A collection of flamboyant characters came to Horsham’s Capitol on Thursday, October 6, to promote the theatre’s brand new version of Aladdin.
Pantomime performers were in full costume to talk about this year’s festive spectacular, which runs from Friday, December 9, to Saturday, December 31.
It follows The Capitol’s version of Beauty and the Beast (2015), which became the venue’s most successful panto to-date.
Olly Pike, star of CBBC’s Trapped, returns to Horsham once again after his winning performance as sidekick DC in last year’s show.
This time, however, he’s playing the title role.
“It’s really cool and I guess a bit scary,” said Olly. “Normally I’m the sidekick or the little comedy character and I can kind of get away and not be too much in the limelight. But this year it’s like: I’m Aladdin!”
“It’s always great to come back here,” he continued. “It’s a nice atmosphere and it feels like my Christmas home.”
Alice Ellen Wright, who graduated from Laine Theatre Arts last year, stars as Princess Jasmine. She’s looking forward to performing in Horsham with Olly, having recently returned from singing on a cruise ship (Celebrity Cruises) as lead vocalist.
“We went all around South America and then we touched base in Antarctica,” said Alice. “Then we went up North America as well.”
She continued: “I love panto because it’s over Christmas time for starters. It’s just so much fun and it’s not just kids that love it. Their parents and families all love it and they all get involved.”
Dani Acors, who starred in last year’s production as The Enchantress, is happy to play another goodie this year – The Spirit of The Ring.
“I’m excited to be in Aladdin because it was the first panto I did when I was seven,” Dani said. “So it will be nice to do it again now that I’m 25.”
“I like the fact that panto is something for everyone,” she continued, explaining that there are happy moments, sad moments and, of course, big song and dance numbers.
“And I love that it’s British,” Dani added. “No other country does panto.”
No other country does the pantomime dame either and this year Martin Ramsdin (Bunny Galore from the Movie Nightmares TV show) stars as Widow Twankey. An experienced dame, Martin enjoys being motherly, glamorous and funny, all at the same time.
“You’re there to be the heart of the show, I think, and to make people laugh and excite people every time you come on with a new costume.”
Part of the fun for Martin is designing his own outfits.
“This year Nick (Capitol general manager Nick Mowat) has specifically asked me to do a costume in the style of Barbara Windsor in Carry On Spying with an extra enlarged cleavage, shall we say, which I hope doesn’t get me in too much trouble!”
Horsham audiences may find that funny but it’s uncertain whether Martin is in danger of displeasing The Emperor of China, played by Richard Alan.
“Last year I was a very friendly father and a bit eccentric,” said Richard, referring to his Beauty and The Beast role as Professor ‘Doc’ Eclaire. “I’m sure that will be in the script this year but I think I’ve got a chance to be a bit more pompous and a bit more in charge.”
One character the good guys certainly won’t want to cross is the evil Abanazar. He will be brought to life by James Dinsmore, who played Captain Hook in the theatre’s Peter Pan show in 2013.
“It’s good fun, strangely,” said James, when asked what it’s like to play the villain. “Part of the joy of being a baddie is you’ve got to make people like you as well as boo. It’s part of the fun of panto that you get to be liked and hated at the same time.”
Finally, no production of Aladdin would be complete without The Genie of The Lamp, played this year by Phats & Small singer Ben Ofoedu. He’s looking forward to working in The Capitol.
“Everyone I know seems to have been here or worked here and they say it’s a lovely theatre to work in,” said Ben.
He and his fiancée Vanessa Feltz are a well-known celebrity couple. Vanessa is very supportive, said Ben, often seeing his shows three or four times, singing along and sitting in the firing line of performers spraying water.
But, Ben explained, panto’s not all clowning around. In fact, it’s a lot harder than simply singing at a concert or being a DJ at a nightclub.
“You’ve got be on it constantly, thinking all the time,” said Ben, revealing that jokes and lines are fine-tuned as the run goes on. “The great thing about any pantomime is that the first show is always different from the last show because panto is like a great work-in-progress.”
Horsham favourite Mike Goble also returns this year as Wishee Washee.
Tickets cost £20.50 (concessions £18.50). Family of Four tickets cost £70 and the group rate (10+) is £17. Capitol Friends can see the show for £18.50 or £16.50. The access show rate is £10.
Call the Capitol box office on 01403 750220 or visit www.thecapitolhorsham.com.
To watch our video interviews with the performers click here.
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