It’s time to head off to Pantoland at Preston’s Charter Theatre... Oh yes, it is.
Sleeping Beauty beds down at the theatre for the festive season this year, in a seasonal treat that’s jam-packed with Lancashire talent.
The in-house production from the Guild Hall venue has been written by and is directed by Phil Walker – son of Catchphrase legend Roy – who lives in St Annes.
He’s also playing Silly Billy in the show, and will be joined by fellow Fylde stars Jacqueline Leonard as evil Maleficent, CBBC and Newsround presenter Hayley Hassall as The Good Fairy, and Charlotte Dalton in the title role.
In true pantomime style, it’s a fight of good over evil, as Maleficent’s meddling sends Princess Aurora into a 100-year sleep, leaving it up to the good fairy to find the handsome prince and make sure Sleeping Beauty lives happily ever after.
The show promises high-tech special effects ‘never seen before in the North West’, as well as a fresh and fiesty take on the family-friendly Christmas production. While well-known from the soap world, thanks to her stint earlier this year as Linda Hancock in Coronation Street and Lorraine Wicks in EastEnders, this is only Jacqueline’s second panto performance, as she prepares to play the wicked Maleficent.
“My husband goes to Phil’s comedy club every month, and I go when work allows,” she said. “And he asked if I might be available – and for the first time in years, I wasn’t working over Christmas and New Year, so said ‘Yes’. I’ll be working, but can still have a bit of a Christmas to enjoy; the first couple of weeks it’s early shows with schools in, then the shows are mainly at 5.30pm so it’s going to finish at a nice time, not too late for families to be out and about, which is important.”
Susan Burns, general manager of Guild Promotions, said the venue was proud to be staging its own, in-house production.
Especially with being able to offer a public dress rehearsal, where local charities and organisations have been given free tickets for the performance.
“We’ve given tickets to charities, for example refuges, in partnership with Cash For Kids, so that people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford to attend the theatre can come to pantomime,” she said.
“We’re working with local dance schools too, and all that is about giving back to the community.”
l Sleeping Beauty, Preston Charter Theatre, Monday, December 7 to Saturday, January 2. Visit www.prestonguildhall.com for details.