't running strong, Dick told us all "Oh and to think, I was going to live next door to you Alice", Lets go back to Walford.

The Dick jokes continued to come thick and fast. After our hero had been ordered out of town for "stealing" it was up to the Fairy to save the day. "Don't worry darlings, I still love Dick".

As you would expect from a seasoned performer like Shane Richie, he really was excellent. The show was incredibly fast paced and the jokes kept flowing freely. At one point he came on stage with his pet dog, and then looked at him and declared "Oh Yeah, you should be the cat!"

The second half continued to provide laughs a plenty. There was a fantastic scene, when, whilst singing My Heart Will Go on, various members of the cast did their upmost to create total mayhem on the stage.

As I had come to expect this season, there was the obligatory Frozen reference, although this time it was Dick Whittington, appearing dressed at Elsa from Frozen. "I'll probably get into trouble from Disney, but so what"

With Queen Rat defeated, it was time for Dick to propose to Alice.

"Can I have your hand in marriage Alice?"

"Only your hand, she deserves all of you Dick"

A truly fantastic show, and Shane Richie proving yet again why he is so fantastic in panto.

So from High Wycombe, it was up to Birmingham for their NYE extravaganza.

This cast really was a who's who of showbiz stars. You had Jane McDonald as the wonderful fairy, Gary Wilmot as Dame Trott, Duncan James as Jack Trott, Chris Gascoyne as Fleshcreep and there was still room for the fantastic Paul Zerdin & Sam, and the simply Sensational Matt Slack.

This was a simply sensational show. It was no stop laughter from the first minute to the last.

Paul Zerdin was as brilliant as ever. We were treated to his amazing "Mr Who, What, I Don't Know" scene, where he plays both characters, with sensational skill. We also got a few "Risqué" punch lines delivered by Sam in his Mastermind segment. I think only Sam could have got away with those in Pantomime.

Whilst the entire cast were excellent, to me there was one shining light, who just took the show to a new level.  Matt Slack, had been great last year, but this year, with more stage time, he was simply sensational. In such a talented cast, he stole the show.

We were treated to a sensational impressions act, bouncing in a balloon, and some great one liners. He also generated huge laughter dressed as Batman and falling off the stage! Cue his Joe Pasquale impression.. "I've had an accident".

Then as if this show couldn't get any funnier or better, Jane, Paul, Gary and Matt delivered a sensational 12 Days of Christmas, which included a couple of my favourite "disasters" as seen the previous year in Newcastle. Namely, the exploding light, and backdrop falling down.

An absolutely wonderful show, and a great way to end 2014.

From Birmingham, It was time for a couple of days off. Being full of cold, and having had a nasty fall on NYE, not drink related, I hasten to add, it was a chance to recoup before a return visit to Stoke.

I am not going to go into all the detail of my second visit to Stoke, as it is pretty much comprehensively covered at the start of the blog, but what I would say was 2nd time round, it was even better than the 1st. There had been some really good additions to the script this time round, and as I had come to expect from this talented team, another fabulous show was seen.

It was then nice to catch up with Christian and Kai across the road after the show.

Having been forced to miss seeing Mansfield on Boxing Day due to the weather, I managed to get a ticket to see their final performance.

I am afraid I didn't really enjoy the show. There were a few funny scenes, including the Magic Broken Mirror, but in truth, compared to other shows I had seen this season, this didn't rank very highly.

I don't know whether this was due to it being their final performance or something else, but it really wasn't a show to remember.

From Mansfield, there was one final chance to see my favourite pantomime of this season. Yes, a return for a 3rd time to Newcastle.

Is seeing the same show three times too much? Well not this show it isn't.

Yet again, I was transported to a magical land of laughter for 2 1/2 hours. Although I did find out later that the "Match of the Day" part of Music Man had been dropped due to an over zealous audience member breaking one of the light fittings when sending it back!"

After witnessing this sensational show, I was then delighted to get the opportunity to meet up with Danny Adams, Mick Potts, Amy Bruce and Steve Arnott after the show.

It was really great spending time talking to these talented performers. When you speak to them, you can tell how seriously they take the pleasure of the near 100,000 patrons who come to see them in Newcastle each year.

The effort they put in both before, during and after each show is amazing, and whilst I have no idea how they do it, I remain very grateful that they do!!

A great show, and a wonderful evening after meeting these really nice people.

From Newcastle, it was a long trip early next morning down to London. Wednesday night would see me at the London Palladium watching Cats, before heading to Richmond the next day for the first of a pantomime FFE double header.

