Popstars in Panto!

In 2011 Rapper and Pop Star Vanilla Ice appeared in pantomime as Captain Hook. This year also found Tony “Amarillo” Christine in Panto at Windsor.

As with everything Pantomime, there is nothing new in having a music celebrity star in the show. The convention goes back a good fifty odd years at the very least.

The 1960’s saw a new wave of panto performers- The Pop Singer. The Flagship of British Pantomime at that time, The London Palladium had heralded the rise of the Male Principal Boy as Pop Singer- a trend that swept theatres around the UK . Rock and Roll might be competition for Variety, but Pantomime quickly embraced it and showcased it within its variety based format.

The Age Of The Pop Star Panto was here to stay throughout the “Swinging 60’s and in to the  Seventies.- and beyond.

The Palladium Pantomimes - Rise of the Pop Idol in Panto.

An early Palladium panto starring a recording artist was in 1957.

David Whitfield: The 1950’s Singing Star appeared in Robinson Crusoe at the Palladium 1957 opposite Tommy Cooper and Arthur Askey with Patricia Perkins and Joseph Layode. He made several other pantomime appearances during his career. Teddy Johnson replaced him in rehearsals for The Alex Birmingham shortly before teaming up with Pearl Carr.

Fifties singer Joan Regan’s career took her pre pop to the Beatles and beyond.

Joan Regan- Joan starred in “Puss In Boots” at The London Palladium in 1962 alongside recording star Frankie Vaughan and comedian Dick Emery. Frankie Vaughan was the current pop idol of that age, and Joan was an established recording star. Joan also appeared in Liverpool at the Empire theatre alongside rising new star Lynda Barron- this was either 1956 or 1958.

Joan Regan (born in Romford 1928) is still making the occasional performance to this day- I had the pleasure of working with her in a Music Hall a few years ago- her voice is as strong today as it was when she began her recording career in 1953. Her hit records included “I’ll Walk Alone” and “Too Young” which got her a recording contract through Delfont for Decca Records, and later for Pye Records. Resident singer for the BBC she had her own Television series called “Be My Guest”, as well as a record career, Royal Command performances and variety. She appeared in the film of “6.5 Special” alongside the newly minted Rock and pop stars Lonnie Donegan, The John Barry Seven, Jim Dale and Petula Clark.

“Somebody else’s Roses”, “Ricochet” and “Happy Anniversary” were further hits- her most popular being “May You Always” in 1958 for EMI’s HMV Label. Joan Regan married Harry Claff the joint manager of the Palladium five years before starring in panto there- and, after Claff was jailed for fraud, of which Regan was unaware of, she  divorced her husband, and suffered a breakdown. She lived in America from 1968 continuing to make records and returned to the UK in the 1990’s.

Frankie Vaughan- Born Frank Abelson in Liverpool, “Mr Moonlight”, Frankie Vaughan recorded for Decca (1950) with a hit “Daddy’s Little Girl”, and for HMV (1952)  and with trademark Top Hat and Cane for Philips from 1955 “Tweedle Dee” one of the 22 hits he created in the top 40 for this label.

Early films included “Wonderful Things” and “The Lady’s A Square” co-starring with Anna Neagle.

Frankie Vaughan’s hits include “Seventeen”, “Green Door”, “Tower Of Strength” and “Give Me The Moonlight” which became his high kicking signature tune. He appeared at the Copacabana in New York, had a hit in the American Charts with “Judy” (1957) and Frankie really did go to Hollywood- he made a film with Marilyn Monroe- called “Let’s Make Love”

His Palladium Pantomime was “Puss In Boots” with 50’s and 60’s singing star Joan Regan, Dick Emery as “Puss”, Jimmy Edwards, Mike & Bernie Winters and Gillian Lynne- Gillian became one of the top choreographers in Musical Theatre, and created the staging for “Cats” at The New London Theatre.

Cliff Richard and The Shadows. Cliff Richard had already become a major recording and film star by 1964. His films included “The Young Ones”, “Summer Holiday”, (1963)“Wonderful Life” and “Finders Keepers” Influenced by Presley, He and Tommy Steele were the first in a line of Pop Stars, along with Lonnie Donegan, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury.

Appearances on TV’s “Oh Boy!” in 1958  and a contract with EMI led to hit records like “Schoolboy Crush”, “Move It”, “Dynamite", and his fifth single “Living Doll” which is still his signature song today.

I believe Cliff and The Shadows appeared in pantomime at Stockton- The Globe Theatre- possibly in 1961 or thereabouts. Apparently during their off stage time the Shadows were busy composing the score for “Summer Holiday” the film.

Cliff In “Aladdin” London Palladium 1964:  This panto starred Cliff, The Shadows, veteran comedian Arthur Askey and Una Stubbs.

Cliff & The Shadows- “Cinderella” 1966-67. This panto featured Hugh Lloyd and Terry Scott as the Ugly Sisters, with Jack Douglas and Tanya “The Adorable Elephant”. It also featured Peter Gilmore, Pippa Steel and Tudor Davies. It was the first time small radio microphones were used in a Palladium Pantomime. Because the large stand microphones were not seen, Cliff was accused of miming his songs!

The Shadows wrote all the lyrics and music for this pantomime. It was their third. The Original line up of the Shadows was Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch from Newcastle, who teamed up with Jet Harris, Tony Meehan and Cliff Richard.

By 1963 and the London Palladium “Cinderella” The Shadows were Hank Marvin, Bruce Welch,  Brian Bennett (Drummer, joined in 1961) and John Rostill (Bass Guitar, joined that year).

Cliff Richard & The Shadows  had a huge hit with “Please Don’t Tease” No1 1960 and The Shadows-“Apache”-1960 sold one million records.“Kon Tiki” (1961), “The Young Ones” (1962) “Foot Tapper” (1963)  and Dance On” 1963. For Cliff- now Sir Cliff the hits kept coming through the decades in a career to widespread to cover here- his influence as Male Principal Boy in pantomime was widespread- soon theatres around the UK wanted to book a male pop star as Jack, Aladdin and Dick Whittington.

Frank Ifield. Born in Coventry of Australian parents, he moved to Sydney in 1946. At 19 he was the Number 1 recording star in Australia. Hits include “I Remember You”- seven weeks at Number One in 1962. Also “She Taught Me How To Yodel”, also in 1962 “Lovesick Blues” and in 1963 The Wayward Wind”

In 1963 Frank Ifield was as popular in the UK as The Beatles. He amassed three number one hit records.

His pantomime at The London Palladium was in 1965 “Babes In The Wood” with Frank Ifield as an heroic Robin Hood. The pantomime also starred  Arthur Askey as Nurse, Sid James, Kenneth Connor, Roy Kinnear. The Aida Foster children were featured, among them were a young Elaine Paige and a young Sharon Arden- better known today as Sharon Osborne!

Engelbert Humperdink. In 2012 Engelbert Humperdink represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest, at the age of 76. Born Gerry Dorsey and named after the Operatic composer of “Hansel & Gretel” .Engelbert  starred as Crusoe in the Palladium Pantomime “Robinson Crusoe in 1967 with veteran comedian Arthur Askey as Mrs Crusoe. During the run Arthur fell through a trapdoor, and Billy Tasker went on in his place. When captured by the natives on the desert Isle, and held in a cage Engelbert sang his number one hit “Please release me, Let me go!”

Also appearing were Jimmy Logan and Hope and Keen. The script was by David Croft before he teamed up with Jimmy Perry to create shows such as “It Aint Half Hot Mum”. He was also the creator of “Dad’s Army”, “Are You Being Served” and other hit television comedy series.

Mary Hopkin: Mary Hopkin starred alongside Tommy Steele and Billy Dainty in “Dick Whittington” at the Palladium in 1969.  She also appeared at The Opera House Manchester 1971 in “Cinderella” for Mills & Delfont. This pantomime starred Mary Hopkin with Arthur Askey and Lonnie Donegan. The young man playing Dandini on £55 a week was David Essex! He had previously understudied Tommy Steele at the Palladium and appeared in that Role.

The panto included Peter Butterworth and Joe Black with Dailey & Wayne and Tony Adams, later to find fame in “Crossroads” on ITV.

Born in Pontadawe South Wales, Mary Hopkin aged 18 won the TV Talent Show “Opportunity Knocks” and caught the attention of Paul McCartney. She was one of the first artistes to record on the Beatles’ Apple Record Label, and her first single “Those Were The Days” became a Number One Hit in the UK and reached Number Two in the American Hit Parade.

Mary followed this with hits like “Turn, Turn, Turn” and “Goodbye”, and was the UK entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest with “Knock Knock- Who’s there?”- she came second to Dana who sang “All Kinds Of Everything”.

In 1971 Mary Hopkin began to retire from the public eye to marry and have a family. Living in Mumbles, Swansea at that time I would sometimes see her on the seafront.

Mumbles had a good reputation for pop stars and celebrity- my neighbour was Bonnie Tyler, Catherine Zeta Jones lived in the area appearing in the local amateur shows before heading for stardom, and actress Joanna Paige lived along the road a short distance from where veteran actor Gerald Harper had lived. Welsh Hollywood perhaps!

Mary Hopkin later led a fairly nomadic lifestyle, and very recently collaborated on an album with Dolly Parton, duetting “Those Were The Days” with Dolly.

Tommy Steele – Britain’s first real Rock Star.

Britain's answer to Elvis”-  Tommy Steele was born Thomas Hinks in 1936 in Bermondsey, London, and, after a stint in the Merchant Navy (1952-56) during which he played in a few groups, he was spotted by John Kennedy and Larry Parnes, and was given a recording contract with Decca. So fast was Tommy’s rise to success that his first single “Rock With The Caveman” and an appearance on the TV show “Off The Record” in 1956 , he was greeted with fan hysteria wherever he went. Less than a year after his debut a biopic was made of his life –“The Tommy Steele Story". By this time he’d had three chart singles including “Singing The Blues”.

The first Rock & Roll star to appear in Madam Tussauds waxworks in Britain, and the first to appear in “This Is Your Life”, in 1957 he was described as:

“A sensational discovery for Pantomime”

After an appearance in” Goldilocks.”- Tommy later went on to play Buttons in the Rogers & Hammerstein version of “Cinderella” at The London Coliseum in 1958. Yana played the title role with Jimmy Edwards as Baron and Kenneth Williams partnering Ted Durante as The Ugly Sisters. He played Dick Whittington at The Palladium Panto with Mary Hopkin in 1969. His understudy was the young David Essex.

With over 13 top 20 hits, Tommy Steele made a second film, “The Duke Wore Jeans”, followed by “Tommy The Toreador” in 1959 which produced the hit record “Little White Bull”.

Tommy became a West End and Broadway star in musicals such as “Hans Christian Andresen”, “Half A Sixpence”, “Singing In The Rain” (directed & starred in London) and was to reprise his role in “Half A Sixpence” on film in Hollywood. As a film star he appeared in “Finian’s Rainbow” with Petula Clark and Fred Astaire, “The Happiest Millionaire” ”Where’s Jack”, and wrote and starred in  the film "Quincy's Quest”.

Touring musicals included “Sugar”, “Some Like It Hot”, Dr. Doolittle and of course “Scrooge” which has played many major theatres in the UK. This Christmas Tommy Steele will be starring once again as “Scrooge” at The Lowry, Salford 2011-12.

While the London Palladium influenced the change from Female Principal Boy in the 1960’s the tide briefly turned back to using ladies in the role mainly because of one Palladium Panto Star- the year was 1970. The star- Cilla!

Cilla Black-  began her panto career in the same year as she was launched as a pop star by Brian Epstein- in 1965  she starred as “Red Riding Hood” at Wimbledon

 “Anyone Who Had A Heart” 1964 and “You’re My World” 1964 were two of her early hit records.

Cilla Black starred as “Aladdin” at The Palladium in 1970. In addition Cilla has had a huge career in recording, television and in Pantomime. Her appearance at the London Palladium was the turning point for the Principal Boy- Having been in the hands of male performers- often Pop Star Performers at the Palladium, Cilla’s appearance as “Boy” in the title role saw a swing (briefly) back to the traditional Principal Boy played by a female.

See our “Spotlight On Cilla Black” for full details of her career and pantomime appearances.

Cilla’s most recent appearance in Pantoland was for First Family Entertainment at the newly opened Waterside Theatre In Aylesbury as Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella “ 2010-11.

The Stars of the 1950 Pop Charts had already found a niche in the world of pantomime. Stars like Ronnie Hilton, The Beverley Sisters, Joan Regan and Yana were appearing in panto alongside the up and coming chart toppers of the pre Beatles age.

Freddie and the Dreamers, Gerry and the Pacemakers and The Shadows were among pop groups who found themselves playing Chinese Policemen, Brokers Men or The Brothers of The Principal Boy in pantomimes across the country.

Record Moguls were only too pleased to loan out their young stars to promote their latest chart song in a panto for a few months- Cilla Black was to make her first appearance on stage as the Star of “Red Riding Hood” in Wimbledon.

