It may only be November, but Sunderland Empire’s panto cast are already getting in the panto spirit - oh yes they are!
The stars of Jack and the Beanstalk have been trying on their costumes for size ahead of opening night next month.
Former Coronation Street and Emmerdale actor Bill Ward says he’s relishing getting into the role of Fleshcreep and is hoping for some loud boos this Christmas.
“It’s great to get into the costume, you already get a sense of him as a character,” said Bill.
Speaking about what audiences can expect, he said: “We haven’t started rehearsals yet, but I’ve read the script and you can expect a lot of fun and amazing dancing and music. There’s also a massive 3D giant which you’ll require special glasses to see. There’ll also be lots of booing, lots of hissing and lots of ‘he’s behind you’.”
Though Bill has become a familiar face due to his TV roles, he says he enjoys the live interaction of panto.
“Panto is just great fun and I love the audience participation of it, the singing, the dancing, the joy of it all really. You also get four generations of the same family coming to the theatre together, what show can do that other than panto?” he said.
This year’s panto will also be somewhat of a home-coming for Bill, who hails from the North East.
He said: “I’m from Gosforth in Newcastle where my dad still lives. This will be my first Christmas at home for ten years, so it’s extra special.”
Appearing alongside Bill will be Janine Duvitski, who’ll be swapping the warmer climes of ITV’s Benidorm for a Wearside winter as the Vegetable Fairy.
She said: “This is our first day meeting everyone, but everyone seems lovely. I’m sure we’ll all have a lot of fun. It’s great dressing up as the Vegetable Fairy, it’s every little girl’s dream to be a princess.
“I grew up in Morecambe and I remember going to the pantomime as a little girl, it was such a special time. My grandma always used to get tickets at the end of the row because I always wanted to be one of the children who would be called up on stage.”
Speaking about her character, she said: “She makes sure all the goodies and the princess get help. It’s very much her against the baddie. It’s she who makes sure everyone lives happily ever after.”
Also appearing in the show is Nick Jr’s Jade Natalie as Princess Jill, Phillip Meeks as Dame Trott, and Legally Blonde the Musical’s, David Barrett as fairy-tale hero Jack, with Charlie Guest as Simple Simon.
Phillip, who last appeared at the Empire in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, said: “The Empire really is a great pantomime theatre and they’re always a canny crowd. They love panto here.”
•Jack and the Beanstalk is at Sunderland Empire from December 15 to January 7. Tickets available from the Box Office on High Street West, via the ticket centre 0844 871 3022 or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.