What to expect from Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs as panto returns to Sunderland Empire

This year’s panto cast say audiences can look forward to a very magical, Mackem show as the festive tradition returns to Sunderland Empire.

Monday, 6th December 2021, 4:34 pm
Updated Monday, 6th December 2021, 4:49 pm

Last year’s panto had to be cancelled due to Covid, but it returns to the Empire this week with more magic, more sparkle and even more audience participation.

Ahead of opening on Friday, December 10, rehearsals are in full swing for Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs and double act Miss Rory as Nurse Rorina and Tom Whalley as Muddles say they can’t wait to be tickling ribs at the venue once more.

Miss Rory, best known for her quick wit at the Boulevard cabaret club in Newcastle, said: “The show has a real Mackem spin. Think good old community spirit, humour and togetherness, all wrapped up in Christmas.

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Wicked Queen Sue Pollards tempts Snow White played by Claire Maynard with the poisoned apple, during rehearsal for the Sunderland Empire Theatre panto Snow White.

"It’s a great tradition and a real family affair. Parents that went to the panto as kids are now bringing their own children along.”

Audiences can look forward to 11 lavish costume changes from Nurse Rorina, including a special red and white frock in homage to SAFC.

Tom, who as well as starring in the panto has written the script, said: “We're over the moon to be back – and it’s about time. Panto is so much a part of Christmas and it’s needed now more than ever. It’s been an awful time, and we all need a laugh, at each other and ourselves.”

Also returning to the Empire stage is Su Pollard as the Wicked Queen.

Rehearsal for the Sunderland Empire Theatre panto Snow White.

The TV and theatre legend was last in the city eight years ago for panto, and says it’s great to be back – and she’s hoping for plenty of boos.

"I want plenty of boos, hissing and clapping, I want the kids to really let themselves go,” explained the star whose acting career has spanned 45 years.

She added: “As a cast we love that interaction and it’s great for kids as usually they aren’t afforded that luxury, they can’t shout out at a musical."

Speaking about being back in the panto rehearsal room, she said: “We’re all really enjoying it. A couple of days in and it’s like we’ve never been away. We’ve had a producers’ run and they’re really pleased with it. There’s a great team of creatives, and they’re just as important as the artists.

Rehearsal for the Sunderland Empire Theatre panto Snow White.

"It’s a very colourful show, with beautiful costumes and lots of Sunderland references which people will get. It’s also a classic story of good and evil, in which good always wins, a nice message that gives us hope.”

Joining them on stage is Sunderland-born West End actress Clare Maynard who plays Snow White. Her past roles include originating the role of Coco in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s brand new version of Starlight Express and Belle in Beauty & the Beast.

*Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs is at Sunderland Empire from Friday 10 December 2021 – Sunday 2 January 2022. Tickets, priced from £13, are available from the Empire Ticket Centre on 0844 871 3022 or online at www.ATGtickets.com/sunderland

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The Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs cast in costume. Picture: DAVID WOOD

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Rehearsal for the Sunderland Empire Theatre panto Snow White.