I had wanted to come to Richmond, so I could see a new friend of mine, Phil Holden, who last year had been in Stoke. It was a chance to not only catch Phil as Head Dwarf Prof but also to see his fantastically talented son Paddy as Loopy.

I was also delighted to be seeing CBBC star Chris Jarvis, and was also looking forward to seeing Jerry Hall as the Wicked Queen.

Unfortunately, Jerry was ill, and so the part of the Wicked Queen was played by Eloise Davies. Now, whilst her performance was exceptional there was a really big problem with this casting!!!

You see the Queen is supposed to be some old haggard woman, not some young attractive blond actress. So with no disrespect to the marvellous Snow White, I have to say, had I been the Prince, I wouldn't have been too bothered about meeting Snow White, and would have happily settled for the Wicked Queen. Indeed the Mirror did look troubled not to be able to confirm The Wicked Queen was indeed the fairest of them all. Perhaps next time they could at least give her a few pimples.

This was a really great show, although I did feel sorry for the Actors trying to engage with a front row of 4-5 years olds, there on a school trip, and more interested in what Ice Cream they were to have at the interval.

Credit to this talented cast, as they rose above this problem and delivered a superb performance. Chris Jarvis was excellent at the Jester.

I was also delighted to see an actor, I have long been a fan of, since seeing him in The Producers.. Nicolas Colicos, playing Herman the Henchman.  Whilst he was great in this role, I am sorry but biased or not, I think there is no better Herman in the business than Christian Patterson. For that matter, as we are talking about the Producers, I think he would make for a Sensational Max Bialystock!

The Dwarves were as you would expect superb. I know everyone will be bored of my annual "Dwarf Rant" but if you saw the faces of the kids in the audience when the Dwarves appear on the stage, then you would know why it is just not the same getting actors crawling around on their knees on the stage. You lose the magic. If you are still not convinced, look at my photo's page, of me with Phil and Paddy, and then you will see the sort of magic these guys can deliver!

An absolutely brilliant show, made even better by heading backstage afterwards to finally meet Phil & Paddy, and getting to meet the excellent Chris Jarvis as well.  Knowing what lovely people they all are, makes it even easier to like their wonderful performances.

A great afternoon, prior to heading back to Wimbledon, and a 2nd and final visit to Cinderella, which as with the 1st time was simply sensational. The more I see Matthew Kelly and Matthew Rixon as the Ugly Sisters, the more I love their performances.

From Wimbledon, it was a trip to Wolverhampton, to see Cinderella, starring the wonderful Julian Clary.

This was another excellent pantomime,but given the cast, possible one that was more for the "mum's and dad's".

Not only were we treated to numerous one liners and innuendos from the sensation Dandini, played by Julian, but this was a cast full of talent.

Joe Tracini, son of Joe Pasquale made for an excellent Buttons, and I always enjoy watching Ben Stock as an Ugly Sister.

Indeed, the Sisters set the tone for the show when they advised us "I'm taking my poodle for a piddle, and i'll take my Shih Tau for a WALK"

Dandini was ably assisted by Lord Chamberlin. "He is 84 now, he only has 6 lines in the show, and we don't always get those" the audience we warned.

This was just one of the many wonderful one liners the audience we treated to from Dandini.

"He's done half a day on a Rolo advert, and he thinks he is Benerdick Cumberbatch",

"My photo is in the programme, but no one here can afford them!"

"Don't encourage him, this show is long enough as it is"

"It's me again, I'm never off in the show! you're getting your moneys worth."

"I have magical powers, just the other day I was driving down the M6 and turned into a Little Chef"

This was a fabulous show, thoroughly enjoyable, and with plenty of laughs throughout.

The evening was made all the more enjoyable, by meeting Richard Aucott who joined us for dinner afterwards, at our favourite Chinese of course. 

I always end up at the Chinese after the Wolverhampton pantomime, I first found it when i visited there to see Billy Pearce and Bobby Bennett a number of years ago, and have gone back every year since. I even recommended it when dining with Nigel and Sherrie a couple of years ago. Thankfully they have never let me down.

So a wonderful night, and time to head back to base in Birmingham for some well needed shut eye.

As we were now in the middle of January, there were very few shows still open, so it was a week to wait until seeing Nottingham Playhouse' Sleeping Beauty on the last night.

Now i know that the madness is usually reserved for the final matinee of a run, but the tradition, THANKFULLY was different here, and all the madness came in the last performance.

I have no idea what the ORIGINAL pantomime was like, as this performance lasted nearly 30 minutes longer than it was scheduled to.

