A PLETHORA of pantos is about to be unleashed on the Midlands, but you can bet your life Malcolm Stent’s will be the only one to mention Shirley chip shops!
For the 19th consecutive year, the entertainer has created a festive show for Solihull Arts Complex. And I went behind the scenes of this year’s offering – Cinderella – to see exactly what’s in store.
Dropping in this week, I’m taken into the theatre – where the cast are in the midst of rehearsals.
I arrive in time to see the Wicked Stepsisters (Wikipedia and Alopecia) putting the boot into poor old Cinders.
It’s Monday afternoon, and opening night is baring down on the ensemble. But they’re forging ahead with the scenes, making sure the dialogue and music are spot-on.
The girl receiving the ear-bashing is Kate Clarke. The 23-year-old who was picked from over 70 actresses to play the title role. One minute she’s been garlanded in veg by a well-meaning Buttons (played by Malcolm himself), and the next the Fairy Godmother has come to weave her magic (or at least she will in the finished show).
“I love pantos and I’ve been in quite a few before, but I always wanted to play Cinderella,” Kate tells me during a break in rehearsals.
Any reason in particular? “Well playing a Princess, I suppose, it’s every kid’s dream isn’t it?”
Not mine, but I do take her point.
By now the team have decamped to the studio and in between dance routines, I grab a few moments with Claire Trusson.
If you saw Malcolm’s panto last year, then you should recognise her – she played Jack (of Beanstalk fame). This time round she’s been cast as Prince Charming.
“I had a great time last year, and it’s nice to be back in the same area,” she tells me. “This year is a bit grander because I’m playing royalty!”
Once again the show is a mix of old and new faces. Some of the dancers are returning from previous years – as is Karen Heard (a local actress who also appeared in Go and Play Up Your Own End).
Soon enough I have to leave the cast to their rehearsals – it’s going to be a busy few days ahead!
* The panto starts tonight (December 11).
Tickets are available from the box office on 0121 704 6962.
* Keep an eye on www.solihullnews.net for our Cinderella video.