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21 Years Of Pantomime

28th November 2017

Martin Dodd for UK Productions in association with Blackpool Grand Theatre is proud to have presented 21 years of Pantomime at Blackpool’s premier theatre.

This year the two companies celebrate 21 incredible years of partnership in Pantomime. It’s only fitting that this year’s pantomime Cinderella is the first pantomime performed by UK Productions at Blackpool’s Grand.

Both UK Productions and Blackpool Grand Theatre know the true value of pantomime and the yearly tradition for the families of Blackpool. Each year the numbers grow and the community engagement work grows with it. Blackpool’s Grand is committed to its engagement work which works alongside its rolling programme.

Back in 1996 the cast was Roy Walker the Northern Irish television personality and comedian, who worked for many years as both a television presenter and comedy actor. Best known as the original host of the game show Catchphrase (1986 to 99), and as one of the stars of the comedy showcase, The Comedians. And most recently in Pick Me! and The Real Marigold Hotel.

Walker is no stranger to Blackpool’s Grand and has appeared on stage many times in both Summer Spectaculars A Night of Laughter With…, and appearing in a special with Blackpool music icon Joe Longthorne in Joe and Roy’s Thursday Night Live.

Starring alongside Walker was Jenny Powell, now ITV’s Saturday Night primetime commentator host Bigheads.

Powell has been a presenter on BBC One's To Buy or Not to Buy, presented the quiz show, Wordplay on Five, been a contestant on Channel 4's Celebrity Come Dine with Me and BBC One's Celebrity Masterchef. In 2012 and 2013, she appeared in two episodes of ITV2's Lemon La Vida Loca.

The cast also included Jack Douglas and Tom Bright, and was Directed by George May.

UK Productions was formed in 1995 by Martin Dodd producing musicals and pantomimes, for which they are now one of the country’s most prolific producers. They are currently producing national tours of Legally Blonde The Musical and The Kite Runner, both of which will visit the Grand Theatre in 2018.

West End producing credits include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Theatre Royal Haymarket) and The Kite Runner (Wyndhams Theatre, and Playhouse Theatre), and other producing credits for national and international tours include The Kite Runner (2014), 42nd Street (1997, 1999, 2000, 2007, 2012), Oklahoma! (2010), Singin’ in the Rain (2009), Disney’s Beauty & the Beast (2005 – 2010), South Pacific (2007/8), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (2001/2, 2005/6, 2008/9), Jekyll and Hyde – The Musical (2004/5), Carousel (2003/4 and 2000), Fiddler on the Roof (2008, 2003), Murdered to Death (2002), Anything Goes (2001), The Pirates of Penzance (1998/9), and Barnum (1995/6).

UK Productions have a passion for pantomime, and currently produce shows for ten other theatres nationwide. In addition, they operate a busy production hire business utilising their extensive stores of Musicals, Pantomimes and Play sets and costumes. They hire out part and full productions to professional and amateur companies across the UK and internationally as well as designing and making sets, props and costumes to order. During Christmas of 2017-18 over 40 productions will benefit from UK Production sets, props and costumes.

Producer Martin Dodd of UK Productions said; ‘It’s been a 21-year love affair with this magnificent theatre, that really is one of the jewels in this country’s theatre stock. Working alongside the amazing team at the Grand we have not only produced 21 pantomimes but also a number of musicals that have started their life in this beautiful theatre. It is the perfect place to watch a show and the audiences that we play to in the Grand are some of the best and most responsive in the country. They certainly enjoy all of the elements that make up a great pantomime.’

Over the 21 years UK Productions and Blackpool’s Grand Theatre have presented such stars as Roy Walker 96/97 (Catchphrase), Jenny Powell 96/97 (Big Heads), Bernie Nolan 97/98 (The Nolan’s, The Bill), Wayne Sleep 98/99 (Choreographer), Ben Shephard 99/00 (GMTV, Tipping Point), Anna Karen 99/00 (On The Buses, EastEnders), Ruth Madoc 01/02, 05/06 and 07/08 (Hi-De-Hi!, Little Britain), Ken Morley 02/03 and 04/05 (Coronation Street), Des Coleman 02/03 (EastEnders), Tony Caunter 03/04 (EastEnders), Maureen Nolan 03/04 (The Nolan’s, Blood Brothers), Mike Grady 04/05 (Last Of The Summer Wine), Tony Scannell 05/06 (The Bill, Flash Gordon), Kenny Baker 05/06 (Star Wars, Time Bandits), Ray Meagher 06/07 (Home and Away), Andrew Newton-Lee 06/07 (Coronation Street, EastEnders), Amanda Barrie 08/09 (Coronation Street), Barney Harwood 09/10 and 16/17 (Blue Peter, Basil’s Swap Shop), Gary Turner 09/10 (Emmerdale), Alex Ferns 10/11 (EastEnders), Vicky Entwistle 11/12 (Coronation Street), Danny Miller 12/13 (Emmerdale), Tom Lister 13/14 (Emmerdale), Jennifer Ellison 14/15 (Dance Moms, Brookside), Su Pollard 15/16 (Hi-de-Hi! Annie), Dan Whiston 15/16 (Dancing On Ice), Mark Moraghan 16/17 (Coronation Street) and JJ Hamblett (Union J), Melanie Walters (Gavin and Stacey).