Some 1960’s Pop Idols were put into pantomime without even the thinnest disguise of being in the story. In the 1950’s and early 1960’s it was possible to halt the panto halfway through the second act and simply announce “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome our special guest star Miss Alma Cogan... or Mr Danny Williams singing his latest hit “Moon River” or “Your very own Miss Dusty Springfield” singing her latest hits. It was a convention that had started in the ten years before with recording artistes such as Vera Lynn walking onto the stage halfway through a pantomime, usually in the ballroom, sometimes in the Woods to perform a fifteen minute spot. They rarely remained for the final curtain and could sometimes appear in three different pantomimes in a day!

The 1950’s Stars and Pantomime

Julie Andrews- appeared at The London Palladium in 1953 as “Cinderella” – Jon Pertwee was one of the Ugly Sisters. Max Bygraves- major recording star and famed later for his “Singalongamax” party albums- was Buttons. Richard Hearne played Baron Pastry and the script was penned by Eric Sykes and Spike Milligan.

Julie Andrews starred in the Casino (Now The Prince Edward Theatre) London in “Aladdin”. For details of Julie Andrew’s early career in pantomime, see our article: Julie Andrews in Pantomime by Simon Moss.

Ronnie Hilton - in 1956 Elvis Presley’s USA Hit record “Heartbreak Hotel” failed to dislodge Ronnie Hilton from the Number One Hit Parade in the UK. He remained there for six weeks with “No Other Love”- such was the celebrity of Ronnie Hilton through the 1950’s and later in the mid 1960’s.

Ronnie was a charming and lovely and a funny man- he liked it drop, it has to be said and was generous to a fault. He was a delight to work with when we did Hull Pantomime- his home town – with “Cinderella”, and although by this time ( 1989)  his fame had waned, his charm was always to the fore. Spending time with Ronnie and his (second) wife Chrissie was a great joy, as was watching him in his singing spot in the ballroom as Baron when he became young again.

Born in Hull in 1926 , Adrian Hill (renamed by a producer- “It sounds too much like a Doctor”) or Ronnie Hilton as he became made his debut at the Dudley Hippodrome in 1954. Almost overnight he was urged to give up his “day job” and received a BBC radio series and a recording contract with EMI’s own HMV label.

In 1954 he released “Veni, Vidi, Vici” and “I Still Believe”, followed by “A Blossom Fell” in 1955. Other hits followed- “The Yellow Rose Of Texas” and “Stars Shine In Your Eyes”- he was effectively one of the last of the balladeer before Rock and Roll took over the airwaves.

A smooth strong singing style in the mould of a Sinatra or a Nat King Cole, he achieved huge fame in 1956 with “No Other Love”. His version of “Magic Moments” was actually released before the iconic one by Perry Como in the States, a fact Ronnie never let pass unnoticed!

Other hits included “Around The World” in 1957- Ronnie’s version was more popular than Bing Crosby’s, and he was honoured to appear in three Royal Command Performances.

He had nine top twenty chart hits between 1954 and 1957. Ronnie earned a fortune and spent a fortune. Throughout he always performed in Pantomime as Wishee Washee, Idle Jack and latterly as King and as Baron.

His early pantomime career was cemented by the 1957-8 “Sleeping Beauty” at the Lyceum Sheffield, and he followed this with a huge number of pantomime appearances, a great many of them in Hull and Leeds. In 1958 he starred at the Alhambra in Bradford for Sam Newsome in “Dick Whittington” with Sonny Jenks and Billy Stutt.

In 1970 Ronnie starred alongside Les Dawson and Wyn Calvin at the Leeds Grand in “Babes In The Wood”.

Grand Theatre Leeds - 1965

click on image to enlarge

Paul Elliott regarded Ronnie as his “Lucky Mascot”, as he starred in Paul’s first pantomimes in the early 1970’s and they did excellent business.

When Ronnie’s career in recording waned in the early 1960’s he continued to make annual Summer season and panto appearances until in 1965 he recorded “Windmill In Old Amsterdam” – a comedy number, aimed mostly at Children that went on to sell over a million records! It became the number (much to his chagrin) that he was forever associated with.

Perfect in “Cinderella” when we did it together- Ronnie sat on the Palace stairs after the ball, when Cinders had fled and sang it gently as one by one the dancers in mouse costumes appeared and the house went crazy!

Ronnie was an inspiration and great fun to listen to- his stories were legendary. He’d been there, done that and survived. It was heart warming that his later years were spent as the voice of BBC2’s “Sounds Of The Fifties” which he continued even after suffering a stroke, and almost up until his death in 2001 aged 75.

Ronnie took the whole company- Les Dennis, Sophie Aldred, Natalie Cleverley, Peter Robbins, Myself out for a meal by the seaside near Hull. This was by now his twenty seventh pantomime.

He was a modest man, and we only discovered later in the evening that he’d once owned the restaurant in his “Flashier” days- the current owner had volumes of scrapbooks under the counter- a great panto artiste and a huge star was Ronnie Hilton.

Ronnie Hilton “Windmill In Old Amsterdam”    Ronnie Interviewed

Alma Cogan- the vivacious singer of the 1950’s and ‘60’s. The girl “With a giggle in her voice”. With her trademark dresses billowing out in exaggerated ‘Fifties style she became a pantomime star on a few occasions- mostly appearing as “Special Guest Star” in the second half, performing a few numbers and departing- it was an accepted way of getting popular singing stars to appear and promote- and rarely was it even mentioned in the plot. Stars like Alma Cogan and later Dusty Springfield would simple appear in their modern clothes and do fifteen minutes! Cilla Black was a later generation by 1965 and played the role of Red Riding Hood in her debut appearance.

One of Alma’s pantomime appearances was “Guest Starring”  in “Aladdin” at the Empress Theatre, Brixton London with Bill Maynard and Maureen Kershaw.

Alma Cogan’s hits included “Twenty Tiny Fingers”, “Never Do A Tango With An Eskimo” (and they say the lyrics of today are strange?_ “Willie Can”, “The Railroad Runs Through The Middle Of The House”, “Bell Bottom Blues”, “Dreamboat” and “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its flavour on the bedpost overnight!”. She had swooping ballads as well as comedy numbers and was a truly major star- one of televisions most frequent guest stars, and one of the first pop stars to be promoted through television not radio- as well as the pantomime appearances.

Alma Cogan sadly died in 1966 aged only 34. Throughout her career her home was open to all of Show Business, and her parties were legendary. Vivacious both on and offstage she was hugely missed by her fans.

Yana- “The Naughty Lady Of Shady Lane”

Today an internet search for Yana brings up hundreds of pictures of model Yana Gupta, but in 1956 the face on every magazine and on television and screen was a different Yana.

Yana- born Pamela Guard in Romford Essex 1932. Yana was the glamorous singing star of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Her film and television career included her own show and feature films for Warwick Films including “Zarak” and “The Cockleshell Heroes”.

In 1956 she starred in “The Yana Show” on BBC TV and went to America to appear on the Bob Hope and Ed Sullivan Shows.

1957 she starred in “The Kings Of Skiffle” at The Prince Of Wales Theatre London “Encased”, as the Daily Telegraph reported “in a white gown that fitted like a bandage and clinging so closely to a hand microphone that one could be forgiven for mistaking it for mouthspray

Her hit recordings included “Climb Up The Wall” (1956 for HMV and “The Naughty Lady of Shady Lane”. She also had hits with “Mr Wonderful” 1957 and “I Need You” 1958.

She starred in the title role of “Cinderella” by Rogers & Hammerstein in 1958.

This pantomime opened at the London Coliseum with pop star Tommy Steele as Buttons. On the cast recording Yana sang “In My Own Little Corner” and “A Lovely Night". Yana starred alongside Norman Wisdom in the London Palladium Pantomime, "Turn Again Whittington” as Alice Fitzwarren in 1960 and later appeared with Bruce Forsyth in panto at the Palace Manchester.

In 1964 Yana starred in “Cinderella” at The New Theatre Oxford. The panto starred Des O’Connor  as Buttons, with Danny La Rue and Alan Hayes as The Ugly Sisters, Erica Yorke as Prince Charming, Jack Douglas, George Arnett and Wendy Cameron.

Yana later played Principal Boy in many pantomimes including “Aladdin” at The Royal, Brighton She had top billing alongside Bernard Bresslaw, Clive Dunn and Basil Brush. She  Married three times, her second husband being Alan Curtis, the prolific Pantomime Villain and veteran of many Palladium Pantomimes.

One of her last pantomime appearances was at the Civic Theatre Colne in “Robin Hood and The Babes In The Wood” in the 1980’s Having given up performing she had a brief revival after being “rediscovered” as Glinda in “The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz” at Crewe, and returned to cabaret for a short while. She appeared in the ITV programme “Where Are They Now” in 1983 while still performing in cabaret.

Yana died in 1989 aged 57.

Rosemary Squires - (not to be confused with Rosemary Squire who, along with her husband Howard Panter head The Ambassadors Theatre Group) popular singer of the 1950’s and 1960’s appeared in some pantomimes including “Mother Goose” in 1960 at The Granada Shrewsbury, starring with trumpeter and recording star Eddie Calvert.

The Royal Command Variety Show 1960

This show, held at the Victoria Palace and headlined by The Crazy Gang and Liberace, alongside Nat King Cole and Vera Lynn – the show heralded the dawning of the age of pop and rock and roll into variety, pantomime and television. The cast list is truly a “Who’s Who” of pop with the older guard- Vera Lynn, Anne Shelton, Ronnie Carroll Joan Regan and Ronnie Hilton alongside the established Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson, Brian Johnson and Alma Cogan, Marion Ryan, Bruce Forsyth and  newest stars- Millicent Martin, Lonnie Donegan, Adam Faith and Dennis Lotis.

Ruby Murray- The Irish singing sensation broke all hit parade records before, and indeed since  in 1955 with Five Singles in the Top Twenty at the same time!

The Twenty Year old with the gentle breathy voice had huge hits with singles like “Softly Softly”, “If Anyone Finds This I Love You”

Ruby starred as Principal Girl in several pantomimes, often with her husband Bernard (Bernie)Burgess. Fortunately Bernie listed the early pantomimes on the Ruby Murray Website.

Liverpool Empire 1957-58 “Babes In The Wood” with Jimmy Jewel and Ben Warris. Playing opposite Ruby as Robin Hood was Lynette Rae who later went on to marry Irish singing star Val Doonican. The panto also starred Arthur Haynes and Freddie Frinton- Freddie was famed for his “drunk act” and for the famous television sketch “Dinner For One” with Cicely Courtneidge. This sketch is hugely popular in Germany to this day, and is part of their traditional New Year viewing on TV!

1959-60 The Hulme Hippodrome in Manchester- “Dick Whittington” starring Ruby Murray and Freddie Mills.

The NME- New Musical Express  revealed on 23rd September 1960 that Pantomime was beckoning for Pop Stars Dennis Lotis, Ruby Murray and The Dallas Boys that year.

1960-61 The Pavilion Theatre, Torquay with Ruby Murray starring as “Cinderella” and Derek Roy as Buttons.

1962    The King’s Theatre Southsea saw the opening of the touring version of “Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs” starring Ruby Murray- The photograph (kindly sent to us by Duggie Chapman) shows Ruby with husband Bernard Burgess as Prince Rupert and the debut of Ted Rogers as Muddles. It also featured Jean and Peter Barbour’s Puppet specialty, Barbara Jackson and Tony Lester.

See programme and photograph

The tour of “Snow White” went around the UK for almost eleven months. (We are very grateful to cast member Llewellyn Williams for correcting our earlier claim of two years!)

1963-64 “Puss In Boots” at The Royalty Theatre, Chester. The panto starred Ruby with Peter Goodwright, Alex Munro (popular North Wales based entertainer and Father of film star Janet Munro). The manager of the Royalty Theatre at that time was Dennis Critchley.

That  era of  entertainers and their huge popularity meant a few entered the Cockney Hall Of Fame- so popular were they that their names becoming rhyming slang- Lionel Blair- “Putting on my Lionel’s” was slang for Flared Trousers- Blair=Flare for example. Rhyming slang for being hungry was Hank Marvin (from The Shadows) Marvin=Starvin’ and Ruby Murray’s name is still in everyday use in East London, and all over the UK – I’m going for a Ruby- A  Ruby Murray= A Curry!

I was very lucky to have worked with Ruby on a number of occasions in the 1970’s. One season at the Grand in Scarborough was memorable. The room was crowded, the audience had “had a few”- I opened with a cockney medley on the piano with a pearly suit and went down like the Hindenburg. Complete silence. As I exited Ruby clutched me as she entered “Oh god!” she said. The band struck up “When Irish Eyes are Smilin’” and you could hear a pin drop. Then the audience talked through her entire act. When Ruby came off- she never cut a single song despite I was able to tell her what we hadn’t known. It was “Scots week” in Scarborough, and our house came entirely from Glasgow!

