So long, it's been good to know you - as panto team heads towards the final curtain, stars reflect on the successes of their Stevenage season
PUBLISHED: 12:30 24 January 2016 | UPDATED: 16:09 25 January 2016
The final curtain comes down on this year's Gordon Craig panto this evening, and the stars are getting set to say farewell to Stevenage.
But how have they found their lengthy run in the new town?
Former Coronation Street regular Wendi Peters, who features as the baddie Carabosse, is no stranger to these theatrical partings.
“This has been a long run and we spent most days together with so many shows to do, so it will be sad to say goodbye,” she said. “I think there may be a few tears from the kids.”
That’s kids in the cast, of course, not the youngsters in the audience who have been enthusiastically booing Wendi, often twice daily, since November.
Not that she minds being the object of their catcalls. Asked about her highlight from the past few weeks, she says: “It has to be the audience reaction – the bigger the boos the happier I am!
“We have had such fantastic audiences, with such a big age range. Everyone seems to have loved it, which is wonderful, it means we are doing our job properly
“The most important thing is putting a smile on people’s faces and seeing them get up and join in the singing and dancing at the end. “It really is the best introduction for kids to the theatre, and hopefully they’ll keep coming back each year and come to see other plays and musicals, too.”
Once she has taken her final bow Wendi is looking forward to a break in New York and then it’s back to work with voiceover job for a forthcoming Channel 5 TV series. She said: “It will be bliss to have no make-up and costume to put on for a while!”
Chirpy co-star Aidan O’Neil, who was also part of last year’s panto cast, said: “It’s always a bit odd to leave people so abruptly after being so close for such a long time, but you get used to it the older you get.”
He loved his time in Stevenage last year, but this time round it’s been even better.
He told the Comet: “Last year was unreal but this year has been something else, grown men have tweeted me saying they were in actual tears.
“It’s ultimately about giving people two hours of utter joy. It’s so lovely to look out and see dads and mums encouraging little ones to join in.”
Aidan revealed that he and Gregor ‘Prince Valiant’ Stewart ventured to nearby Chicago’s nightclub one evening. “He tried to get in free by using the line ‘I’m the prince from the panto’ but it didn’t work,” he said.
Daniella Piper, who plays Belle in Sleeping Beauty, is one of the young generation and she admitted: “I can’t help but feel very close with the cast by the end – you spend so much time together for a very intense period, sometimes far away from family and friends. This is even more true with such a long run, and I will miss all the cast and crew very much.
“I didn’t know what to expect from a run that finished quite late, but the audiences have never faltered and seem very loyal.
“I love how unique panto is – there really is nothing else in the world of performance like it, and also the audience participation is so much greater. It all makes for a great intro to theatre.”
Daniella has been among the cast members exploring what Stevenage has to offer, and says she’s a fan.
She said: “I really like the Old Town and have been in a few bars and restaurants down there which are very enjoyable.”