The Cresset panto begins its run on December 11 through until December 30 and after a beast of a year this panto is going to be a beauty!
When we dropped into The Cresset to meet the cast of Beauty and the Beast they were buzzing at the prospect of getting back on stage. Let’s be honest – aren’t we all desperate for a bit of escapism and custard pie-in-the- face fun?
It’s always loud and laugh a minute at The Cresset with a lively show that doesn’t disappoint, so we can’t wait to see what this panto love story has in store.
Beauty and the Beast might have a rocky start to their relationship but Grant Urquhart should be able to help. You’ll recognise Grant as one of the waiters helping couples find love in TV’s First Dates, but here he’s playing it for laughs as Silly Billy, a role he feels comes naturally to him!
“I think I‘ve always been that type of character anyway, I’m always dropping stuff! If anything happens in the show like that it’s probably just an accident rather than direction.”
Having seen so many couples trying to hit it off, what would Grant’s top tips be for a first date?
“Be yourself. Don’t over talk. Keep eye contact and be open. I think being open is the main one because we see a lot of people on the show who’ve closed off instantly – that’s not going to go well.”
This panto love story gets off to a bad start so what advice does he have for Beauty... “You never know until you’ve kissed the prince do you really. Try him on for size – see how it goes and if you’re not sure, I’m sure Silly Billy will be there to pick up the pieces.”
And what about the Beast? Andrew Crawford from Cbeebies is switching from his usual turn in the comedy role to transform from angry monster to handsome prince.
“I’ve sang all my life and that’s one thing I’m dying to show to the world. I’ve never had a song because I’ve always been the comic. As far as the character goes, I’m enjoying the beastly character. I could not be happier. It’s going to be the best time ever. I’m like a ball of energy waiting for Christmas.”
It’s also a change of roles for stage and screen performer Vanessa Boland who plays the panto baddie Carabosse. Vanessa is home grown Peterborough talent and actually appeared in panto here when she was 7 years-old.
“I’m really most looking forward to having the kids’ chorus and getting kids back up on stage. I’m really looking forward to having audience participation again; it’s going to be so magical. And if something goes wrong the audience just loves it even more.”
Mutli talented Victoria Jane, known for her role as Noo Noo the hoover in the Teletubbies, plays Beauty.
“I think she’s one of my favourite princesses, I think she’s a lot of people’s favourite. She’s just got a bit more to her than other princesses, she’s independent, spirited, there are a lot of morals to this panto.
"It’s about not judging a book by its cover, having your own purpose in life – not just a drippy princess waiting for a saviour – she saves the beast!”
Kim Taylforth who you’ll recognise from TV shows like London’s Burning, Bad Girls and Brookside is a seasoned panto pro and will cast some magic as the Good Fairy. It’s a big thing for all the performers to be back on stage at last but particularly so for Kim who suffered spinal cord damage from a virus in 2017 and spent time in a wheelchair.
“I’m registered disabled so for me to actually be back on stage as a disabled actress – it might get other disabled peopled in the audience to think ‘I might be able to do that’. I think it’s really good they’ve given me the opportunity to show what can be done. I think it’s going to be so joyous for all of us to be back on that stage again, the fact we are here and the kids are going to be here – I want to see the looks on their faces when they’re smiling and booing.”
Get ready for the laughs to come thick and fast with Tony Howes as the Dame, Nurse Jackie O’ La La who told us he’ll be playing it very northern. Tony’s been in countless TV shows including Emmerdale, Doctors, Midsummer Murders and Casualty but he’s played the Dame many times.
“I’m really excited because it’s Peterborough and I live in Northampton so I support the Cobblers who play Posh so I’ll get a few jokes in… ‘I have a bra like Manchester United, all support and no cups…’ I keep it fun. I absolutely love panto and I love ad-libbing – ‘Velcro, what a rip-off’. I love a giggle and a sing along. The interaction, that’s my favourite part!”
Beauty and the Beast runs from December 11 – 30 at The Cresset in Peterborough. Book your tickets now on 01733 265705 or online at www.thecresset.co.uk