I was waiting for the finale in “Cinderella” years later-17th December 1996 on  the opposite side of the stage to Bob Carolgees when I saw someone speak to him. He mimed to me the news that Ruby had died that evening- he and I had both worked with her and after curtain down we  went out to a bar and toasted her memory that evening. A gesture I know she’d have approved.

The Beverley Sisters- Joy, Babs and Teddie- collectively “The Beverley Sisters” or “The Bev’s”. Britain’s answer to The Andrews Sisters they entered the Guiness Book Of Records for being the longest harmony act in history without a change in the line-up.

Joy (born 1929) and twins Babs and Teddie (Born 1932) had hits with “Sisters”, written for them by Irving Berlin, and “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Little Donkey” and “The Little Drummer Boy”. Other hits include “Bye Bye Love” and “Always and Forever”.

When Joy Beverly married Billy Wright in 1958 the streets of Poole were jammed with thousands of fans. Joy was at the peak of her career and Billy Wright was England’s football idol- The first footballer to play for England 100 times. They were the Posh and Becks of their time.

They appeared in many pantomimes- one notably with Ken Dodd as second billing at the Empire Liverpool in 1956. In the second half panto was swept away as the three sisters took to the stage in their modern stage clothes and performed their close harmony act on a park bench with drapes.

They were the highest paid entertainers in the UK for almost twenty years. Their television show “Those Beverley Sisters” ran for seven years. The appeared non stop on television, in Summer season, Royal Variety Performances  and in pantomime, and were amongst the earliest singing stars to forge lucrative advertising contracts- Kodak, Woodpecker Cider , Esso and Nulon Hand Cream were among a few. Little wonder the inseparable sisters bought houses next to each other and later houses for their children.

The “Bev’s” were the daughters of Music Hall duo Coram and Miles. Joy’s two daughters Vicky and Babette and Teddie’s daughter Sasha became “The Little Foxes” – a pop version of their Mother’s and Aunt’s careers. It was Peter Stringfellow who had the clever idea of presenting the Three Beverley Sisters and The Three Foxes at the London Hippodrome in cabaret!

They topped the bill at the London Palladium constantly in the 1950’s and ‘60’s- with Danny Kaye, Billed above Cliff Richard as befits the first female group from the UK to break into the USA market.

Up until very recently they still made the odd appearance, and are strong supporters of the Burma Star Association. All three ladies received their MBE’s at Buckingham Palace in 2006.

Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson

Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson were the most popular singing duo of the 1950’s and early ‘60’s. Husband and wife who entered Eurovision with “Sing Little Birdie” in 1959 and came second. The record went to number 12 in the UK Hit Parade.

The following year-1960  Teddy’s brother Bryan Johnson entered Eurovision with “Looking High, High, High” and also came second.

Born in 1919- Teddy Johnson  was a  drummer and later a recording artist for Columbia and a DJ on Radio Luxembourg.

 Pearl – born in Exeter in 1921 came from a theatrical background. Her Father was a Theatre Manager and her Mother was a singer. At 17 Pearl became one of C.B.Cochrans Young Ladies, and appeared in revues for two years.

Pearl was later to become a band singer with “The Philip Green Band where the drummer was Teddy Johnson. Later Pearl joined “The Keynotes” and had a hit with “Memories Are Made Of This” with Dave King and “You Can’t Be True To Two”. She appeared as part of a Musical Section in The Royal Variety Show of 1953.

Pearl and Teddy married in 1955.

They were almost permanent features on Television screens through the 1950’s, frequent stars of “Blackpool Night Out”, “Big Night Out” and guests on “The Winifred Atwell Show” for almost a decade-as well as appearing in very early commercials.

Pearl & Teddy in Eurovision 1959

They scored another UK hit with “How Wonderful To Know” in 1961. Throughout the seventies and eighties they appeared in Summer Seasons and in Cabaret.

 A reference in the Monty Python sketch "Communist Quiz”,  where Chairman Mao has to name their entry in the 1959 Eurovision Contest brought their name back and created interest once again.

They appeared in pantomime- among them were 1954 Grand Theatre Wolverhampton “Aladdin”- Teddy Johnson appeared in this one solo.

 Not able to find very much information regarding their panto appearances I asked a mutual friend Bobby Crush if he could help out- as it turned out he was having dinner with them both that evening, and Teddy and Pearl gave him the following information.

The 1954-55  Aladdin: Teddy took over from a sick David Whitfield at the request of Derek Salberg  (Clarkson Rose was the "Dame""). Teddy went in at very short notice, learned the show in a matter of days and a grateful Derek Salberg asked him to do panto for him the following year.

By then, Ted had paired  up with Pearl Carr and together they did Birmingham Alex, 1955/56 "Cinderella". with Adele Dixon, as Prince Charming,  Ted Gatty and Tommy Rose as The Ugly Sisters and Terry O’Neil. Once again it was Produced by Derek Salberg.

The following year in 1956-57 they repeated the same panto- “Cinderella” for Salberg, this time at the Grand Theatre Wolverhampton.

The only other panto they did either separately or together was for Bunny Baron  at The Lewisham Broadway Theatre  in 1970-71  (previously known as Lewisham Concert Hall)  appearing  together in  "Babes in the Wood" with Ted as "Robin Hood" and Pearl as "Maid Marian" .

They continued their association with Bunny Baron by playing Summer Season for him in 1971 at Weston-Super-Mare.

In 1987 Pearl and Teddy appeared in the West End run of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies”. They stopped the show each night with their duet “Rain On The Roof”

Teddy and Pearl chose to retire “On A High” after an eighteenth month run of “Follies” (Staying with the show through the cast change) and remain in good health. Teddy is 92 and Pearl is 91. They both recently retired to the Entertainment Artistes “Brindsworth House” in Twickenham where they keep an active……..

The Pop Era in Pantomime- 1950’s-‘60’s.

The Stars:

Lonnie Donegan- The most influential and important British Artist of the pre Beatles Era.

Born in Glasgow 1932 Anthony Donegan, he took the name of his idol, the blues singer Lonnie Johnson and having formed the Tony Donegan Jazz band joined Chris Barber’s Trad Jazz band as Lonnie Donegan.

His family had moved to East Ham London when he was two years old, and he set up his own brand of Skiffle in 1953, releasing “Rock Island Line” in 1955. It went straight into the Top Ten charts  and established him as a pop star.

“The King Of Skiffle” was later signed to Pye Records and the hits continued. He had an unprecedented succession of hits between 1956-1962. Lonnie had 24 successive top thirty hits including “Cumberland Gap”, “Gamblin’ Man”, “Putting On The Style” (1957 it went to Number One) and “My Old Man’s A Dustman”- The first British male artiste  to have entered the charts AT Number One!

He appeared on TV in a  series of songs and sketches called  “Putting On The Donegan” from 1959-1961.

“Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavour On The Bedpost overnight” was his second USA chart entry in 1961, making Lonnie the most successful British performer in America at that time. He was the first British performer to secure two US Top Ten Records.

Meanwhile Lonnie Donegan appeared annually in British Pantomime from  1957 through into the mid 1960’s.

His many pantomime appearances include :

1957 Chiswick Empire “Aladdin”- the Principal Boy was Maureen Kershaw and in the same role at the Globe Theatre, Stockton.

1959 Finsbury Park Empire for Lew & Leslie Grade. The pantomime was “Robinson Crusoe”, Lonnie playing Billy Crusoe opposite the (then) double act of Joe Baker and Jack Douglas- later of “Carry On “ Fame, and Allan Bruce, Robbie Beamont and Sally Barnes as Mrs Crusoe.

In this pantomime Eighteen year old  Julia McKenzie was Principal girl- Polly Perkins.. She later went on to be a West End Star of many Sondheim Musicals, and Television star- “Fresh Fields” and TV’s Miss Marple most recently-here she was in  one of her earliest professional shows.

1960 Theatre Royal Nottingham “Cinderella” starring Lonnie Donegan with The Three Monarchs, Danny La Rue & Alan Haynes as The Ugly Sisters, Jill Westlake, Terry Donovan and George Arnett.

This was the year Lonnie appeared in the Royal Command Performance.

Jill Westlake who played “Cinderella” opposite Lonnie’s Buttons was to marry Lonnie after he divorced his wife a few years later in 1962.  In 1971 Jill and Lonnie were divorced.

Terry Donovan who played the Dandini often appeared in Winston’s club and in cabaret with Danny La Rue at this time. She is Mrs Barry Cryer.

1961 The Birmingham Hippodrome “Cinderella”- the same cast mostly as Nottingham for Emile Littler and Tom Arnold. Audrey Jeans was co starring. It was in this pantomime Lonnie sang his No: 1 hit record “My Old Man’s A Dustman”.

1962 Leeds Grand Theatre “Cinderella” with Lonnie in his third year as “Buttons”. Jill Westlake was once again Cinderella, and the cast remained the same- The Three Monarchs, Danny La Rue and Alan Haynes.

In 1963 Jill Westlake continued the role of Cinderella with Danny La Rue and Alan Haynes for one more year. This time in Bournemouth. Lonnie was not in this pantomime

There is a gap with no pantomime information between 1963 and 1971. We’d be grateful if anyone has any details of Lonnie Donegan pantomimes during this period.

 1971 Lonnie Donegan appeared with  Mary Hopkin and Arthur Askey in “Cinderella” at the Opera House Manchester

1972 Lonnie and the Donegan band appeared in pantomime at the Pavilion Theatre Bournemouth.

“My Old Man’s A Dustman”

In 1978 Lonnie released “Putting On The Style”, a record of his early successes collaborating on the disc with Elton John, Brian May and Ringo Starr.

He appeared onstage in the 1920’s musical “Mr Cinders” in 1984, toured America in cabaret and was awarded the MBE for services to Music in 2000. That year he played Glastonbury.

Midway through a UK tour in 2002 with his family Lonnie Donegan died, aged 71.

Billy Fury – influenced, as was Cliff Richard  by Elvis, Billy Fury was launched on the TV Programmes “Cool For Cats” and “Oh Boy!” in 1959. Born Ronald Wycherley in Liverpool, he had a total of eighteen singles in the top twenty charts during his pop career. Records included “Maybe Tomorrow”, “Margo”, “Colette” and “That’s Love”.

His hit “Halfway To Paradise” is still regarded as a major pop ballad. He left Decca and signed with Phillips, releasing his self composed album “The Sound Of Fury”.

He added nine more top 20 hits  between 1963-65. He ranked alongside Cliff Richard and Marty Wilde as the most popular rockers of the early 1960’s.

The illustrations here show Billy in pantomime at The New Theatre, Oxford, in “Aladdin”.

Cheryl Kennedy is  photographed next to him playing The Princess. The group “The Gamblers” are seen forming a triumphant arch for Aladdin and his bride.

The photos were taken by Stanley Bielecki for the magazine “Pop Weekly” which included the readers own chart votes and news and photographs of Billy, Cliff, The Barron Knights, Janie Jones, Tom Jones and a Christmas Greeting from Elvis and the Colonel!

Billy played the role of Stormy Tempest in the David Essex film “That’ll Be The Day” in 1973.

Billy Fury suffered from ill health and died of heart failure in 1983 aged 42.

Marty Wilde

In July 1957 Reginald Smith wasn’t exactly a catchy name to head a pop-group, so it was as Reg Patterson and the Hound Dogs that he was first spotted by the legendary Larry Parnes.  A quick name-change – Marty Wilde and the Wild Cats – and some early appearances on TV shows like “Cool for Cats”, “The Six-Five Special” and “Oh, Boy!” launched him into a spectacular and long-lasting career .

The first hit record was “Endless Sleep” in the summer of 1958, and within a year Marty Wilde was hosting Jack Good’s TV show “Boys Meet Girls” and even appeared on the 1959 Royal Variety Show.   Four successive Top Ten hits followed and then his marriage to Joyce Baker, one of the singing group The Vernon Girls, whom he met on his TV shows.  In those days a marriage was considered the kiss of death for a teen-idol, but Marty was more than just a teen-idol. In 1961 he made a film “The Hellions” and then played the lead in a West End musical opposite Chita Rivera – this was “Bye Bye Birdie”.   This meant he was established as an all-rounder by the time the Beatles turned the pop-world upside down and shortened the careers of many other teen-idols.

Marty made his panto debut in 1958 at the Stockton Hippodrome in Babes in the Wood. (We are very grateful to Dave Bryceson for sending us this information).

Marty and his wife starred in the 1966 panto at Swansea Grand Theatre as Robin Hood and Maid Marion – running from Boxing Day to March 4th (they were long runs in those days).  It was a very domestic set-up, with 6 year old Kim Wilde and her 4 year old baby-brother Ricky playing in the dressing-room, being looked after by doting dressers when Mum and Dad were both on together.

The Good and Bad Robbers were George Truzzi and comedian Danny O’Dea (much later to find fame in “The Last of the Summer Wine”), and the cast included double-act Bud Smart and Peter Tracy, and Peter Thorne (later a very popular Dame himself) as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  The dame was Welsh singer-comedian Ivor Owen as Nurse Glucose, singing to the Babes, as I recall, “It’s a Boy, It’s a Boy, It’s a Ball of Bouncing Joy” – and I remember being puzzled because there was both a boy babe and a girl babe – and the poor girl was being ignored.  

