Fairest Of Them All…

I popped along to the Ipswich Regent’s panto press launch to see what audiences can expect from this years production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I also got to chat to a couple of the cast. 

Enchanted Entertainment return to the region with more Panto magic – including a star-studded cast of Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton, Callabro’s Matt Pagan, X-Factor and Celebrity Big Brother star Stevi Ritchie, presenter and comedian Mike McClean, BBC Radio Suffolk’s Wayne Bavin and after winning a recent talent search local lady Harriet Bacon has earned her place as the star of the show being Snow White.

Compere for the launch was Wayne Bavin, who teased of his appearance as the Magic Mirror. Swiftly kicking off proceedings was Matt Pagan, with a powerful rendition of Evermore from the 2017 live action remake of Beauty and the Beast. He is reprising his role as the Prince, after playing it in Newcastle last year and he reckons pantos are the “most fun!”.

Next up, we got to experience a taste of what to expect from Stevi Ritchie as he gave a fun and lively rendition of Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up. When I caught up with self-titled “Colchester Boy”, he admitted “I visited the Regent a few years ago to watch Wizard of Oz, as I had a friend in it, Ken Morley, and I thought ‘wow, this is proper amazing’, and I always wanted to perform here actually so I always said ‘yeah, maybe one day’ and now it’s happening. It’s a gorgeous venue, and it’s nice to be part of it. It’s a great cast, very talented, and it’s all fun and laughter. We don’t stop laughing really!” 

“Me and Matt [Pagan] have an instant spark and we have such a laugh, and ‘Tasha is great, we were in Celebrity Big Brother together so she’s got another month with me here, and she’s great, and I’m pretty much her sidekick.” 

“We start rehearsals in December, but I’ve got a good, well-known song that I can’t give away yet, but it’s a big show song. And my character is a 50:50 of good and bad, but with me I’m just going to be me in it but just add a bit of pizzazz and have a laugh with the script. It’s going to be so fun.” 

Harriet Bacon was next to the stage singing Journey To The Past from hit Broadway musical Anastasia, after revealing it was her audition song that helped her score the role of Snow White. She confessed it was a nerve-wracking process being in front of some of the cast members during auditions, but it was also a lot fun, and she is “so excited” to be able to perform in her hometown in front of many family and friends.

We got to hear a few jokes from Mike McClean, who returns to the Regent as Muddles – and he had absolutely nothing else to plug… apart from maybe his book, and one man show on the 19th January. It seems he’s firming himself to be a local favourite, and I think he enjoys it here too, even if we do have endless Poundlands.

Chris Casserly brings Dame Dotty to life, giving us a fun panto-style take on Olly Murs’ hit Dance With Me Tonight which even got so lively as to pull a Regent employee onto the stage and it might have even sent a wig flying… but after 20 years in Panto, he is looking forward to returning to Ipswich after doing Snow White here six years ago. I managed to grab a few words and on asking what audiences can expect from his dame he admitted he was “a bloke in a dress, there’s nothing particularly camp about it and I’m not fooling anyone as my voice is fairly deep and low, and I tend to bring up someone and make a fool of them and if I can I try to refer to them throughout and make them quite uncomfortable but it’s good.” 

On asking what it is that keeps him coming back to Panto he told me “I love it, I didn’t ever think this is what I would do, as I went to drama school thinking I’d be playing Hamlet but I’ve ended up with 20 years of this – but it’s the best fun and it’s a happy thing, and when you think our job is to go out there and make people have a nice afternoon, that’s quite a privileged position to be in. It’s about making people happy and having a nice time, you get kids dancing in the aisles and they can join in.” 

Last but by no means least, Natasha Hamilton treated audiences to a rendition of Atomic Kitten’s hit Whole Again whilst glammed up in her wicked attire! I managed to grab a few words and she told me “I’ve never played a Wicked role in Panto before, I’ve done the Princess and Slave of the Ring in Aladdin which is quite a fun one to play, so this is definitely going to be my most wickedest performance to come! I’m looking forward to it – I think it’ll be fun. Though I don’t know how my four year old is going to feel about it. But I think there’s going to be a big comedy element to it though, as there always in Panto ” 

On asking if she was familiar with the Ipswich she exclaimed “Yes! It was such a long time ago now, but it was Atomic Kitten’s first ever tour in about 2001 or 2002, and we did a massive theatre tour and came here. We’ve done little gigs over the years but I’ve not been to Ipswich for about 10-12 years. I’m looking forward to spending time, and I’ve been told a few nice places to visit” 

And as it has to be asked, I questioned if there would be any Atomic Kitten numbers in the show like as just previewed and she shared “Definitely, I think it would be a bit weird if I didn’t! We’ll probably put a medley in and try to cram in a bit of fun with the music. I don’t know what else I’m singing at the moment, but it’ll be good”.

If this mornings events are anything to go by, I think it’s bound to be a great night or afternoon out for any family this December, so grab tickets while you still can at ipswichregent.co.uk/snowwhite