Andrew Howard, Marketing Manager of Blackpool’s Grand Theatre said; ‘Having worked at the theatre for 18 years my pantomime knowledge is pretty ‘on point’. I think I could make a great stand-in.

‘It’s been fantastic working with Martin and the UK Productions team, and the many casts we’ve had over the years. I must say my standout years have included the characters played by Vicky Entwistle as the Wicked Queen, and the best Hook ever award must go to Tom Lister. Of course, in recent news Danny Miller won Best Actor and Lucy Fallon, Best Actress at the Inside Soap Awards both have performed in Pantomime at Blackpool’s Grand.’

The 2017 Cinderella cast includes JJ Hamblett (Union J) who will star as Prince Charming, Melanie Walters (Gavin and Stacey) as Fairy Godmother, Olivia Birchenough (Channel 5’s Milkshake) as the beautiful Cinderella and Jamie Morris and Tarot Joseph returning as the Ugly Sisters all starring alongside panto favourite the incredible Steve Royle (BBC Radio Lancashire) who will be making his 15th annual appearance starring as ‘Buttons’, the same role that Roy Walker played in 1996.

This year will also mark ‘Grand’ panto legend Steve Royle’s, 15th annual appearance. Royle has supported both Peter Kay and Dave Spikey on tour and was voted ‘Entertainer of the Year’ at the Red Rose Awards. Royle is also a Patron of the Friends of The Grand and works continually with the theatre on many projects.

‘My time at Blackpool’s Grand has been some of my most memorable years. I’ve worked with some incredible casts that have performed in Panto who I now call close friends like Vicky Entwistle, Danny Miller, Tom Lister and Su Pollard.

‘This year marks 21 Years for UK Productions and to think I have been on 15 years of that journey is unimaginable from when I first started, Christmas would be hard to imagine without Pantomime in my life.’ said Royle.

Marketing Manager Andrew Howard added, ‘The pantomime season can’t come around fast enough for us all at The Grand and with such a stellar line-up we’ll be hoping for another record-breaking year. We’re delighted to announce Steve Royle will be sharing yet another magical Christmas with us, he’s one of the family. Putting on the panto takes a lot of hard work but it’s an incredibly rewarding experience seeing the magic it brings to so many children at Christmas time.

‘As the Grand aims to be the theatre of choice for Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre and to offer opportunities to enjoy, participate and learn through the arts this year we will be launching very special Magic & Sparkle tickets! We’d like our customers to think in these hard times of others that might not be as fortunate as themselves and how much of an experience they would be giving if they purchased one extra pantomime ticket at a very special rate. The theatre will then donate these Magic & Sparkle tickets to organisations and community groups who really need a special treat at Christmas. We’ve made it easy to do whether you’re booking in person, at the Box Office, or online. Just ask or look out for the Magic & Sparkle ticket add-on.’

The incredible Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre return with the most amazing dancers and choreography by Katie Hill. Cinderella will also feature the sensational Shetland Ponies live on stage!

Featuring sumptuous costumes, magnificent scenery and the unmissable and magical moment when Cinderella swaps her rags for a stunning ball gown and is transported to the Prince’s Ball.

Following last year’s incredible pantomime, Aladdin, Blackpool audiences are guaranteed another year of spectacular sets, dazzling costumes and side-splitting comedy. Book your seats today, otherwise not even your Fairy Godmother will be able to magic you a ticket to see Blackpool’s must-see Christmas show.

Cinderella plays at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Tuesday 5 December 2017 to Sunday 7 January 2018. Tickets are available from blackpoolgrand.co.uk or by calling the box office on 01253 290190.

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