Pantos in those days always had standard “solo spots” for the stars.  Marty Wilde sang “Rubber Ball”, “Donna”, and  “Endless Sleep” in a 12 minute solo, which was just about acceptable for Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest. However, Ivor Owen, dressed as Nurse Glucose, in his solo spot sang three powerful ballads, ending with a religious song about “God’s Holy Lights”.  Nothing could be more bizarre than a man dressed as Dame singing a holy song! The pantomime was directed as always by John Chilvers and choreographed by Cherry Willoughby.

Marty’s show business career continues to this day with three of his children also in the music business (Kim Wilde of course, and her brother and sister, Ricky and Roxanne) while the fourth, Marty Jnr, is a sportsman.

Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders. Born Glyn Ellis in 1945, He founded a group in 1962 and secured a recording contract with Fontana records. Wayne himself took his name from Elvis’s drummer.

In 1962 “The Game Of Love” went to number 2 in the UK charts. He and the mindbenders released several records before he turned solo in 1965.

His last hit was “Pamela, Pamela” in 1967- it went to number 11 in the UK Charts.

Wayne appeared in the Swansea Grand Theatre Pantomime in 1968. “Jack And The Beanstalk” starred Wayne alongside Roy Lance as comic, Sian Hopkins as Princess, Trevor Moreton as Dame Trott, Jonathan Prince, Jean and Peter Barbour as Daisy The Cow and Giant speciality, Sandra Wrenall and a comedy duo named The Harmon Brothers.

The Harmon Brothers were later to become The Chuckle Brothers! See our article Spotlight on The Chuckle Brothers.

This year 2011 Wayne Fontana is touring in the long running show “The Solid Silver Sixties Show” with Mike Berry and The Merseybeats.

Mark Wynter- His handsome “Boy Next Door” looks created a big fan base for Mark Wynter- his hit “Venus In Blue Jeans” was one of several top 30 chart hits. Mark transferred to acting and has work extensively in theatre, he is currently touring in a thriller called “Verdict” for Bill Kenwright and The Agatha Christie Company.

 In 1960 he starred in “Mother Goose” at the Gaumont Southampton, produced by Joe Collins- father of Joan Collins. * see the full programme in our  Before They Were Famous” section.

In 1973 Mark appeared in Jack & The Beanstalk at the London Palladium with Frankie Howerd and Dora Bryan. In 1979 Mark appeared in “Jack And The Beanstalk” at The Ashcroft Croydon with Nerys Hughes and Jon Pertwee.

Craig Douglas - Born 1941 and  Dubbed “The Singing Milkman”, the former milkman appeared on the TV pop show “The Six-Five Special” in 1959 and received sack fulls of fan mail resulting in a recording contract for Decca.

The “Six Five Special” was the most watched pop show of its time- Craig Douglas  appeared  frequently along with Cliff Richard and Joe Brown (on his first appearance) and later with Shirley Bassey, Ruby Murray, Vince Eager and Marty Wilde on other shows.

Voted “Best New Singer of 1959” Craig changed to Top Rank Records and recorded a staggering 8 cover versions of American songs.

His  Number One Hit record was “Only Sixteen”, recorded at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios. Mike Sammes performed the whistling parts.

Craig went on to have nine Top Forty UK singles and achieved a record for having four consecutive number 9 placings in the UK singles charts.

In 1962 he appeared in the film “It’s Trad Dad!” with Helen Shapiro and topped the bill on the Beatles first major UK stage show.

Amongst his other hit records were “A Hundred Pounds Of Clay”, “Pretty Blue Eyes” (at number 4) “Time” and “Oh Lonesome Me” in 1962.

Craig Douglas appeared at the Theatre Royal Brighton in “Cinderella” in the 1960’s. The panto starred Norman Vaughan and featured Bill Pertwee and Barry Howard as The Ugly Sisters.

Craig appeared on television variety shows such as “Big Night Out” hosted by Mike and Bernie Winters” in the early ‘sixties, appearing alongside Lionel Blair and his dancers, Hylda Baker, Dusty Springfield, Max Wall and Susan Maughan.

Craig Douglas’s recording career ended in the mid ‘Sixties and he has worked as a cabaret entertainer since. In1999 Craig appeared at the Civic Theatre Rotherham as Alderman Fitzwarren in “Dick Whittington” with Johnny Dallas as Sarah The Cook and Andy Pelos.

 I had the great pleasure of working with him in a Music Hall Show a couple of years ago, and he continues to revive memories of the “Swinging Sixties” with his cabaret spots.

Joe Brown & The Bruvvers -

Born in 1941 and brought up in Plaistow, London’s East End, Joe Brown worked as a session guitarist- working for Pop legend Larry Parnes. He was signed to Decca and in 1960 became Joe Brown and The Bruvvers.

They had hits including “Dark Town Strutters Ball” and in 1962 “Picture Of You” went to Number One and stayed in the charts for months.The Beatles opened shows for them- and the hits continued “It only Took A Minute”, “I’m Henry The Eighth I Am”, and several films. These included “Three Hats For Lisa” with Sid James, “Crazy World” and Spike Milligan Meets Joe Brown. A Cinema Short.

1962 The Globe Theatre Stockton- “Aladdin” with Maureen Kershaw as Aladdin. In 1964 Joe and The Bruvvers were again with Maureen in “Aladdin” at The Granada Shrewsbury.

Joe went on to make countless TV appearances and “The Joe Brown Show” ran for three series on ITV. His children’s TV show “Joe & Co” was for the BBC. He appeared in “Charlie Girl” in the West End- He opened in 1965 and continued for three years, playing the role with Dame Anna Neagle and then Cyd Charisse.

In 1968 Joe was at the Odeon Streatham in “Cinderella” with Dick Emery. Joe played Buttons and as part of his routine to entertain Cinderella he performed a multi instrumental spot. In this he played guitar, acoustic guitar, ukulele, banjo lutes and even a mandolin!

Joe Brown has continued to write music, and to tour. He played Milo in “Sleuth” and appeared for seven months in the musical “Pump Boys and Dinettes” between his own concert tours.

In the 1980’s Joe made several panto appearances at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. These included “Aladdin” in 1985 with Bryan Burdon and Emlyn Harris, and 1987 in “Mother Goose” again with Bryan Burdon, joined by Suzy Aitchinson, James Barron and Barbara Newman as “Priscilla”.

In 2008 he reached UK gold with his album “Joe Brown- The Best Of”, and received the MBE in 2009.He continued to tour in Solid Gold with Marty Wilde and in Joe and Marty Together concerts. In 2010 he supported Status Quo for ten nights on their UK tour and this year is touring the UK once again.

Gerry & The Pacemakers

Gerry Marsden (born Liverpool 1942)and his group the Pacemakers were the second group to be signed by Brian Epstein in 1962. Their first single “How Do You Do It” was a Number One Hit- followed by I Like It” 1963 Four Weeks at Number One. The Rogers & Hammerstein song from “Carousel” became Gerry Marsden’s anthem and “You’ll Never Walk Alone” stayed at Number One  in 1963  for Four Weeks.

“You’ll Never Walk Alone” has been the anthem for Liverpool Football Club and can be heard sung from the terraces weekly.

The hits that followed included “It’s Gonna Be Alright”, “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying” and “Ferry Cross The Mersey”. The Pacemakers were Gerry’s brother, Fred and Les Maguire and Les Chadwick.

One of Gerry Marsden’s pantomime appearances was in his home town at the Empire Liverpool 1976. “Jack and the Beanstalk” starred Gerry Marsden, Molly Sugden and Coronation Street’s Kathy Jones.

Gerry went solo and followed a career in television, and became Sooty’s helper on several occasions alongside his friend Mathew Corbett. Gerry starred in the West End Musical “Charlie Girl” with Derek Nimmo and (Dame) Anna Neagle, and continues to appear in tours and cabaret today. His recent being the “60’s Gold” tour along with The Searchers, Len “Chip” Hawkes and the Fortunes.

Freddie Garrity - Born in 1936,Freddie Garrity founded “Freddie and The Dreamers” in 1959, They were, In Freddie’s words “the first group to leap about and do comedy on stage". They made their first broadcast in 1961 and had their debut at Liverpool’s Cavern Club in 1962.

1963 was the groups major year- they auditioned for EMI and their demo was thought good enough to release- “If You Gotta Make A Fool Of Somebody” shot to number 3 in the charts.

Freddie and the Dreamers first panto was 1963. The Royalty Theatre Chester in “Cinderella”. That year their huge hit “You Were Made For Me” came out that Christmas and went to Number 3 in the charts.

The same year Freddie and the group were in a film “What A Crazy World” with Marty Wilde and Joe Brown.

1964 they released hits “Over You” and “Just For You”.

In 1965 Freddie And The Dreamers starred in “Aladdin” at The Palace Theatre Manchester. The panto also starred singer Des O’Connor.

That year Freddie released the film “Every Day’s A Holiday”, and he and the Dreamers had a further two hit records in the charts.

While on tour, believing they were earning serious money, they discovered they were also responsible for paying the two support groups, all travel and all accommodation including meals. They finished in debt! As a consequence Freddie left the group and turned to television.

In 1967 Freddie & The Dreamers starred in “Cinderella” at the ABC Stockton.

“Little Big Time” made Freddie Garrity a children’s TV star. The show ran for nearly three years to 1973.

He played Wishee Washee with Lulu at Oxford New Theatre in “Aladdin”, 1976.

In the 1980’s Freddie played Jack in “Jack and The Beanstalk” frequently for John Farrow. He played the Oxford Apollo with Anne Charleston, Alvin Stardust and with Lynsey de Paul.

Peter Thorne would often play Dame Trott. I recall hiring a cow to this pantomime and having to repair the unspeakable things that Freddie attached to it during its short trip to Pantoland! It would have “Not Wanted On The Voyage” stuck on its side, or large stickers saying “This End Up” or flyers advertising a Freddie Garrity Gig. The state of her udders were disgraceful! Poor Daisy obviously suffered for her art in the hands of joker Garrity.

Freddie played Muddles in “Snow White” with Letitia Dean at the  Davenport Theatre Stockport  in1993 and in ”Jack & The Beanstalk” at Hanley Theatre Royal- With Alvin Stardust.

At one stage in his career the zany antics of geeky looking Freddie Garrity- he created his own dance moves to rival the twist- Freddie and The Dreamers topped the bill over the rolling stones on a UK tour.

Sadly Freddie became an invalid in 2001 and died in 2005.

Freddie and The Dreamers on Blue Peter 1960’s.

Peter Noone- “Herman and The Hermits”. At the age of 15 Peter Noone (Born 1947) became Herman of Herman And The Hermits and from 1963 had hits with RAK records and MGM records- including their first hit “I’m Into Something Good” which went to Number 1 in the UK charts. The group had success in the US as well with this and “Henery The Eighth I Am”- achieving three top three hits in America.

Peter Noon began his career as a child actor- he was Len Fairclough’s son in “Coronation Street”, and established as a pop star he made several films- in 1965 “Pop Gear” then three films for MGM- “Mrs Brown you’ve got a lovely daughter” (Another hit with the title song) “Hold On” in 1966 and “When The Boys Meet The Girls”.

 Solo he had four singles  and a hit with “Oh You Pretty Thing”- and continued his career with hits in 1974 and 1989. He has starred on American Television as “Pinocchio” and on Broadway in “Pirates”- currently living in Santa Barbara he was a mentor on “American Idol” in 2007 and sang his hit “There’s A Kind Of Hush”. He is currently on tour in the USA.

Pantomime credits for Peter Noon include the BBC Television “Dick Whittington” shown on Christmas Day 1972 with Peter Noone, Dick Emery, Michael Aspel and Gemma Craven.

Pantomimes on stage include 1969 in “Aladdin” at The Streatham Odeon with Norman Vaughan, The Oxford New Theatre with “Crackerjack” favourite Peter Glaze as Dame- and in 1972 starring with Roy Hudd, Wyn Calvin and Ivor Emmanuel in “Dick Whittington” at The Bristol Hippodrome.

Adam Faith: Born Terry Nelhams in 1940 in Acton, London. Adam Faith worked as a film cutter for Rank when he found chart success through appearances on BBC’s “Six-Five Special” and “Drumbeat". He received a recording contract from HMV and then Top Rank. His debut single released in 1958.

The New Musical Express September 1960 revealed that Adam Faith was set to make his Pantomime debut as Mate- presumably in “Dick Whittington” for the season 1960-61.

In 1986 Peter Robbins and I were in “Cinderella” at Richmond - One afternoon we discovered one of the Juvenile’s dads waiting for their child to finish the show and whilst chatting learned he himself had been a child actor- an artful dodger and was something to do with music. We gave him a cuppa and afterwards the chorus came to our room demanding to know “What was he like?” “Who?” we said- “Phil Collins of course!”... Ohhhh! Then the penny dropped. We’d had no idea. The chorus got their revenge- Adam Faith was backstage visiting, and we spotted him having a chat with the chorus in the corridor. –“What was he like?” we enquired. “Who?” “Adam Faith of course”- Ohh , who's that then?” Peter and I returned to our dressing room crushed!

