All posts tagged Christmas

Actor Chris Wills returns to The Deco Theatre this Christmas for his second Panto appearance as Prince Charming in Cinderella. He played the role successfully two and a half years ago, when The Deco put on its first Spring Panto, and is not only delighted to be doing it all again, but to be back in Northampton for a second successive year.

“Cinderella is a terrific Panto,” said Chris, who is originally from Wigan, in Lancashire, but now lives and works out of London. “I’m really excited to be back in Northampton, we’ve another great show, a fantastic cast again, and if the audiences are as wonderful as last year, then it’s going to be another wonderful Panto experience.

“The audiences generate a fantastic atmosphere: they make lots of noise, they’re interactive, and they all turn up with the purpose of having fun, and as a performer, that is exactly what we want!”

It has been a busy year for Chris, since he ended last year’s run of ‘Peter Pan’ at The Deco. For much of 2018 he has been on the road, travelling around the UK, Europe, and into Asia, performing in the touring production of Shakespeare’s ‘Merchant of Venice’.

“It’s been busy, it’s been fun and I’ve really enjoyed myself,” he said. “But it’s been intense, and doing Panto is obviously quite a contrast, though I’m very lucky as an actor to have a wide variety of opportunities.”

Chris will be starring in the Deco Panto alongside Lydia Lucy, Colin Ridgewell, Lee Bright, Clive Fletcher, Fern Roach, and Sammy Webb, who is also directing the show, his first at The Deco. “It’s another fantastic cast, Sam’s a great character on and off stage, and I’m really looking forward to working with him, his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Panto is awesome.

“The other thing which always really excites me is the consistently high standard of young, local performers who appear in Deco Panto’s as part of the Chorus, and once again I’m hearing how hard they’re working in preparation.

“Not only that, The Deco have a fantastic support staff behind the scenes; they really look after us and make us welcome; and for all of us, it becomes one big family for a month – and that includes the audiences!”

Chris is a perfect fit for Panto, as much of his work is with Children’s Theatre productions.

“I love it, and I love Panto,” he says. “Great Panto involves a good team, good songs, naff jokes and lots of fun, and that’s what we’ve got, and will be having, in our Cinderella show, and I can’t wait to get started.”

‘Cinderella’ runs at The Deco from December 8 to 30. For tickets: www.thedeco.co.uk, call the Box Office on 01604 491005, or pop by to The Deco, in Abington Square, between 10am and 4pm Monday to Saturday.

Actor Colin Ridgewell is heading back to Northampton this Christmas for his fifth Panto at The Deco Theatre, and this year he is back doing what he loves best: playing one of the – he’ll be one of the two Ugly Sisters, playing the role alongside Sam Webb, who is also the show’s director.

Colin, on the left in this picture of our Ugly Sisters, was the baddie in ‘Peter Pan’ last year, and loved being Captain Hook, a role he played superbly. But it was as a Dame in previous Panto appearances that won him a legion of fans at The Deco, and he’s looking forward to doing it all again in ‘Cinderella’, which runs from December 7 to 29.

“It’s great to be back at The Deco for another Panto, I’m really looking forward to being a Dame again,” said Colin. “It’s great to be working again with Lydia (Lucy), Chris (Wills), Clive (Fletcher), and Fern (Roach), and to be teaming up for the first time with Lee (Bright) and Sam; when we got together for the photo shoot earlier in the year there was immediate camaraderie and connection between us all.

“As others will tell you, if the cast get along well together, and genuinely have fun performing in the Panto – as we always do at The Deco – then it makes it even more enjoyable for the audience, they feel the buzz, and we all bounce of each other.

“The audiences are traditionally terrific at The Deco, every year they come along with the sole intention of enjoying themselves, being inter-active, and joining in the fun, and for us on stage it makes it all the more fulfilling and rewarding – and we absolutely love what we do.”

Colin, who first made a name for himself in the BBC’s popular ‘Grange Hill’ children’s TV show in the 1990s, says what also makes The Deco special for him is the team behind the scenes.

“The staff treat you like family, nothing’s too much trouble, it really is a pleasure to work there; and not just that, everyone involved with the production are totally professional and at the top of their game at all times,” he said.

“I should also point out the amazingly high standard of the young dancers who support us throughout the run – year on year they are outstanding, and they’ve made an enormous contribution to the success of our Pantos.”

On stage, and off it, laughter is never far away during Panto season at The Deco. Colin’s own funniest memory on stage was two years ago, and it still makes him chuckle now. “It was during ‘Snow White’ in 2016 – I was playing a Dame, and during a scene that I was in, one of my boobs popped!

“I carried on as though nothing had happened, but Nick Cochrane was having none of it, and had a field day; his reaction was hilarious, and the audience loved it,” said Colin. “Lee Bright is just as mischievous as Nick, so I’ll have to be on my guard!”

Colin and the cast will be appearing in Cinderella from December 7 to 29. Tickets can be bought online at www.thedeco.co.uk, by calling The Box Office on 01604 491005, or by popping by to The Deco on Abington Square, Northampton – across the road from BBC Northampton, and opposite Steffans the jewellers.

 

Sammy Webb, who will be playing one of the two Ugly Sisters in ‘Cinderella’ this December, is not only one of the stars of our Panto, he is also the boss! Sammy is directing the show, too. And The Deco could not have a better person at the helm: if anyone knows what makes good Panto, it is Sammy – a Panto fanatic, be it as a performer, director, or a member of the audience.

Indeed, Sammy’s love of Panto, and his expertise, is such that he is soon to start a PhD in Pantomime! And if that is not enough to prove beyond doubt his enthusiasm, two years ago he launched the annual British Pantomime Awards, which proved to be an instant success.

