THE great British pantomime, celebrated for its pouting peacockery and diva Dames, is riding a feel good wave of success across the land.
For pantomime people, this is the biggest month of the year and Christmas panto, it seems, is booming in East Lancashire too.
Cinderella at the Thwaites Empire Theatre, Ewood, broke box office records before a single performance had been held and continues to pack in the crowds.
At King George’s Hall, Blackburn, packed houses have marvelled at the thrilling circus panto, Mother Goose, starring comedian Phil Walker, son of Roy, and diva Ballerina Madame Galina..
And Clitheroe’s Grand Theatre, saw 2,500 children smash the venue’s pantomime box office record in five days, with the full house signs going up for the 10 shows of the much-loved classic Beauty and the Beast.
And just because the Big Day has been and gone, it doesn’t mean that panto fun is over for another year.
Mother Goose will have its final performance on Monday and Cinderella continues until next Saturday. At Bolton’s Albert Halls, Stu Francis leads the cast in Snow White until next Sunday.
And two new productions of Jack and the Beanstalk will be opening in the area for those still in need of a fix, at Colne Muni and Clitheroe Grand.
So why is this old-school live entertainment proving so resilient?
Allan Paul, booking manager for M&M Theatrical Productions, whose company bring Jack and the Beanstalk to Clitheroe, said: “This is our biggest year yet.
“We are doing 38 pantomimes a day across the UK, and like the rest of Britain people are turning up in Lancashire to watch panto entertainment in large numbers.
“Times are really tough for many, but pantomime is pure escapism. A decade ago, when there were loads of jobs and a real sense of optimism, people wanted bleak northern dramas.
“What they want now is light and joy and laughter, and to be reminded what really matters to them.
“If what these families see is good, they will not only book for next year’s pantomime, but also for the shows in between, and that way a panto becomes the breeding ground for the next generation of theatregoers.”
George Critchley, who is producing Jack and the Beanstalk and stars in the production as Dame Dolly’s sidekick son Silly Billy at Colne Muni from January 5-20, said: “I’m producing four pantos at 10 different venues, and we’ve had a lot of sold out shows, so thankfully they are doing very well.
“Pantomime is attracting Hollywood superstars to our stages, so that shows you how popular it is right now.
“People have come back to pantomime in recent years and we are seeing a real boom again.”
- Cinderella, Thwaites Theatre, Ewood, until Saturday, January 5. box office 01254 685500.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Albert Halls, Bolton, until Sunday, January 6. Box office 01204 334400
- Jack and the Beanstalk, Colne Muni, Saturday, January 5 to Sunday, January 20. Box office 01282 661234.
- Jack and the Beanstalk, Clitheroe Grand, Friday, January 4 and Saturday, January 5. Box office 01200 421599.