Helen Shapiro:  in 1960 the fourteen year old Helen Shapiro  was launched into the world of pop music. Three years later she was supported by The Beatles on UK tours !

Her first single was “Don’t Treat Me Like Child” which went to Number One, followed by “You Don’t Know” and her third “Walking Back To Happiness” shot to number one with advance orders for 300,000 copies- it ultimately sold over a million copies worldwide.

Dubbed “Britain’s Answer To Brenda Lee”, she possessed a rich, deep and mature voice. She appeared in films- including “Play It Cool” with Billy Fury and “It’s Trad Dad!”

Helen is still a much sought after Jazz and Blues singer, and has played in many pantomimes starting as Principal Boy and always, no matter where or when, performing “Walking Back To Happiness” as her signature solo.

Jess Conrad- Born Gerald James, primarily an actor and a pop singer, Jess Conrad made his TV Pop debut in 1960. By 1961 he had received a “Tip For Stardom” in the pop press. As an actor he appeared in ATV’s “Rock A Bye Barney” play about a popstar, and in the film “Friends and Neighbours” with Arthur Askey. He released “Cherry Pie”, and had a hit with “Mystery Girl” (written by actor Trevor Peacock). In 1959 he appeared with Cliff Richard in the film “Serious Charge”, and other film roles included “Too Young To Marry”, the horror flick “Konga” and in 1979 the “Great Rock And Roll Scandal”.

Jess is the hero of over twenty five to thirty pantomimes not including the lengthy tours he undertook with Jim Davidson’s “Adult” pantomime “Sinderella” as Prince Charming.

At Swansea Grand Theatre in 1965 He played Jack- Marquis Of Carabosse in “Puss In Boots”. Puss was played by the young Keith Harris with Bruan Burden, Jennifer Creighton and the double act Grande And Mars.

Pantomimes include Wimbledon Theatre” Dick Whittington”1972 with  Dana, Jack Douglas, and Norman Vaughan, and pantomimes from Ayr to Westcliff and from Halifax to the Dominion Theatre In London’s West End.

He has played Prince  Charming in “Cinderella” many times, and similarly Robin Hood-and latterly a few villains. These include Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” at The Victoria Theatre Halifax, Abanazar in “Aladdin” at The Theatre Royal Windsor, and the Sheriff in “Robin Hood” at Stoke On Trent.

Jess has recently played Baron in “Cinderella” at Windsor.

Dennis Lotis

According to the Pop Bible- The New Musical Express, Dennis Lotis made his debut pantomime in 1960, and in 1968 Dennis appeared in “Cinderella” at the Birmingham Hippodrome. The show starred Des O’Connor and Jack Douglas.

His career spanned Television, variety radio and recording. South African born in 1926 he arrived in the UK in the 1950’s and became a lead vocalist with the Ted Heath Orchestra, alongside Dickie Valentine and Lita Rosa. They released several recordings and Dennis had a hit with “Cuddle Me” before turning solo. He was awarded Top Male Singer” by The NME in 1957. He enjoyed a film career appearing in films such as “The Golden Disc” (1958) “Its a Wonderful World”, “Sword Of Sherwood Forest” (1960) and “What Every Woman Wants” (1962).

Dennis appeared in the 1969 Leeds Grand Theatre Pantomime "Cinderella”. This panto starred Dickie Henderson and Dorothy Wayne.. He also appeared in  “Cinderella”  in the 1980’s playing the role of Baron Hardup at Solihul Library Theatre with Linda Reagan, and Mal Rich as Buttons.

He toured in variety and cabaret- I saw him once sharing the bill with Diana Dors and with Lita Roza, and continued to appear in nostalgia shows with Joan Regan into 2000. In 2009 he appeared with the Glen Miller tribute band on their concert tour.

Top of the bill in the Gaumont Southampton “Babes In The Wood” 1962-63  were pop stars Mike Sarne (Come Outside with Wendy Richard June 1962  was his Number One Hit) and Danny Williams “Moon River” Dec 1961- released in the UK before Andy Williams made it his signature song a few months later in the USA. The pantomime was produced by Joe Collins.

Mike Sarne (Parlaphone). He went on to become a Hollywood Director (including the film “Myra Breckinridge” starring Raquel Welch, Mae West (in her eighties) and Farrah Fawcett in 1970).

Danny Williams (1942-2005) Born in South Africa became a UK Pop Star for HMV with Albums “Days Of Wine & Roses” 1963 . This panto also featured a young Anita Harris who was later to have chart success.

Mike Sarne & Wendy Richard “Come Outside” on YouTube.

Susan Maughan – Born in Consett 1942 Susan Maughan ‘s family moved to Birmingham whenshe was fifteen. She became band singer with the Ronnie Hancock band, and later sang with the Ray Ellington Quartet for a year before being “discovered” and signed to Philips.

Susan’s first single was “Mama Do The Twist” 1961 followed by “Baby Doll Twist” and a moden take on Sophie Tucker’s number “Some Of These Days”. It was her Fourth single that shot her to fame.

“I wanna Be Bobby’s Girl” went to Number Three in the UK Charts and made Susan Maughan into a much sought after entertainer.

In 1963 she released “Hand A Handkerchief To Helen”, “Make Him Mine” and “She’s New To You” and released several albums later, including “I wanna be Bobby’s Girl but..”

Singing “I Wanna Be Bobby’s Girl”- Susan Maughan 1962

In 1963 she appeared in the Royal Variety Performance  along with the Beatles, and Marlene Dietrich, and made the film “What A Crazy World” with Marty Wilde and Joe Brown. She continued to appear in cabaret thereafter and replaced Clodagh Rodgers in “Meet Me In London” at The Adelphi Theatre.

She appeared frequently on Television throughout the 1960’s and into the ‘Seventies, and featured in children’s TV series “Emu’s Wide World” in the 1980’s.

Hugely popular in both Pantomime and Summer Seasons- especially at Blackpool, Susan continues to tour today in 1960’s shows, often sharing the bill with Barry Ryan and Dave Berry.

Her pantomimes include a long association with John Inman’s “Mother Goose”_ i saw both Swansea and Nottingham with John, Barbara Newman and Susan Maughan.

In 1973 Susan Maughan played Maid Marion in the “Junior Showtime” TV Panto- “Babes In The Wood”- also appearing were regulars Bobby Bennett, Mark Curry, Roy Rolland (as Nanny Riley) with Bonnie Langford, Norman Collier, and Peter Goodwright.

Susan has appeared in numerous pantomimes- a few of these include:

1980 Bradford Alhambra “Jack & The Beanstalk” with Cannon & Ball and Norman Collier and Paul & June Kidd as Daisy The Cow.

1986 Theatre Royal Plymouth- “Cinderella” with Paul Henry, Nyree Dawn Porter- as Fairy Godmother, Susan Maughan as Prince and Bill Simpson as Baron. The Sisters were Chris Harris and Simon Browne.

1988 Swansea Grand Theatre “Mother Goose” with John Inman (Susan had a long association with John and this show) Bruce Montague and Terry Hall with Lenny The Lion.

1993 Palace Manchester “Dick Whittington” starring Ken Dodd with Wyn Calvin as Sarah The Cook and Glyn Owen.

2003 Croydon Ashcroft Theatre for Nick Thomas and Jon Conway (Qdos) in “Aladdin” as Empress Of China. Jim Davidson starred with Dean Gaffney, and the panto featured Andy Ford.

2004 Susan Maughan starred in “Aladdin” at Tunbridge Wells .

A  long standing member of the Grand Order of Lady Ratlings, Susan Maughan continues to make cabaret appearances and fund raising events for this theatrical charitable organisation.

Johnny De Little

Johnny De Little starred in the Swansea Grand Panto “Dick Whittington” in 1967. The panto featured Peter Kaye, Sandra Wells, Tommy Rose as Sarah The Cook, Du-Marte & Denzar’s “Skeleton’s Alive!” and featured a very young Berwick Kaler, now York’s long serving Panto star and Dame!

Berwick has been starring at York Theatre Royal for thirty four years

Johnny De Little was born Brian King in The Aberdale Valley, South Wales and was a local pop star for this pantomime at Swansea. He followed in the footsteps of Marty Wilde who had been there the year before, and was followed by Wayne Fontana. Swansea was emulating what the London Palladium- the flagship panto house- was currently presenting. Pop Stars in Panto!

Johnny De Little was a protégé of pop supremo John Barry-The man regarded as the Bond Films “In House” composer-  Johnny released five singles, all approved by John Barry- “Days Of Wine and Roses”, “The Wind And The Rain”, “Unchained Melody” “The Knack” “What To Do With Laurie” on Columbia records and CBS between 1961 and 1965. Johnny appeared in a BBC play “Girl On A Roof” about an infatuated pop fan- the lead played by Ray Brooks and Johnny De Little in a smaller role- they were joined in the film by the John Barry Seven for several numbers.

 Johnny was later to become involved in the soundtrack of “The Knack”- film score by John Barry- and recorded the soundtrack that was heard in the American release of this Rita Tushingham film, and recoded for EMI. He also sang on the demo of “From Russia With Love”, which eventually was given to the more established Matt Monroe.

YouTube clip from the Tommy Steele film “It’s All Happening” featuring Johnny De Little.

Johnny and his wife Leah Bell were recently on tour in 2010-11 in their “Silver Bells” Christmas Show for Johnny Manns Productions. Leah Bell presents Pantomimes each year, and this year is staging the panto at Consett.

Vince Eager- Born Roy Taylor in 1940, Vince Eager was a pioneer of pop and rock. He founded the “Vagabonds” skiffle group, influenced by Lonnie Denegan, and came to the attention of Larry Parnes manager of Marty Wilde, Tommy Steele, Billy Fury and Joe Brown. Parnes named and launched his new  find as Vince Eager and the Vagabonds.

Between 159 and 1961 there were over a hundred appearances on TV- “Drumbeat”, “Six-Five Special” and “Oh Boy!”, often accompanied by the John Barry Seven. Vince released over 14 singles and 5 albums at that time, and toured with Billy Fury, Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent and Marty Wilde. It is possible that he appeared in Pantomime at the Garrick Theatre Stockport circa 1958 and certainly starred in pantomime in Swansea at The Grand Theatre in 1964.

The Swansea Panto “Aladdin” starred Vince alongside Duggie Clark, Alan Wells, Lynton Boys, Lesley King, Frank Ellis, Jonathan Prince and Emerson & Jayne- The Flying carpet speciality.

In the 1980’s Vince starred in the West End Musical “Elvis” and released further albums. Vince published “Vince Eager’s Rock And Roll Files” and is currently touring in his own show.


Alvin Stardust- The flamboyant pop star of the Seventies,  Alvin began his pop career in 1961 when he took the name of Shane Fenton, and performing as Shane Fenton and the Fentones. He and the group were regulars on TV’s “Saturday Club” and “Easy Beat” and, signed to the Parlaphone label produced hits including “I’m A Moody Guy” and “Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue”.

Born Bernard Jewry his second career began in 1973 when, as Alvin Stardust he became one of the 1970’s top recording artistes.

Many pantomime appearances have followed his rise as Alvin Stardust.

In 1979 Alvin played Robinson Crusoe at The Palace Theatre, Plymouth. The star was (Sir) Norman Wisdom. Ship wrecked with Alvin on the Island were “It ‘Aint Half Hot Mum” stars Michael Knowles and Donald Hewlitt.

 Other pantomimes include “Jack & The Beanstalk” with Freddie & The Dreamers at the Hanley Theatre Royal. He has appeared recently as baddie- Sheriff of Nottingham and as Abanazar in “Aladdin”. It was in that guise that I stood next to him on the Panto Themed “Weakest Link” a few years ago- Alvin’s Abanazar costume had a trick turban with a large eye. He beat Anne Robinson to the famous wink she gives and totally upstaged “The Queen Of Mean” that day!

Alvin is married to West End Singer Julie Paton, and they appear together in panto each year and together in pantomime  from time to time.

Dusty Springfield

One of the best selling singers of the ‘Sixties- Dusty Springfield was born in 1939 in West Hampstead. She began by joining a close harmony trio “The Lana Sisters” in 1958 then later forming “The Springfields” in 1960  with her Brother Dion and Reshad Feild, later replaced by Mike Hurst.

Her solo career began in 1963.- Hit records like “I only Want To Be With You”  followed by “Wishin’ and Hopin’” in 1964 established Dusty as a major recording star. Later in ’64 “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” went into Number Three in the charts and in 1966 “You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me” was Number One.

In 1966 Dusty Springfield was the best selling female singer in the world, and an icon of the “Swinging Sixties” worldwide.

This was the year that she appeared in her only (as far as we know) pantomime.