“I absolutely love Panto, and always have done,” said Sammy, who lives in Northamptonshire, and runs the Brackley Youth Theatre. “It’s why I co-founded the Great British Pantomime awards in 2016, which honours and rewards the best Pantos and performers from all over the country.

“Theatre has its Olivier awards, film has the BAFTAs, so why shouldn’t Panto have its own glamourous, and much deserved, awards night,” he said. “Since we launched it two years ago, it’s been really successful, and this year, for instance, we’ll have over 25 judges watching well more than a hundred shows all over the country.

“Among the awards given out, are for Best Panto, Best Comic, Best Double Act, Best Fairy, Best Baddie, Best Script, Best Special Effects.”

And Sammy is delighted to be working with The Deco for this year’s Christmas Panto. “The Deco’s reputation for top quality Panto snowballs year on year, and I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in ‘Cinderella’,” he said.

“We’ve got a fantastic cast of very talented performers, and everyone is so lovely to be around, not just the actors, but the team behind the scene; there’s a fantastic chemistry throughout the production, and that can only be good for making great Panto.

“It’s my first Panto at The Deco, so that’s really exciting,” he said. “I’ve directed a few Pantos before but since moving to Northamptonshire a few years ago; I was asked if I’d be interested in directing ‘Cinderella’ at The Deco, and I jumped at the chance, and the opportunity to be in it too!”

So as an expert in Panto, what makes a good show?

“For me personally, I love the relationship between audience and performer,” said Sammy. “I love the freedom of interaction with the audience during the show; the off-the-cuff laughs that you can have.

“One thing I picked up quickly was the camaraderie, the banter, and respect among the cast, and with the team behind the scenes, which is something I know is important to The Deco, and though it’s been said before, I totally agree that if the audience see you all having fun together on stage, and enjoying it as much as they are, then you’re on to a winner.”

And Sammy’s favourite memory of Panto? “I loved the late, great John Inman in Panto, the ultimate Panto Dame over many years until his death in 2007. He was awesome!

“But there have been, and are, many other amazing performers who do exactly what Panto should do: provide fantastic family entertainment, engage the audience, have fun while they’re doing it, and make great memories.

“If that’s what we can achieve at The Deco this December, then no one will be happier than me; and I’ve absolutely no reason to doubt that ‘Cinderella’ is going to be yet another Deco winner!”

For tickets for Cinderella at The Deco: www.thedeco.co.uk, or call the Box Office on 01604 491005. Alternatively, call in at The Deco, on Abington Square, between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday.

For more information about the Panto Awards, visit the website: https://www.pantomimeawards.co.uk/

For more information about Brackley Youth Theatre: https://www.facebook.com/BrackleyYouthTheatre/

For tickets for Cinderella, go to https://www.thedeco.co.uk/event/cinderella/, call the Box Office on 01604 491005, or call in at The Deco, in Abington Square, Northampton, Monday-Saturday, 10am-4pm.

 

He’s Bright. He’s Buttons. And he’s back in Northampton this Christmas.

He’s Lee Bright. Bright by name, and bright by nature; you can guarantee he will be a bundle of energy and fun during The Deco Theatre’s run of its Christmas Panto, ‘Cinderella’, this December.

This will be Lee’s 15th successive year of doing Panto, and ‘Buttons’ is among his favourite roles. He is back at The Deco after four years, and cannot wait to get started.

“I was in Wizard of Oz in 2014; I loved being at The Deco, and returning for the official photo-shoot was just like coming home,” said Lee, who played Aladdin in Bognor Regis last year. “The team behind the scenes are all so lovely.

“But not only that, they are very professional and extremely well organised, they work so hard to put on a fantastic Panto every Christmas, and judging by all the wonderful reviews over the years, they do that very well.”

As a performer, Lee has worked all over the UK, including London’s West End, but says Panto is ‘without doubt’ his favourite time of the year.

“Christmas is magical, and going to a Panto is a wonderful experience for families,” he said. “As I kid I loved it, and as a performer I love making the experience as special now as it was for me way back when.”

And Lee will be hoping The Deco audience love Buttons this Christmas. He said: “Buttons is actually quite a challenging role – you want the audience to love him, but you don’t want to over-shadow the Prince, so it’s a fine line, but all part of the fun.”

Chris Wills is playing the Prince this Christmas, starring alongside Lee, Lydia Lucy, Colin Ridgewell, Sammy Webb, Fern Roach and Clive Fletcher, supported, as usual, by an awesome cast of young dancers.

Said Lee: “It’s a fantastic cast of talented people, who are all very easy to get along with, and I’m looking forward to working with them in December. For me, great Panto is a perfect blend of all the elements: a dame, good voices, choreography,  and bringing everyone together to work as a team.

“We have all that and more, including not just one, but two fantastic dames in Colin and Sammy, we all know that Lydia has an awesome singing voice, and once again The Deco has put together another talented cast.”

“The audiences are terrific at The Deco, and we really appreciate that people choose our Panto to come and see, which is another reason why it is so important to make sure they go away having had a magical time.”

Away from performing, Lee teaches others to follow in his footsteps through his business Bright-Starz, which he runs from his home town, Chesham. “I teach singing and acting on a one-to-one basis, and I also teach audition techniques, which is something that too often gets overlooked.

“I’ve done plenty of auditions myself in the past, and I’ve also sat on panels watching and judging auditions, so I’ve seen it all,” said Lee.

And though he loves teaching, he still loves being on stage himself just as much. Especially doing Panto’s at Christmas, which is great news for The Deco. We have no doubt the audiences will love Lee in ‘Cinderella’ as they did in ‘Wizard of Oz’ four years ago.

And one thing is for sure: there’ll never be a dull moment with Lee about!

 
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