Rehearsals in full swing for Sunderland Empire panto

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals. From left Coronation Street's Terence Maynard as Abanazar with TV favourite Alison Hammond as the Slave of the Ring

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals. From left Coronation Street's Terence Maynard as Abanazar with TV favourite Alison Hammond as the Slave of the Ring

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“This is very much a Sunderland panto” - says the director-cum-dame of this year’s Empire panto.

Rehearsals are now in full swing for festive spectacular Aladdin which will bring traditional family fun to Sunderland Empire from December 11.

And Ian Good, who juggles the role of Widow Twankey with directing the show, says he wanted to make it as Mackem as possible.

“Some production companies do the same panto every year, but with this one I wanted to do a panto for Sunderland,” he explained. “There’s lot of jokes about Newcastle, lots of references to local places, like Seaburn.”

Ian grew up in Tyneside and as a youngster would get the train through to Sunderland to watch the Empire pantomime, trips which fuelled his passion for theatre.

He said: “I’m big on the fact the panto has to have a good story. For some youngsters this will be their first time at the theatre and I want them to fall in love with theatre and go to see other productions, musicals and plays, like I did.”

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'Coronation Street's Terence Maynard as Abanazar

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'Coronation Street's Terence Maynard as Abanazar

Joining Ian on the bill is This Morning presenter Alison Hammond as Slave of the Ring, former Coronation Street actor Terence Maynard as Abanazar and Derek Moran from Channel 5’s Milkshake as Wishee Washee.

Derek says he’s having a great time in Sunderland.

“I love it here,” he said. “I’ve got a lovely house and I love popping to The Bridges to do my Christmas shopping on breaks in rehearsals. The people have been really friendly, it reminds me of being back home in Ireland.”

Speaking about what audiences can expect from the panto, Derek said: “We’ve had the script for a while now, so the rehearsals are just adding the magic. “It’s really high energy and great family entertainment, it has something for everyone.

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'From left Children's TV presenter Derek Moran as Wishee Washee with Tom Whalley as PC Pong

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'From left Children's TV presenter Derek Moran as Wishee Washee with Tom Whalley as PC Pong

“The story’s really funny and Alison is great in it, she cracks me up. Terence is great at singing and dancing too, he’s been in Chicago in the West End so he knows exactly what he’s doing.

“We’ve been practising the music and there’s lots of pop songs people will recognise, such as Uptown Funk and Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud.”

Derek says the cast have been getting to know each other on nights out in the city.

“We’ve been out every night together,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly you gel when you’re rehearsing every day and away from friends and family. We can’t wait to perform for the audiences now.”

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'Children's TV presenter Derek Moran

Sunderland Empire's Aladdin pantomime rehearsals.'Children's TV presenter Derek Moran

•Aladdin will be at Sunderland Empire from December 11 to January 3. For tickets Tel. 0844 871 3022 or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.