It always seems a little strange thinking ahead to Christmas in the middle of the summer (or what is supposed be the summer) but now is the time when theatres up and down the country are launching their 2013/14 pantomimes. The Wolverhampton Grand Theatre are pleased to announce that this year the hugely successful production of Sleeping Beauty which is now in it's 5th year will be delighting local audiences for 6 weeks.
The pantomime started life at the Birmingham Hippodrome in 2009 and has since played in Plymouth, Nottingham and Cardiff. The forthcoming Wolverhampton production will star the same three leads as in previous years with Joe Pasquale as Muddles, Ceri Dupree as Queen Passionella and Lucy Evans as Princess Beauty.
Ceri Dupree and Lucy Evans with Joe Pasquale
"It seems so long ago now since starting out in Birmingham" said Lucy to which Ceri agreed - "Yes, Birmingham was a great place to start, it was a massive theatre and they could just throw so much money at it. I used to have 22 costumes changes, it's only 17 now... yes, only! We've had to scale down the production slightly but that's not a bad thing. What the show is now is a really slick production that we've had five years to perfect and for that it will be the best it's ever been this Christmas - it's tried and tested and we know it works. I always say to myself before I go on stage, this is the first time these people are seeing these costumes, hearing these gags and so you just have to give it 100% every time..."
You'd think that after five years in the same production things start to get a bit repetitive, but not for Lucy. "Oh it's never the same show twice, especially with Joe Pasquale involved. Joe's always making us laugh, adding in new jokes and we're at that stage where we know the show so well now that we can do that and I think that's what makes our pantomime so great. All my friends who are also do panto come to see me and say afterwards that they want to be in our Sleeping Beauty because it's the best, so Wolverhampton's in for a treat!"
This is the first year that the Wolverhampton pantomime will have a relaxed performance. On Thursday 16th January at 11am there is an adapted performance for those on the autistic spectrum and or with additional needs who may benefit from a more 'relaxed' theatre environment. Effects such as loud sounds, bangs and pyrotechnics are removed from the show. Neither Lucy or Ceri have done a relaxed performance before. Lucy said "Joe's done one before, some West End shows do them too." Ceri added "I didn't even know what one of those was, but if it's what you say then that's fabulous. Making theatre even more accessible to everyone is great!" There are also audio described and sign language interpreted performances. For more information on any of the access performances of the pantomime and other upcoming shows at the theatre contact Janine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ceri continued to talk about changes to the show with how his particular character differs with each venue - "I do impersonations during the show, last year we were in Cardiff and so Shirley Bassey made an appearance, she'll probably stay at home this year and I'll do someone more local. Who's local to Wolverhampton?" .... Jamelia? .... "Oh no love, I can't do her...!"
This won't be the first time Ceri has performed in Wolverhampton. "It's a gorgeous theatre, the Grand... lives up to it's name. People tend to frown upon Wolverhampton, but the state of the town is nobody's fault - it's the economy. All high streets are the same wherever we've been and you can't judge a town on that. If you judge a town on it's theatre, Wolverhampton's one of the best. I did panto there in 1990 and then in 1994 I was in Hot Stuff, the musical there. I'm very much looking forward to coming back and a big reason for that is because it's a wonderful traditional theatre with a proper theatre manager. Peter Cutchie, the Chief Executive isn't one of these council officials who run many of the theatres . They'll just put anything on but he's so passionate about theatre and giving Wolverhampton the best shows he can offer. I've been in shows where nobody knocks on your dressing room door for weeks just to check if everything's OK, but everyone who knows Peter will tell you that he truly is at the heart of the theatre."
Joe Pasquale and Ceri Dupree in a dress given to him by Danny La Rue
"I've never been to Wolverhampton before" said Lucy. "I'm really excited and I've heard so much about the theatre so I can't wait to get to started. I do 'sleep' for quite a while though... that's the deal, so I have to take up a new hobby backstage until they wake me up. Last year I did knitting, if anyone's got any suggestions I'll gladly take them!"
Ceri, (who also has his own female impersonations show) designs all of his own costumes, even for pantomime. "I design them all, for my own show and for pantomime which I particularly adore. When you do panto you can just go off an a tangent and the British audience get that. I had some South African friends come over to see me in panto a few years ago and they just didn't get it. For them everything had to make sense and they just couldn't comprehend the ridiculousness of the situations! You have to get into the mental mindset and then you just have fun... and it's only really the British that manage to do that. I almost did a pantomime in Los Angeles once. Yes, Los Angeles I couldn't believe it. Somebody saw me in cabaret in London and asked me to do it and I said you're kidding me? It was going to be Cinderella and I was going to be an ugly sister alongside Zsa Zsa Gabor as the Fairy Godmother... Zsa Zsa Gabor! It almost got into production before the American's decided pantomime was too silly an idea and that America just wouldn't get it... so that never happened."
Sleeping Beauty however is most definitely happening in Wolverhampton this Christmas and runs from Saturday 7th December 2013 - Sunday 19th January 2014. Tickets were on sale before last year's giant of a pantomime Jack And The Beanstalk had even ended - so book HERE now for the best available seats!
View the trailer for the pantomime!
Check back soon for an interview with Joe Pasquale!