It’s the show you’ve all bean waiting for! As the festive season approaches, the Birmingham Hippodrome theatre will once again play host to the country’s biggest pantomime, this time returning to the classic story of Jack and the Beanstalk.
This year’s panto extravaganza will star Duncan James from the recently reunited Blue, along with Coronation Street’s Chris Gascoyne and TV and singing sensation Jane McDonald – as well as a spectacular 3D giant, which will be brought to life by the very latest technology. They’ll be joined by comedy masters Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin and Matt Slack, making a return to similar roles after the huge success of last year’s show, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, with Wilmot once again donning a frock as the dame.
To find out more about the show, I met up with leading man Duncan James, who will be playing loveable lad Jack. Though best known for his pop career, James has done his fair share of acting over the years, including in stage plays like Chicago. His vocal talents are also sure to come in handy for the show’s musical numbers. Here’s what he had to say about the panto…
So, how’s everything going so far? Are you getting on well with the script?
Honestly – I haven’t even looked at it yet! I’ve only just got it through this week, and I’ve been in Belgium doing a show called Night of the Proms, so I’ve been busy rehearsing that. The last few weeks have been crazy: last week was the big reunion for Blue, of course. But I’m going on holiday next week and I’ve got a 14-hour flight ahead of me, so I’m going to take the script with me and read it over then.
How are things going with the reunion? It must be pretty hectic now the band’s back together, what with recording and your TV show coming up.
Yeah, we’ve got a new album coming out next year, and our TV show will be starting in January on ITV 2. Blue are then going on the road touring in March and April, and the panto will be showing right up until February, so I’ll be going straight into touring afterwards. It’s a really busy time for me! This holiday I’ve got coming up next week is the only time I’ve got off until May, so I’m definitely going to make sure I make the most of it!
Tell me a little bit about your character in the panto. Is it going to be a pretty traditional interpretation?
Yeah, I think Jack is always going to be a goodie-goodie. The baddies are always more fun to play – you can really get your teeth into those roles. I tend to get cast more as good guys, but I’d love to play a baddie one day. Maybe I should speak to Qdos!
I guess you could always do something a bit crazy with the character to make him more interesting.
I’m gonna play him a little bit cheeky, but I think because there are a lot of kids, in the end, you’ve got to keep him quite nice. I’ll be playing him as a sort of big, slightly naughty kid.
You had the chance to dress up in your costume for photos this morning. What was it like wearing the outfit?
It’s very camp. Especially the big knee-high boots!
Any tights involved?
No, no tights. They’re more like – I don’t know what you’d call them – like sort of Aladdin-y pants.
Oh – it’s not super camp then!
Ha, no, they’re not skin-tight – thank God!
Have you had chance to meet any of the other cast members yet, besides Chris?
No, I just met Chris today, and he’s lovely. Obviously I know Jane from doing Loose Women, but I haven’t really met anyone else, so it’ll be quite exciting to finally meet the others!
In terms of the story, can we expect any surprises or will it be a fairly straightforward version of the fairy tale we all know and love?
I’m not entirely sure yet, but I do know that we’re having a 3D giant. So there’ll be a nice moment for the audience to put on their 3D glasses and see the giant come to life. I think that’ll be really cool!
Has getting ready for the panto got you feeling Christmassy, or have you managed to resist the festive pull so far?
Do you know, today was actually the first time I felt properly Christmassy. There’s the big Christmas tree in the foyer of the theatre and there was a moment when I suddenly realised, “Oh my God! It’s coming!” So I’m excited now!
Check back soon to read my interview with Chris Gascoyne, who’ll be taking on the part of the giant’s wicked assistant, Fleshcreep. For more information on the panto and to book tickets, visit the Birmingham Hippodrome website.