The ad libs were not only extremely funny, but they had obviously been well researched, thought through, and were witty and funny. It wasn't just a case of trying to get a cheap laugh. In fact so elaborate were some of the "jokes" they certainly weren't cheap.

So good was this last night experience, I immediately booked for the last night of next years spectacle.

John Elkington and Anthony Hoggard are becoming real favourites of mine. John playing the Dame this year, given Kenneth deciding to finally hang his dress up after numerous years.

Anthony playing the King was joined by other regular, Rebecca Little as the Queen. When the Queen came out forgetting what she was doing, she asked "What did i come in for?", "To do my head in, came the reply".

Tim Frater was also back at the Jester, and had us all clapping and singing along to "Happy" at the start of the show. Now there was a song I have heard a few times this year lol.

There were so many funny ad-libs provided by the crew, that there are simply too many to mention, but here are a few of my favourites...

- Taking "customers" on palace tours, and taking selfies with the Queen and King.

"After the Enchantress had arrived, she was promptly Clamped by an over zealous traffic warden"

"a "For Sale" sign put up outside the cottage.

" 3 members of the stage crew coming out of the Dame's cottage doing their clothes up, appearing to have just had some frolics with the Dame"

and when the cast awoke from their 100 year slumber, the Queen, King and Jester had all swopped clothes, much to the surprise of the poor Prince who had woken them up!"

Amongst all these pranks were some extremely funny one liners. 

"Look into my eyes, what do you see? A very small classroom ... 2 pupils"

"Anyone in from Beeston? Well you didn't get here by tram" (you needed to be local to get it, but i certainly did!! 

John also treated us to a fantastic Quick Change scene as well.

It was a truly wonderful performance and fantastic show, with some serious laughter. I really hope there is so much chaos next year on the final night.

After Nottingham, it was a week to wait until my final "New" show of the season, and what a show, a visit to an old favourite... Bradford.

I was really looking forward to this years Bradford show, because as well as seeing this wonderful pantomime, I had also been invited Backstage to meet a panto hero of mine, Billy Pearce, and if that wasn't enough excitement for one day, I would finally get to meet fellow Panto fan, Joe Purdy.

Well my high expectations were not to be let down! This was a superb show, and my only regret was not being able to see it twice.

Billy arrived on a cloud, and whilst it looked like he was just hanging down, it was only as the doors opened to reveal "false legs" i realised i'd been had!

A fabulous entrance, which had the entire sold out audience laughing!

We were then introduced to the Dame. "Mum, how come i'm older than you asked Muddles"

There were some wonderful routines, including the Sweet Scene, which whilst having been used in other Qdos shows this year, was performed the best by the Bradford team.

Bradford was also fortunate to have a simply superb Man in the Mirror, in the form of X Factor winner, Joe McElderry. His voice was simply magnificent, and he gave a wonderful performance, including surprising Billy when he appeared in a big Tap number, which he wasn't supposed to be in!

Talking of the big Tap number, not content with showing off his dancing moves, Billy also wowed the audience by dancing upside down, across the top of the stage. I felt sick just watching him!

Billy may have been around for a long time, but he is still the King of Comedy, and a pantomime season without him would just be too awful to imagine. 

He isn't afraid to make fun of himself either, "Muddles your not funny anymore!, I know, people have been telling me that for years!"

He also complained about not getting the "Girl", despite of course his beautiful wife being one of the marvellous dancers.

"I've been here 16 years and i've never got the girl once! it's always some actor from London who comes up and get the girl!"

Thankfully, as it is one of my favourite scenes, we were treated to a simply wonderful 12 days of Christmas. Some really great new takes on "disasters" with Billy, Joe and the Dame ensuring serious hilarity, during the scene. 

Then, as the crew prepared for the final scene, we were treated to a new take on an old favourite, the sing a long.

Here Dame Trott and Muddles, terrorised the audience by lowering down a massive screen for the words, but mixing it up, by also bringing out a video camera, so they could pick on any audience members not singing along. 

A fabulous end, to a fabulous show.

It was then a chance to pop backstage to meet Billy, and share some of his thoughts after this wonderful show. Billy is such a lovely guy, as is his wife Kerry, and it was a real treat to meet them, even if it was tinged with the sadness of them having to pack up, as the run finished the next day.

And so that was it ... well apart from that 2nd visit to the wonderful Jack and the Beanstalk in Birmingham.

For the most part, it had been a wonderful season, full of laughter and fun. A chance to meet friends old and new, and to escape reality for a few hours at a time.

To all those who have been involved in making this such a wonderful season, thank you. I look forward, I hope to seeing you all next year!!

Roll on November, and Dick Whittington in Newcastle !!!

He killed a pigeon !