“Merry King Cole”, Liverpool Empire 1966/67

This pantomime is possibly the only one that Dusty Springfield appeared in, it is believed that she disliked the experience deeply, and was not likely to repeat it.. This panto also featured Paul & Barry Ryan pop stars (sons of TV Singer Marion Ryan) and impressionist Peter Goodwight, Charlie Cairoli, Sid Plummer and Pat Lancaster. It was produced by Tom Arnold and Bernard Delfont.

In 1968 “Son Of A Preacher Man”  became a huge hit and her “Memphis” album for Atlantic Records in 1969 was ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the greatest albums of all time.

A huge recording career and appearances on television, over eighteen top selling singles and inauguration into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in the USA was followed by her collaboration with The Pet Shop Boys in “What Have I Done To Deserve This” (it went to Number 2) and “Nothing Has Been Proved” and “In Private”.

One of the greatest recording artistes of all time, Dusty Springfield received the OBE in her hospital room – she died shortly afterwards in 1999.

Marianne Faithful - Born   in Hampstead in 1946, Marianne Faithful became an iconic figure for the “Swinging Sixties” and has had a career that spans five decades.

Theatre was in her genes- her mother Baroness Erisso had been a ballerina in Max Reinhardt’s company- Marianne started her career as a folk singer around 1964, became a pop singer and latterly a jazz and blues singer.

Such a powerful icon for the era she has played God twice in Jennifer Saunder’s “Absolutely Fabulous”- opposite Anita Pallenberg as The Devil.

Famous for her long affair with Mick Jagger (1966-70) He and Keith Richards wrote her hit single “As Tears Go By”. She had chart success with “Little Bird” and “Come and Stay With Me” also.

Her career path was not destined for pantomime but she appeared in a musical version of “Alice In Wonderland” for Paul Elliott and Duncan Weldon. This touring production featured Peggy Mount, Julian Orchard and Anton Dolin. Faithful played Alice.

Her stage work has been prestigious, from appearing at the Royal Court opposite Glenda Jackson, to her Ophelia opposite Nicol Williamson’s Hamlet (Anthony Hopkins was Claudius) through to theatre tours with Peter Gilmore- notably “The Rainmaker” and appearances at most major art venues. She played Pirate Jenny in Threepenny Opera at The Gate, Dublin in 1993.She played Pink’s Mother in Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” live at Berlin.

During this time her private life has continued to soar up and down like a roller coaster- during these times some of her finest albums have been released-  “Broken English” (1979) “Strange Weather” (1987) “Vagabond Ways” (1999) “Kissing Time” (2002) and is now partly resident in Paris. Her 2011 album “Horses and High Heels” resulted in appearances at London’s Barbican May 2011.

David Essex - Born in London’s East Ham in 1947  he left his job as an apprentice electrician at Plessey’s factory in Ilford to pursue a career as a musician. In 1964 he was launched as David Essex. During the Summer of 2011 David is appearing in BBC’s soap “EastEnders” as Eddie Moon- Uncle of Alfie Moon. He has recently finished a lengthy tour and West End season with his musical “All The Fun Of The Fair”, which he co-wrote with Jon Conway.

He achieved West End fame in Godspell, in 1971 and was the star of the film “That’ll Be The Day” (Billy Fury appeared in this film with him).in 1973, and the sequel (with Adam Faith) “Stardust”. He received huge acclaim  in the role of Che, in the West End musical “Evita”. In 1978.

Essex  began his panto career understudying Tommy Steel in the 1969 London Palladium Pantomime “Dick Whittington” . The show also starred Mary Hopkin, Billy Dainty and Kenneth Connor. Two years later he played Dandini in “Cinderella” at The Opera House Manchester in 1971 with Arthur Askey, Mary Hopkin and Lonnie Donnegan.

He has been signed over the years to Fontana, Pye, MCA, Decca and released eight records under these companies, and became the biggest seller on the CBS label at one point.

The Essex hits include “Rock On” in 1973 which shot to number one in the USA charts and Number 2 in the UK, followed by “Gonna Make You A Star”, and “Stardust” (1974) “Hold Me Close”, “If I Could” and “Rolling Stone” (1975) “City Lights” and “Coming Home” (1976) “Cool Out Tonight” and “Stay With Me Baby” in 1977 and, of course  the Mike Batt & Tim Rice hit “A Winter’s Tale” which reached Number Two in the charts in 1982

Over the years he has regularly appeared in pantomimes- at one time playing “Robinson Crusoe” frequently – The Mayflower Southampton and the 1996 King’s Theatre Edinburgh for example, and as the villainous Captain Hook- these “Peter Pan” pantomimes included the Derngate Northampton in 2007 with Sophie Lawrence and his recent “Peter Pan” at Darlington (2010-11) with The Grumbleweeds playing opposite his wife Susan Hallam-Wright as Peter Pan.

Pop stars who turned actors are included in the panto lineup, these include Paul Nicholas - who has made countless appearances as Prince Charming, including the London Palladium production of “Cinderella” with Dame Anna Neagle as Fairy Godmother, and as Buttons with myself and Peter Robbins on several occasions,  and recently as Captain Hook.

Sheila Fergusson - of  Three Degrees Fame has appeared in many pantomimes for both Qdos and for First Family, Chesney Hawkes- The One and Only was in the Deco Northampton last year playing “Aladdin”, and former Page Three and Pop Singer Samantha Fox has trod those panto boards.

David Hasselhoff - “The Hoff”-Movie star, Baywatch Actor and a singer with a huge following in Germany has made a few appearances for First Family – most recently as Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Wimbledon with Louis Spence and also in Bristol (2011-12). David has just completed a concert in London’s 02 Arena.

Paul Michael Glazer - Movie Actor most famous for his role in the TV series “Starsky & Hutch. Has appeared in Pantomime For First Family, as well as having a career as a pop singer.

Toyah Wilcox- In a career spanning thirty years Toyah has had thirteen top 40 singles, recorded twenty albums, written two books, appeared in over forty stage plays, made eleven feature films and presented such diverse television programmes as The Good Sex Guide Late, Watchdog and Songs Of Praise.

Her career began as an actress at the same time as her pop career. Derek Jarman offered her the role of Mad in seminal punk epic Jubilee. She continued to gain strong roles, appearing alongside Katherine Hepburn in the film, The Corn is Green, as well as playing Monkey in the legendary Quadrophenia.  She teamed up with Jarman again to play Miranda in his innovative version of The Tempest.

Toyah's band was gaining critical success with the debut single Victims of the Riddle (no.1 in the independent charts for 12 months) and her first album, The Blue Meaning, became a Top 40 hit. In 1982 she won the Best Female Singer at the Rock & Pop Awards.

She recorded two series of the BBC’s popular Fasten Your Seatbelt, two series of the BBC Scotland’s kid’s drama series Barmy Aunt Boomerang, fronted her own BBC1 series Discovering Eve and was a regular presenter on Watchdog, The Heaven & Earth Show and Holiday. Toyah participated in the 2003 Celebrity Get Me Out of Here! and most recently appeared in ITV2’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl as the mother of lead actress Billie Piper.

Pantomime has always been a big part of Toyah’s career and she has appeared in over twenty. In 2011-12 she appeared at the Alban Arena for Evolution Pantomimes.

Sinitta: 1997  Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton. Sinitta played Princess in “Aladdin” with Cannon & Ball as Chinese Policemen, Anthony Engelman as Aladdin, John Altman as Abanazar and Brian Cant as Widow Twankey. Sinitta’s Mother, Miquel Brown has appeared in several pantomimes for E&B/Qdos as Fairy Godmother. Miquel also appeared in “Aladdin” at Poole for Michael Rose and David Morgan.

Neil Morrisey - “Bob The Builder” Can we appear in pantomime now and then?  Yes We Can!

Victoria Adams/Beckham- Pop star, Spice Girl. And fashion designer Victoria MAY have made an appearance in Panto as a dancer at the beginning of her career.

Jimmy Osmond - Of the sensational family singing group- Jimmy stared in Swansea pantomime “Aladdin” for Qdos 2011-12. He has made several previous appearances in “Cinderella”.


The annual institution that is The Eurovision Song Contest, descended from its earlier incarnation “A Song For Europe” has seen a good few Pantomime Principals in its time. From Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson, Brian Johnson through to Dana and indeed (a tribute to our Panto Star Dana) Dana International,   “Buck’s Fizz”, Sonia, and David Van Day, not forgetting Steven Fisher & Sally Ann Triplett who appeared as “Bardo” Mark Evans- Eurovision recently on  tour in High School Musical2, and Blue’s Anthony Costa, and of course the entrants from Ireland for the last two years, Jedward!

These and many other stars of Eurovision have trod the boards of Pantoland. Here are a few:

Lulu - Born Marie McDonald McLauchlin Lawrie in Lennoxtown, Glasgow 1948.

Lulu has appeared in “Peter Pan” playing Peter in the musical several times and in “Babes In The Wood”.

She became a star aged fourteen, having been discovered by Marion Massey in Glasgow- Marie and her group “The Gleneagles” became Lulu and The Luvvers in 1964 and had her first hit for Decca- “Shout!” reached number seven in the UK charts.

Shortly afterwards hits like “Here Comes The Night” and “Leave A Little Love” went into the charts. Lulu turned solo in 1966 and her year filled with recording work, concert tours- with Roy Orbison and The Walker Brothers, television, radio and Pantomime at Wimbledon Theatre London.

That year, 1966 Lulu starred in “Babes In The Wood” with veteran comedian Arthur Askey and Roy Castle. Lulu starred as Maid Marion with Arthur as Nurse Martha and Roy Castle as Simon. The girl “Babe”-“Jennifer” in this pantomime, supplied by the Aida Foster School was Elaine Page!

The Welsh born actor and Hollywood star Roger Rees played The Sheriff Of Nottingham in this production. John Gower played Robin, opposite Lulu.

Lulu had left Decca and was now signed to Columbia managed by Mickie Most, and her pantomime engagement was slotted in with her film engagement appearing with Sidney Poitier in “To Sir with Love”. Her recording of the title song topped the American Singles Charts for Five Weeks. It sold a million copies and a total of Four Million worldwide!

After three more hits, seasons in Hollywood, at London’s “Talk Of The Town” and her own BBC Television series, Lulu married Maurice Gibb of The Bee Gees in 1969, the year she represented the UK in The Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision 1969- “Boom Bang A Bang!” Lulu’s song came joint first- one of the extremely rare times the UK has ever won, and went to Number 2 in the charts.

In 1971 Lulu was the subject of TV’s “This Is Your Life”- she was 23 years old.

1972 “Peter Pan”-at the Manchester Palace Theatre. Lulu starred in J.M.Barrie’s musical play to perform the role she was to repeat many times in her career. The diminutive Lulu flying across the stage to take on Hook brought Peter Pan to life for a great many children over the years. The Manchester production saw her battle Anthony Sharp as Captain Hook. Sharp had recently filmed “A Clockwork Orange” and was familiar to television viewers for his aristocratic roles- colonels and vicars and in this case, villainous pirate kings. This show broke a  60 year old box office record.

In 1974 Lulu recorded the David Bowie songs for the soundtrack of “The Man With The Golden Gun”. One, “The Man Who Sold The World” went to number 3 in the charts.

In 1975 Lulu repeated her success by appearing as “Peter Pan” at the London Palladium opposite Ron Moody as Captain Hook. Moody of course achieved huge fame as Fagin in Lionel Bart’s “Oliver” in 1960 and in the film version  of the musical.

Rachel Gurney -“Upstairs Downstairs” Lady Bellamy played Mrs Darling in this  Palladium production of J.M.Barrie’s play with music. Tessa Wyatt also featured along with Tony Sympson and Peter Bland.

Lulu married top hairdresser John Freida in 1976 . That year she appeared as “Aladdin” at The New Theatre Oxford playing opposite 60’s pop star Freddie Garrity, of “Freddie and The Dreamers”.

In the ‘Eighties she appeared in several musicals including the 1983 “Song & Dance” by Lloyd-Webber at the Palace Theatre London, and as Miss Adelaide in “Guys & Dolls” for the National Theatre at the Prince Of Wales Theatre. In 1987 she appeared with Ernie Wise in the Savoy Theatre in “The Mystery Of Edwin Drood”.

That year 1987 Lulu repeated her role as “Peter Pan” at London’s Cambridge Theatre. George Cole- Film and television star,  star and known to millions as “Arthur Daley” from Minder- played Captain Hook.

The following year 1988 she appeared as Peter Pan at Wimbledon Theatre (Where she played her first pantomime twenty-two years before) in the version that also went on a UK tour. “Peter Pan- The Musical” toured with  Lulu, Christopher Timothy (As Captain Hook)Michelle Thorneycroft, Alan Helm, Ruth Mayo, Kerry-Jane Beddows, Annabel Griggs and Joseph Morely.

In 1993 Lulu reached number 11 in the charts with “Independence” and “I’m Back For More” went into the charts. Finally in 1993 she achieved her first number one chart hit single- “Relight My Fire” a collaboration with “Take That”.

She was awarded the OBE in 2000.

