What can we expect from this year’s Sunderland Empire panto?

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
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Honorary Mackem Faye Tozer is stepping up to the challenge of waving a wand over Wearside this Christmas.

She’ll be donning the sparkling shoes of The Good Fairy in Sleeping Beauty at the Sunderland Empire this festive season - and she says she can’t wait to sprinkle some Christmas magic on her home stage.

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Faye Tozer as The Good Fairy

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire. Faye Tozer as The Good Fairy

The former Steps star, who lives in Boldon with her Sunderland-born husband Michael Smith, said: “The last time I was on the Empire stage was in Singin’ in the Rain and it was amazing so I can’t wait to be up there again. It’s an incredible theatre. Sometimes it’s something people take for granted: to have a wonderful venue like this on your doorstep.”

The cast have been meeting up at the theatre to try on their costumes for the show, which will run from December 9-31.

For Faye it’s a chance to star in a major show while also going home to her husband and son Benjamin, seven.

“It’s great because I get to do the school run and also go to work,” she said. “Benjamin will be able to come and see me too, as well as our friends and family.

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.

“I started in pantomime when I was five as a little dancer and this will be my fifth pantomime as an adult. It’s such a lovely family tradition and is a great way of introducing children to theatre.”

Faye, who sold millions of records with pop band Steps before forging a career in the theatre, says she wouldn’t live anywhere other than Wearside after making a home here.

“I can’t even imagine living anywhere else now,” she said. “It suits me brilliantly. We have our home here, Benjamin is at a great school, and we love being ten minutes from the sea.”

Faye will be joined on stage by former Coronation Street star Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse; Balamory’s PC Plum actor Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy; Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly and Eastenders actress Amy-Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose.

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire. Vicky Entwistle as Carabosse

Vicky, who played Janice Battersby in the hit soap, said: “It’s great playing a character like this because she’s really naughty, when you get the boos you know you’re doing your job right.

“She’s a little bit evil, but she’s also insecure and very vain. You imagine she’s the kind of person who will have had eighteen facelifts.”

She added: “You really get a buzz from the immediate reaction from the crowd and I’m sure the crowds up here will be very vocal. But it’s also frightening because you only have one chance to get it right.”

Pianist and actor Bobby, who rose to fame in Opportunity Knocks, has appeared in more than 30 pantomimes and he says Sunderland can look forward to traditional family fun.

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire. Bobby Crush as Nurse Nelly

Bobby, who’ll be playing the dame, said: “I have ten costume changes and each one is more outrageous than the last. It’s hard work because when you’re not on stage you’re changing in the wings, but I do love it.

“I’ve only played the Empire once in my career, supporting Gene Pitney on tour, but it’s great to be back. It’s a breath-taking venue.”

•Sleeping Beauty is at Sunderland Empire from December 9-31. Tickets from 0844 871 3022 or http://www.atgtickets.com/venues/sunderland-empire/

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire. Andrew Agnew as Silly Billy

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire.
Amy Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose

Sleeping Beauty at Sunderland Empire. Amy Leigh Hickman as Princess Briar Rose