We're behind you! Panto has a bumper year!

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Panto is having a bumper year, despite the recession. Adam Sherwin reports

Christmas has come early for "resting" Hollywood actors and reality show also-rans.

Panto season has arrived (oh yes it has) and bumper ticket sales means there are lucrative opportunities for anyone who can rustle up an Equity card. Advance bookings are strong for this year's crop of thigh-slappers. Qdos, the UK's biggest pantomime producers with 23 shows, said it had already recorded takings of £18m. The company, which has added an extra week to its Sleeping Beauty at Newcastle's Theatre Royal, estimates that 1.5 million people will see its productions before the final curtain comes down in February.

The fad for "posh panto", which reached a peak with Sir Ian McKellen's Widow Twankey in the Old Vic's Aladdin, has faded. This year, children will be entertained by reliable favourites such as the Krankies and John Barrowman in Robinson Crusoe in Glasgow and Brian Conley and Basil Brush at the Birmingham Hippodrome's Cinderella. Panto "dames" can earn around £8,000 a week – but often have to pay for their own outfits. The highest-paid star this year will be Steve McFadden, the EastEnders actor, who has secured £200,000 for his stint as Captain Hook.

Baywatch alumni Pamela Anderson, now in her third year on the panto stage, and David Hasselhoff, are getting £125,000 each to tread the boards.

Last year, panto sales were hit by heavy snow, which prevented coach parties from reaching venues and forced cancellations. But bookings for Hasselhoff's Peter Pan at the Bristol Hippodrome are 25 per cent ahead of the same period last year. Reality television stars have found panto a useful way to extend their stay in the spotlight and earn some cash. Harry Derbidge, a17-year-old member of the cast of The Only Way Is Essex, will earn £15,000 for playing piratical second fiddle to McFadden in Woking.

Strictly Come Dancing contestant Edwina Currie turned down the chance to follow Ann Widdecombe on to the stage, when she was offered the role of the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty in Windsor. Britt Ekland snapped up the part.

But Neil Hamilton, Currie's former Tory colleague, is appearing as Baron Hardup, with wife Christine as the Fairy Godmother, in Kettering's Cinderella.

Oh yes they are...Who's playing where?

Chatham

Vanilla Ice is the star attraction at the Chatham Central Theatre production of Peter Pan. The 1990s rapper plays Captain Hook but admits he had never heard of panto before the offer. "I'll be putting my own spin on it. I'm sure there'll be some rapping involved," promises Ice, whose good friend Adam Sandler has promised to see the show. "Adam might be kidding," the Ice Ice Baby chart-topper adds.

Dublin

Terrible twins Jedward have masterminded their own bespoke panto. The duo auditioned 800 children to appear in Jedward and The Beanstalk at Dublin's Olympia Theatre. How much will they earn? "A lot," says manager Louis Walsh.

Dartford

The pantomime inherent in Strictly Come Dancing is given free rein when former contestant Ann Widdecombe stars alongside judge Craig Revel Horwood in Snow White at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. The ex-MP plays the Widdy in Waiting.

Cheltenham

"A bonafide Hollywood actress is appearing in pantomime in Cheltenham this year," the Gloucestershire Echo boasted. Emma Samms, who starred in the US soap Dynasty, will play The Good Fairy in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Everyman. "I'm not going to be there as a celebrity. It's a job and I'm proud to be joining a cast of talented people."

Woking

Controversy surrounded the £200,000 fee reportedly pocketed by Steve McFadden, the EastEnders star, for playing Hook in Peter Pan at the New Victoria Theatre, Woking. Harry Derbidge from The Only Way Is Essex plays one if Hook's pirates. It is McFadden who is shifting tickets.

Also showing...

Gareth Gates will play Aladdin in Milton Keynes. Hackney Empire's Cinderella contains witty allusions to phone hacking and the Olympics. Dame Edna Everage represents the Spirit of London in Dick Whittington at New Wimbledon Theatre, London. Chloe Madeley gets her big break in Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal, Windsor.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test