Lynsey de Paul- Songwriter and singer- Lynsey de Paul is a prolific composer. She first hit the charts co-writing the “Fortunes” hit “Storm In A Tea Cup” and followed it a few months later in 1972 with her own hit “Sugar Me” which went to number 5 in the charts in the UK and Number one in several European countries.

Other hits include “Won’t Somebody Dance With Me” at Number 5 (It won her the Novello Award) “Ohh I Do” at Number five in the UK and also in Japan, and “No Honestly”- the hit number of the theme for an ITV sitcom of the same name. It stayed at Number 7 in the charts. Lynsey also composed the theme for the 1977 “The Rag Trade” comedy revival.

She  appeared in several pantomimes- The Oxford New Theatre “Jack And The Beanstalk”  and in 1983  in “Aladdin” at the Shaftesbury Theatre London, alongside Richard O’Sullivan, Tommy Trinder, Derek Griffiths and Roy Kinnear. It was a “Theatre Of Comedy” production.

With her blond hair, diminutive figure and sultry voice she was a huge hit on television shows and throughout her career has continued to write hit numbers for dozens of major recording stars here and in the USA. She lived in America with her then partner, Movie star James Coburn until the early ‘Eighties. Among her many hit records “There’s No Place Like London” was a hit for Shirley Bassey and has opened many a “Dick Whittington” Pantomime since she composed it!

Dana - The  pop singer who has possibly made more pantomime appearances than any other- with the exception of The Nolans. She became the perfect “Snow White” in theatres around the UK.

Dana starred in the 1972 Wimbledon Theatre “Dick Whittington” with Jack Douglas, Norman Vaughn and pop star of the 1960’s Jess Conrad.. She appeared frequently  as Snow White for Albermarle.- one of her many appearances included “Snow White”- in 1987 she starred with Roy Walker, Ronnie and Su Douglas at The Bristol Hippodrome .Su Douglas played Wicked Queen, as she did again with Dana  at the Palace Manchester “Snow White” with Jimmy Cricket, and Mike Holloway in 1991.

Dana was Ireland’s winning entrant in the Eurovision Song Contest- she sang “All Kinds Of Everything”- a song she sang in every one of her pantomimes thereafter. The UK Entrant that year was Mary Hopkin with “Knock Knock, Who’s There?”.

After winning the contest Dana became a national hero in Ireland, and “All Kinds Of Everything” went on to become a two million seller throughout Ireland, the UK and in Europe.

She had her own television series on the BBC “A Day Out With Dana”,and RTE’s “Dana” Series and for over forty years has produced records since her debut  single “Sixteen”in 1967 through to the release of her latest album in 2011.

Currently Dana resides in Ireland with her family and presents “Dana and Friends” on EWTN. She produces Christian music and last year toured the “All Kinds Of Everything” 20th Anniversary Tour.

Born in Islington, North London in 1951 her family moved back to Ireland-Derry when she was five years old. Dana moved with her family to America in the 1990’s to Birmingham Alabama, and became involved in Christian concerts and  tours. In 1997 she was nominated to run for the Irish Presidential elections, and in 1999 became elected the European Member Of Parliament for Connacht-Ulster

Sonia - Sonia Evans was the UK entrant to Eurovision with “Better The Devil You Know” in 1993, and came second in the contest. A pop star from the age of sixteen she began her career in 1989 launched by Stock, Aitken & Waterman for Chrysalis Records. Her number one hit “You’ll Never Stop me Loving You” was followed by her album “Everybody Knows” in 1990.

All five singles from this album were top 20 hits. She became one of the youngest artistes to have achieved this. She released “You’ve Got A friend” with the group “Big Fun” for charity Childline, and sang in both Band Aid (1989) and Gulf Aid (1991).

1991 saw “Only Fools” released and her album “Better The Devil” was released in 1993.

That year, 1993 Sonia joined the cast of “Slice Of Saturday Night” with Dennis Waterman in the West End, and the following year played Sandy in “Grease” in London’s West End with Craig McLachlan and Shane Richie. She also toured in “What A Feeling” and, in 2000 in Jon Conway’s ‘80’s musical “Eternal Flame”.

A former actress from brief appearances in Brookside (1988) and in BBC’s “Bread”, she appeared in pantomime as Principal Boy. Her panto appearances include playing Dick Whittington at the Neptune Theatre, Liverpool, Peter Pan at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen and at Belfast Opera House- For Qdos, as Aladdin in “Aladdin” and repeating Peter Pan at the New Theatre Cardiff in 2000.

In 2006 -7 Sonia played Jack in “Jack & The Beanstalk” at Horesham opposite Mark Curry, Graham James (As Dame Trott) and Claire Marlowe and Tania Whatley.

Cheryl Baker - A real “Eastender”, Cheryl was born in Bethnal Green East London in 1954.She was one of the Eurovision group “Buck’s Fizz”- they came first in 1981 with “Making Your Mind Up”- with an iconic routine involving band members Bobby G and Mike Nolan whipping off the skirts worn by Jay Aston and Cheryl.

The group had three British Number One Hits- “Making Your Mind Up”, “Land Of Make Believe” and “My Camera Never Lies”.

The group were involved in a coach crash on tour in  Newcastle in 1984 in which Cheryl broke three vertebrae and Mike Nolan suffered serious head injuries- Cheryl helped set up the charity “Head First”.

Cheryl moved into TV presenting “Record Breakers” with Roy Castle and “The Saturday Picture Show” with Mark Curry.

In 1986 Cheryl starred in the Christmas day Granada production of “Cinderella” playing the title role. The following year, 1987 Cheryl played Maid Marion in the London Palladium production of “Babes In The Wood”

 “Babes In The Wood”  starred Cannon & Ball as the Robbers, Marty Webb as Robin Hood, Barbara Windsor as Fairy, John Inman as Nurse, Derek Griffiths as Sheriff and Cheryl Baker. Peter Howitt played Will Scarlet and Nicholas Smith, along with Rod Hull and Emu. It was to be the last pantomime to date staged at the London Palladium.

In 1988 she presented her own show “Eggs and Baker” which ran for five years.

Cheryl played Polly Perkins in the Swansea Grand Theatre’s “Robinson Crusoe” in 1992. The show starred Rod Hull and Emu, Joe Pasquale, Dave Benson Phillips, Mark Greenstreet and local comedian Owen Money.

In 1993 Cheryl Baker starred in the Ashcroft Croydon production of “Dick Whittington” with Mike Doyle, John Altman, Loraine Chase and Roger Kitter as Sarah The Cook.

In 1993 Cheryl pursued a solo career, concentrating on television presenting and released a few singles.

In 2000 Cheryl played Aladdin at the Queen’s Theatre Barnstable for Ian Liston’s “Hiss & Boo” Productions. Douglas Mounce played Widow Twankey.

In 2002 She played “The Enchantress” in The Aylesbury Theatre Panto “Jack & The Beanstalk”.

The following year 2003 Cheryl appeared in Sevenoaks Kent, where she lived in “Aladdin” at The Stag Theatre.

During 2009 Cheryl toured with “Menopause The Musical”, she appeared in “Footloose” on tour and in London’s West End, “Honk” The Musical, and touring in thrillers including “Anyone For Murder” and “Dial M For Murder” as well as her television appearances .She was recently in “Popstars to Operastars” on TV.

Jay Aston from Bucks Fizz also appeared in pantomimes. These include the 2004-05 “Snow White” as Wicked Queen at the Camberley Theatre.

Mike Nolan of Bucks Fizz fame appeared in “Aladdin” as Wishee Washee at The King’s Theatre Southsea directed by John Nolan (no relation) husband of Kim Hartman who played Aladdin. I recall this clearly because I costumed the production!

David Van Day - “Dollar” the pop duo made his panto debut in 2009-10 as Abanazar in “Aladdin” at Arbroath. He may have appeared in pantomime 2010-11 at a venue in Grays In Essex in addition to this.

Clodagh Rodgers - Born in Northern Ireland 1947, Clodagh Rodgers received a contract with RCA in 1968 with “Play The Drama To The End”. In 1969 she released “Come Back and Shake Me” followed by “Goodnight Midnight”, “Biljo”, “Everybody Leave, The Party’s Over” and “Lady Love Bug”. Her entry into Eurovision history was “Jack In The Box”- this was followed in 1971 by “Cinderella” at the London Palladium. In 1973 she appeared with Ronnie Corbett in “Cinderella”- direct from The Palladium. This panto starred The Patton Brothers again, but had John Inman and Barry Howard as The Ugly Sisters. It was repeated the next year at The Palace Theatre Manchester- 1974.

Anthony Costa - “Blue.” Anthony Costa  represented the UK in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest with “I Can”. As part of “Blue” along with Duncan James, Simon Webbe and Lee Ryan, the group reached over fifteen million sales worldwide. Hits include “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and “All Rise”. The group founded in 2001 split four years later but reunited in 2009. The group has also collaborated with Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

Ex “Grange Hill” actor, Anthony has appeared as Aladdin at the New Theatre Cardiff, 2008 alongside Chris Gascoyne, Ceri Dupree and Andy Jones, and as Jack in “Jack And The Beanstalk” at Ipswich in 2009 opposite Carina Gillespie and Ken Morley as Dame Trott. With James Mackenzie as Fleshcreep. Anthony also played dual roles of “Beast and Prince” in “Beauty And The Beast” at Chatham.

Following in the tradition of the Beverley Sisters, one group of sisters have made a huge impact in pantomime- this year (2011) three of them are appearing in two pantomimes in the London area, and their Panto Pedigree is astonishing- The Nolans!

The Nolans. : The Irish Singing Group called The Nolan Sisters and then simply The Nolans have all appeared in pantomimes across the UK.

The group was formed originally with their parents and brother Tommy when the family moved from Dublin to Blackpool around 1963.

The Sisters are: Anne (1950), Denise (1952), Maureen (1954), Linda (1959) Bernadette (1960) and the youngest Coleen, born in 1965.

Their greatest hit “I’m In The Mood For Dancing” was released in 1979 and went to Number 3 in the UK charts, Number 2 In The Irish Charts and Number 1 in Japan! They remain successful throughout Japan to this day.

The Line up has changed over the years- Coleen being the latest sister to join the group, she replaced Anne when she left in 1980 when the group became simply “The Nolans”. Recently  some of the sisters reunited in 2009 for a tour, DVD and an album “I’m In The Mood Again” which went to number 22 in the charts- this version of the group did not include Anne and Denise.

The Nolan Sisters achieved success after appearing on The Cliff Richard Show in 1974 and were soon to be support group to Frank Sinatra on his tour, and Engelbert Humperdink in 1978. That year their album of covers “20 Giant Hits” went to Number Three, and their 1980 Album “Making Waves” went to Number 11 for an incredible 33 weeks.

Denise left in that year to pursue her solo career. Anne left in 1980. Linda left in 1882 which left Bernie, Maureen, Coleen and Anne together to 1994.

In 2000 the group reformed with Anne, Maureen  and Anne’s daughter Amy with singer Julia Duickworth until 2005. Maureen had now become the longest serving Sister with 31 years in The Nolans to her credit.

The girls have all had varied and successful careers in presenting,  cabaret, musicals and straight plays as well as clocking up very many pantomime appearances over the years.

Anne Nolan has appeared in many pantomimes including “Cinderella” at Liverpool Empire, “Dick Whittington” at Carlisle, ”Snow White” at Colne Civic Theatre, at Thameside Hippodrome (2002) as Wicked Queen in “Snow White” with Ben Steel and Stuart Wade and again as Queen Malevola in “Snow White” at York Opera House (2005)

Coleen Nolan - Coleen has also made her mark as a Television presenter and has appeared in “Loose Women” on TV since 2004. Her credits include “Dancing On Ice” and the 2004 Film “Breaking and Entering”. In October 2010 Coleen played Fairy Godmother in the Adult’s Only Comedy “Panto’s On Strike” at The Opera House Manchester alongside Jonathan Wilkes, Brian Capron and Eric Potts.

Denise Nolan Star of “Blood Brothers” the musical, She is one of the most prolific Panto stars out of the Nolans, Denise has 25-30 Pantomimes to date and has listed them on her website:

Linda Nolan played the role of Maggie May at Blackpool’s Central Pier for a ten year Summer Season. She too has starred in “Blood Brothers” from 2000-2004 and again last year. I was lucky enough to catch her musical theatre debut was in the 1993 Pump Boys And Dinettes” at Hornchurch. She starred alongside Bobby Crush and Rose-Marie. She toured in “Cell Block H” with Lily Savage. 1996-97.

Linda made her first panto appearance in Coventry in 1984 with Michael Barrymore. She has starred in “Aladdin”, “Dick Whittington”, “Jack & The Beanstalk” “Babes In The Wood”Cinderella” and recently as Wicked Queen in Snow White.

When Linda appeared at Belfast Opera House opposite May McFettridge in 2005 she had already appeared in fifteen pantomimes. Panto stars she’s worked with include The Krankies- Pavilion Glasgow 1995, Stu Francis and Bobby Davro. In 2010 She was Queen Grizelda in “Snow White” at Worthing for Paul Holman.

