The pantomime is British Christmas encapsulated and is a longstanding tradition for many, with generations taking their loved ones to the theatre over the festive period.
Sadly performances were curtailed last year due to the pandemic but panto is definitely back with a bang in Chesterfield this year as Beauty and the Beast prepares to take to the stage at the Pomegranate Theatre.
It promises to be a spellbinding adventure for all ages and all the cast's stars can't wait to be performing in front of live audiences once again.
Hear’Say pop singer and Emmerdale actress Suzanne Shaw will be starring as Belle and is set to bring her sensational singing voice and effervescent charm to the role in the most magical of all pantomimes destined for Chesterfield.
Suzanne shot to fame in 2001 has has enjoyed great success in her career, which has seen her perform on a sell-out UK arena tour, become a Loose Women panellist, and win the third series of ITV’s Dancing on Ice.
Her numerous theatre credits include Roxie Hart in the West End production of Chicago and the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
A seasoned pantomime performer, she has also played title roles in Snow White and Cinderella, as well as Genie in Aladdin, Fairy Godmother in Cinderella, and Alice in Dick Whittington.
And the actress, singer, and TV personality cannot wait to mark her debut in the central role as Belle in Chesterfield.
Suzanne said: “I’ve never played Belle before – I normally do Cinderella – so I’m really excited to be doing something different and taking on such an iconic role, at the age of 40 as well.
"I love it, it’s brilliant, and I’m really going to embrace it. I can’t wait for my children to come and see it and I get to get back on that stage, it’s been a while.”
Speaking about the magic of panto, she added: “It’s just a time for every single member of the family to get together and enjoy entertainment all at the same time. There’s not many shows that you can do that with but panto is quite the exception.
"It’s the introduction to theatre for children, there’s jokes in there for the mums and dads, and grannies and grandpas – the whole family can have that experience altogether and it can be magical, funny, and can get you into the spirit of Christmas.”
Thomas Redgrave, from Britain’s Got Talent Winners Collabro, will be playing Gaston.
The world’s most successful Musical Theatre group, the Collabro boys met for their first rehearsal only one month before going on to wow the Britain’s Got Talent judges, Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams, at their first round audition at London’s Hammersmith Apollo.
They went on to win the eighth series of the show, and have six studio albums and a string of worldwide sell-out tours under their belt, as well as supporting both Barry Manilow and Sir Cliff Richard.
Having never starred as a villain, Thomas is excited to try out some witty gags on a Chesterfield audience.
He said: “I’ve only previously played the kind-of prince charming roles so I’ve never had jokes and it’s exciting to have jokes as a villain. I’ve been going through the script, thinking about how I’m going to perform it and that’s half of the fun.
"It’s going to be a brand new experience for me but it’s going to be a lot of fun, actual jokes, and a new role to play that I’ve never experienced.”
Vocal impressionist Andrew Fleming, who also appeared on Britain’s Got Talent reached the semi-finals on season nine, will be taking on the role of Philippe Philoppe.
Fellow cast members include Fenton Gray performing as Dame Cherie Trifle, James Meunier as the Beast/Count of Monte Don, Andrew Haynes as Professor Crackpot, as well as Derbyshire’s own Rosanne Priest performing as Mauvaise the Witch.
Gracing the stage in Chesterfield will be a dream come true for seasoned performer Rosanne, who grew up in Eckington.
She said: “It really is a career-long dream ambition to do panto in my local theatre because I have a son who is nearly 10 and he’s grown up with me doing panto, but that has meant that normally I’m away for the run up to Christmas.
"I’ve always wanted to do a big professional pantomime but close enough to home so that I can commute. Now I live slightly further south so I can commute some of the time and stay with my parents and that really has been the goal for years.
"I was so devastated last year when it all fell through so I was thrilled when it all opened back up and the offer was still there.”
Andrew will be very pleased to tread the boards again at one of his favourite venues, the Pomegranate Theatre.
He said: “I’ve been lucky as I’ve been to Chesterfield twice before, both times for panto, and had a fabulous time. So, when I was asked if I would come back to Chesterfield I didn’t hesitate for a second.
"I had such a good time in the past here with everybody, it’s a fabulous place to be. You couldn’t get a friendlier place.”
Beauty and the Beast will be running from Friday, December 3 to Sunday, January 2.
Tickets are on sale now via www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk or from the Box Office on 01246 345 222.