Jonathan Wilkes Kickstarts Panto Season
Christmas means panto, and it is worth bearing in mind that there is only a mere 95 days left until Christmas.
Yesterday, the Regent theatre officially launched this year's pantomime in style at Park Hall Farm in Leigh.
Cinderella will run from December 13th and will once again star Jonathan Wilkes as Buttons and Christian Patterson as the Dame, or ugly sister if you want to be technical.
They will be joined by Rebecca Lisewski as Cinderella, Jonathan Bremner as Prince Charming and last weekend's Stoke's Top Talent winner Carrie Ann Williams as the fairy god mother.
Torchwood's Kai Owen will also be featuring as an Ugly sister, a personal friend of Christian Patterson.
Members of the press, big bookers and other VIPs were given a little taste of what to expect from this year's production, as writer Eric Potts introduced the starring cast in full costume, by means of an informal press conference and several impromptu music numbers.
"Thank you for joining us on this alarmingly wet day in September" said Potts, as the sound of torrential rain on the marquee's roof threatened to drown out the sound of applause from the attendees.
"We missed playing the Regent last year," said Potts regrettably, "We got addicted to the Hokey Pokey, but we turned it around and that's what it's all about".
In the spirit of Panto, Potts then began to introduce the cast, starting with opera singer Carrie Ann Williams, as the fairy god mother.
23 year old Carrie gained the role by winning the finals of last weekend's Stoke's Top Talent, in which she performed a soprano version of Vessun Dorma to an ecstatic crowd at the Regent Theatre.
Studying at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Williams is looking forward to take breaks from studying by starring in the panto.
But how exactly is classical opera going to fit into panto?
"I don't know," says Carrie, "I'm quite excited over how they're going to do it. I'll find out! We'll all find out!"
Next to be introduced was Prince Charming, who will be played by Jonathan Bremner.
From LA to Hanley, Bremner returns from the US where he was touring with Dreamboats and Petticoats.
He also may or may not have auditioned for several other big movie parts ("mum's the word").
Nethertheless he remains buoyant to be starring with such a talented cast in Hanley this year.
"I've got to stay a bit on script, but I've been advised that my prince is quite a cool prince, so I've got to be down with the kids!"
Bremner performed a bit of Buble for the audience walking around the marquee interacting with the attendees in chivalrous fashion.
Next to be introduced was Rebecca Lisewski who stars as Cinderella.
Originally from Doncaster, Lisewski's first role was back in 1999 for another production of Cinderella at the Regent when she appeared as a dancer.
Back then Melinda Messenger was playing the title role, it appears everything has come full circle.
"I'm really looking forward to it, I've never played Cinderella before and it's a really lovely part and I'm really looking forwardto it, I really am!".
Lisewski is already a veteran of broadway and sung a version of 'Suddenly Seymour' from the Little Shop of Horrors.
Perhaps making the biggest entrance was returning panto hero Christian Patterson, dressed up in bright orange as Peaches, just one of the ugly sisters.
So what can we expect from this year's panto?
"I can't tell you too much, because I don't want to give the magic away but there is an end to act one which we are going to discuss today and a new piece of machinery that is coming, which sounds like its going to be absolutely incredible."
"Panto is my favourite time of the year, I had one year off and it absolutely broke my heart" says Patterson, "I think it's because it's the intro for most children to theatre."
"I find it very special that children come for the first time to see panto".
The final member of the cast to be introduced was Jonathan Wilkes as Buttons, who returns to the Regent after a year long hiatus. Not to be outdone by Cinderella or Prince Charming, Wilkes sang a version of 'A Million Love Songs', going out into the audience he pretended to get off with one of the attendees and inhaled some helium for comic effect.
"For me," says Wilkes, "it's just a bit of fun, it's started to plant the panto seed in my head now, I know we're only in September, but pantomime soon comes around."
What can he tell us about the panto?
"Well, she definitely goes to the ball" laughs Wilkes, "We just want to make sure that people at the end of the night go 'what a great night we had'.
"We want the little kids coming dressed as Cinderella, we want the little kids to be Buttons' best friend, we want the kids to boo the ugly sisters, that's what pantomime is about."
"Lets get back to basics, let's have a good old fashioned pantomime."
It is clear from today's taster that the pantomime will not be short of laughs for the whole family, but there is more than that.
Closing the event, Carrie Ann Williams once again took to the microphone to sing Vessum Dorma, the very same piece that saw her triumph in last week's talent show.
Certainly a might voice guaranteed to dazzle whilst the comedy simmers.
If today's taster is anything to go by, Cinderella is certainly shaping up to be the Regent's best pantomime yet.
Cinderella begins December 13th and runs on to January 4th 2013 at the Regent Theatre in Hanley.
There will be two showings per day, tickets start at £9.50.
To book tickets call the box office: 0844 871 7649
Or do it online through the website: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/cinderella/regent-theatre/