Bernie Nolan  appeared in Brookside and The Bill, and like several of her sisters starred in Blood Brothers and also in the Musical “Flashdance”-Bernie has made many panto appearances. She appeared in panto with Cannon & Ball from 1988 to 1991, Other pantomimes include playing Jack in “Jack & The Beanstalk” at Blackpool Grand (1997)Wicked Queen in “Snow White” with Andy Ford at Croydon (2006)Fairy in “Cinderella” Blackpool with Tina O’Brien and Johnny Briggs and Fairy Godmother at Dunstable (2009) .Bernie will starred in “Beauty And The Beast” at Stevenage last season alongside Leanne Jones.

Boy Bands have made appearances in pantomime over the years-The Monkees recently toured the UK (well, three out of four!) and British star Davy Jones has appeared in panto over the years since he first appeared in “Coronation Street” as Elsie Tanner’s Grandson!.

Davy Jones- The Monkees. (1945-2012)

Manchester born Davy Jones was lead singer of the phenomenally successful group “The Monkees”, appearing in their television show from 1966 until 1971 alongside Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith.

Davy first came to fame as Ena Sharple’s grandson Colin in Granada TV’s “Coronation Street” in its second year at the age of 14. He went on to appear as The Artful Dodger in the West End production of “Oliver!” transferring to Broadway in the same role.

By 1965 Davy had signed to Colpix/Columbia records and released “What Are We Going To Do”, and two Albums followed, one for Pye. The Monkees established him and his band mates as international stars, cresting on the success of the Beatles. Davy fronted hits like “I’m A Believer” and “Daydream Believer” and “I Wanna Be Free”.

In 1978 Davy appeared in Micky Dolenz’s production of “The Point” which I saw at the Mermaid Theatre in London. He was later to appear in the tour of “Forget Me Not Lane”, by Peter Nichols. I remember that the entire gallery of teenage girls screamed every single time Davy appeared in this play (there was not a song to be heard!) and continued to scream until he exited! I saw this at the Swansea Grand Theatre.

It was at Swansea Grand that Davy appeared in “Puss In Boots” in 1980-81. It opened on December 26th and ran until the 8th March! The Panto also featured Graham Cole (later to star in “The Bill”), Menna Trussler, Peter Holbrook with local comic Kenny Smiles and Swansea’s popular Dame- Freddie Lees.

Davy also appeared in two pantomimes for Charles Haley Productions. Jennifer Haley recalls-

“Davy Jones worked for Phillip and I ( Charles Haley productions ) in the early 80's at the Library theatre Luton, going on to the theatre at Holloway polytechnic,  and the next year at the Civic Theatre Camberley.

He played Buttons in Cinderella at both venues with more or less the same cast. The “Uglies” were Nottingham pair Johnny Peach and his partner Ian, and Pat Kane and Howell Evans played baron and Blodwyn (doubling as fairy godmother. )

The show was great and Davy was real star quality. I was a little apprehensive about directing him as I knew very little about the " Monkees " not being into pop but he was a real pro and a star in every sense of the word.

He incorporated "dream believer " into the kitchen scene pretending to drive cinders to the ball with edited lyrics !!!! My memories of him are of a charming man and a great performer. I believe he lived near Manchester with his wife and children and I think they kept horses. His death is a great loss to the business “

Davy was the only performer to have played both Artful Dodger and later Fagin in “Oliver!”, and enjoyed one final revival of the Monkees when the group toured in February 2011 in their “45th Anniversary Tour” in America and in the UK.

Davy Jones died on 29th February 2012.

Ireland’s original boyband, “The Bachelors” gave way to Boyzone,  and Take That have yet to appear in Pantoland, although Robbie Williams has made several filmic appearances in panto alongside his best mate Jonathan Wilkes.


Stephen Gately - along with Ronan Keating, Shane Lynch, Keith Duffy and Mikey Graham, they were  part of Irelands biggest ever pop bands, Boyzone. the boy band that had over 16 singles in the UK Top five charts. Hits like “No Matter What” ensured Boyzone played to millions in the UK and Europe. Founded in 1993 the membes split in 2000, before reforming in 2008.

Stephen Gately released three hit singles during his solo career including “A New Beginning”, and appeared in West End successes like “Joseph” (2002-03) and as The Child Catcher in “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” at The London Palladium 2004-05.

Stephen made his panto debut for First Family Entertainment in The Churchill Theatre, Bromley in their 2005 “Cinderella” as Dandini. The following year he appeared as The Scarecrow in The Wizard Of OZ” at The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. He died suddenly in his home in Spain in 2009.

Fellow “Boyzone” members Shane Lynch and Keith Duffy have both made pantomime appearances.

Shane Lynch is the veteran with five panto appearances- three of them for Evolution. His most recent 2010 was in “Sleeping Beauty” at The Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford as Prince with Royce Mills as Dame, Sarah Jane Honeywell as “Beauty” and Nichola McAuliffe. His first panto was in 2004 at The Wycombe Swan for Qdos in “Snow White” with Anita Dobson as Wicked Queen and Justin Fletcher. That Autumn Shane appeared with me on “The Weakest Link” Panto Special, where we pitted our wits against the “Queen Of Mean”, Anne Robinson!

The next year, 2005 he starred in The Gordon Craig Stevenage “Snow White” for Evolution, That same year Shane’s sister Keavy Lynch, half of the pop band “Bewitched” starred in her panto at Nottingham.

Later in 2006 Shane appeared for Pele Productions at Ashton Under Lyme in “Cinderella” with Sue Jenkins . In 2009 Shane played Prince Charming in “Cinderella” at Southport Theatre.

YouTube Link to Shane talking Panto


Keith Duffy: Coronation Street’s chef Ciaran McCarthy and Boyzone member Keith appeared as The Wizard Of Oz in John Spillers pantomime at Weymouth Pavilion in 2005. Recently touring with the Boyzone “Brother” tour (dedicated to Stephen Gately) Keith has left Coronation Street- the plotline has him working on a cruise liner with his onscreen partner- Michelle Connor played by Kym Marsh (from Hear’Say).

Boyzone’s Mikey Graham continued his “Dancing On Ice” success last year with his first panto appearance as the villainous Abanazar in “Aladdin” at the Gaiety Theatre Dublin, playing over one hundred performances. He appeared alongside Dublin’s Ricjie Hayes, Michael Grennell and Garry Mountaine as Widow Twankey. The voice of “The Master Of The World” was supplied by Boyzone mentor Louis Walsh.

Mikey has actually appeared in six pantomimes- as a child he was a “Billie Barry” Juvenile, and appeared in pantomime for five years running!

The current pop stars that have panto credentials include reality television and talent show contestants like Nicky Evans, Jedward, Gareth Gates and Chico. Each year there are new contests, and new faces to appear in a tradition that goes back well over 200 years.

Gareth Gates - “Cinderella” at Wimbledon for First Family. As Prince Charming with Joanna Page, James Thornton and Andrew Ryan and Graham Hoadley as The Ugly Sisters. And Snow White”, New Victoria Theatre, Woking.

Darius - The Scots  X Factor singer who had a hit with “Colourblind”. In 2010-11 he played Prince in “Snow White” at Glasgow.

Nicky Evans - X Factor. Midlands born singer recently in “Blood Brothers” at The Phoenix Theatre London. Appeared as Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella” at the Grand Wolverhampton for Qdos. The Panto starred Stefan Dennis as an evil Dandini, The Krankies as Buttons and Baron and featured Nic Greenshields as Prince Charming. Last year Nicky appeared again in Wolverhampton with Linda Lusardi, Sam Kane and The Grumbleweeds.

Chico- The X Factor star appeared as Aladdin at the New Theatre Hull 2010-11. Stu Francis was Wishee Washee and Dean Sullivan played Abanazar for Qdos.

The pop groups that appeared in the mid and late 1950’s and early 1960’s were as popular with panto audiences as members of pop groups are today. A few examples might include:

Rick Wakeman- The rock musician and composer, formerly keyboards  with “Yes”(He joined in 1971) - Rick has sold 100 solo albums that have sold more than 50 million copies Rick starred as Abanazar in “Aladdin” at The Hall For Cornwall for Ian Liston’s “Hiss & Boo Theatre Company” in 2001-02

Ant & Dec. Pop stars in their earlier incarnation as PJ and Duncan, The former stars of “Grange Hill” and current presenters of “I’m A Celebrity”- they appeared in pantomime in 1998 at Sunderland Empire Theatre  in “Snow White” with Claire Buckfield and Peter Thorne as Dame

.On Saturdays the boys were flown by helicopter back to Sunderland from the ITV studios in London where they presented their weekly Saturday morning show.

“H” from Steps (Ian Watkins)- Eastbourne, (2005) as “Aladdin” for Qdos at Theatre Royal Nottingham 2010 In this pantomime Ian alternated the role with Stephen Mulhern, appearing with Grey O’Brien  as Abanazar and Andrew Ryan as Widow Twankey.

Faye Tozer- Steps       2007-08 Aladdin at Theatre Royal, Newcastle

                                    2008-09 Aladdin at The Broadway Theatre, Peterborough

                                    2009-10 Aladdin at The Grove Theatre, Dunstable.

Lisa Scott Lee- From “Steps” Lisa did panto at Derby  for Paul Holman Associates. Her brother Andy Scott Lee from- 3SL has also made appearances.

Lee Latchford- Evans : Steps . Lee will be starred in “Snow White” at Weymouth in the 2011-12 season alongside Ben Nickless. And Clare Richards- Steps.

Jon Lee- S Club 7 2008-09  Peter Pan – playing Peter at The White Rock, Hastings. Steve Furst played Mr.Smee. and in 2009-10  Cinderella –New Victoria Theatre, Woking

Other Pop stars include Paul Catermole- S Club7, Tina Barrett- S Club 7- Her first job in theatre was as a dancer with Lionel Blair in Pantomime. Also Ben Adams- A1

Lee Brennan- 911- 2003 Peter Pan at The Wolverhampton Grand starring Cannon & Ball. In 2004 he played Peter again in “Peter Pan” at The Civic Theatre Darlington and starred in Preston Panto 2005

Natasha Hamilton- Atomic Kitten. Natasha starred in First Family’s “Peter Pan” in her home town at Liverpool’s Empire Theatre 2009-10. Her first panto , she discovered she was pregnant during the Autumn, so a “Flying Double” was used for all of Peter Pan’s ariel gymnastics, and Natasha was grounded. The panto also starred Les Dennis as Dame and Henry Winkler as Captain Hook.

Natalie Imbrugulia Pop star and movie star, currently living in Hollywood- Natalie appeared in Pantomime when she was starring in “Home & Away”. See our article on “The Aussie Invasion” for a full account of her Panto.

Johnny Shental- Hear’Say Snow White” at The Hawth Crawley 2003-04. The panto also starred Hilary O’Neil and Andy Collins.

Kym Marsh –Hear’Say 2005 Stoke and Suzanne Shaw- Hear’Say 2005 Milton Keynes . Appeared at Manchester Palace 2011-12. Also in panto we’ve had Noel Sullivan- Hear’Say.

Kelle Bryan- Eternal              2005-06 Jack & The Beanstalk, Buxton Opera House

                                    2006-07 Cinderella- Broadway Theatre Catford

                                    2007-08 Cinderella Oakengates Theatre

                                    2008-09 Aladdin as Princess Jasmin at Rickmansworth

                                    2009-10 Cinderella at Derby Assembly Rooms

                                    2010-11 Cinderella at The Playhouse Theatre, Weston Super Mare.

Vanilla Ice - Rap superstar Vanilla Ice wooed audiences and took to the stage as Captain Hook in his first ever pantomime at the Central Theatre, in Chatham, Kent.

Ice – real name Robert Van Winkle – rose to fame with his iconic 1991 hit ‘Ice, Ice Baby’. This and his music video – which showcased his distinctive dance - saw Ice nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance in the Grammy awards that year.

More recently, the 43-year-old was a very popular contestant on Dancing on Ice 2011 and will also appear in the show's nationwide UK arena tour this April.

Ice is no stranger to acting and starred in his first film Cool as Ice in 1991 before playing himself in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze during the same year.

He has also appeared in the films The Helix..Loaded, The Bros, Da Hip Hop Witch and Big Money Rustlas. And he has taken part in many reality TV programmes including Channel Five’s The Farm, and TheVanilla Ice Project.

Finally Pantoland’s newest recruit, Vanilla Ice joins the annual panto parade appearing for Evolution. The huge circle of Panto idol from Billy Fury to Vanilla Ice has taken nearly fifty five years to complete- but it will never be complete. The Gladiators, The Aussies, The Big Brothers and the Sportsmen may come and go, but Pantomime is a musical show, and there will always be room for the singer and the pop song.

Apologies for those I’ve missed out on this epic journey- many favourites I’m sure. I’ve also missed out detailing many pantomimes that our Pop Stars have appeared in over the decades, but hopefully with enough additions and corrections  through your emails, we should be ready for round two in the near future!

This page was last updated 29th March 2017

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