Jonny's joy as crowds fall for Hanley panto's charms
MORE than 40,000 people enjoyed this year's Regent Theatre pantomime – making it one of the most successful shows in years.
The curtain came down for the final time on Saturday to mark the end of Cinderella's run at the Hanley venue.
It left the cast, crew and staff hailing it as one of the best pantomimes ever staged at the venue – after it sold more tickets in 25 days than last year's panto, Aladdin – starring Joe Swash – which ran for an additional week.
Fans will be buoyed by the news that the panto's leading man Jonathan Wilkes has indicated that he would be more than happy to return for next year's panto.
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Over three and a half weeks the theatre hosted 43 shows – with more than a dozen extra staff being recruited to cope with the surge in families flocking to the city centre venue.
Reviews for the production praised the ambitious set along with the humour created by the cast.
For Baddeley Green-born Jonny, who played Buttons, it was the seventh time he has enjoyed a leading role in the city's pantomime.
The 34-year-old, who didn't appear in last year's show, said: "After being away for a year I did feel the pressure to come back and give a great show and, in all honesty, I don't think I could have wished for it to have gone any better."
Starring alongside the former Holden Lane High School pupil was his pal, Welsh actor Christian Patterson, a firm favourite with Regent Theatre audiences.
Christian played one of the ugly sisters alongside new face Kai Owen – star of TV's Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood.
Jonny said: "What's been lovely is the reaction from everyone and, for me, it has felt like coming home.
"I wanted to give people the best show they could have and people have rewarded us by coming along to see it.
"I feel it has been the best one that I've done. We have had the best cast and crew and everyone has worked so hard."
While no details for this year's pantomime have been revealed Jonathan says he is keen to return to the Potteries.
"Nothing has been confirmed yet," he said; "but if it's right for me and the theatre then I would love to do it."
The theatre took on 14 extra members of staff in preparation for the show.
Deputy general manager Andrew Nicklin said: "It's been great to hear the reaction from people at the end of the night. "With working so much I only got to see the show for the first time on Friday!"
Families were impressed by Cinderella's set and stunts including a flying carriage pulled by a pegasus which transported Cinderella to the ball.
The theatre's technical manager Barry Smith said: "We have always prided ourselves on putting on a traditional pantomime.
"But audiences will see some impressive sets on TV programmes and therefore we have had to up our game."