There’s no Christmas tradition quite like a night out at The Regent Theatre’s pantomime to get you in the festive spirit – and this year, the team have got two years’ worth of laughter to pack into one wonderful show.
Of course, everyone’s favourite duo are back, because at this point it wouldn’t be a proper Stokie Christmas without them. For this years’ Cinderella performance, Jonathan Wilkes will star as Buttons in his 15th Regent Theatre panto, joined by the ‘best dame in the business’, honourary Potteries panto star Christian Patterson, who finds himself in the city for the 11th year running as Baroness Hardup.
Jonny Wilkes said: “I can’t wait to return to my hometown for Cinderella, and to bring panto back to Stoke after such a long time. It’s been a long wait, but we’re thrilled we’re able to go ahead this year and have been busy thinking up all sorts of hilarious plans to make this panto our best one yet.”
Welsh-born Christian and Stoke’s very own Jonny will star alongside Kai Owen and Naomi Slights in the laugh-out-loud comedy – produced by Crossroads Pantomimes – from Friday, December 10 to Sunday, January 2.
Cinderella will feature all of the madcap mayhem the Potteries’ pair have become best known for, with spectacular special effects, stunning song and dance and plenty of audience participation.
Frazer Hoyle, Theatre Director of the Regent Theatre and Victoria Hall said: “We’re ecstatic to be able to invite Jonny and Christian back this year. After missing out on panto last year, it hasn’t been the same without them and we can’t wait to see what they have in store for us all in Cinderella!”
And if you still need convincing, here are eight reasons you should watch Cinderella at The Regent Theatre this Christmas.
I’ve said year after year that the chemistry between the cast on stage is unbeatable, making for an effortlessly funny show built on friendship and trust. Christian and Kai have known each other for 20 years, alongside Jonny, the three of them just bounce off each other.
Kai said: “We have the best dame in the business with Christian Patterson and the best frontman in Jonny Wilkes. They know what they’re doing and the panto is in the hands of masters.
“I get to work with my best friend, Christian, and Jonny who I’ve known for seven years, so we’re all really big best mates. Jonny knows what Christian is going to say, Christian knows what Jonny is going to say and visa versa with me and them two – and I trust them, and that’s a huge thing on stage. All the ingredients are there.”
Cinderella is Burton-born Naomi’s second time in The Regent Theatre panto, following the success of her role in Sleeping Beauty, in 2019. One of her favourite things about the show is ‘the guys’.
She said: “They’re incredible and we’ve had an absolute riot again for the launch, so that is number one top of the list of my favourite things about the panto. Hilarious banter, it’s going to be a party on stage.”
Jonny and Christian always manage to ‘Stokie’ up the script for the annual panto, and for Cinderella, they’ve had two years to write their gags – so expect nothing but side splitting puns and punchlines for two hours straight.
Jonny said: “We’ve been away for two years so more than ever we are raring to go. We’ve got two years worth of gags, humour and everything going on. It’s going to be a big Stoke-on-Trent night in and we just cant wait to see people come along with a massive smile on their face. We will make sure we’ve got the best show for you guys.”
Christian promised double trouble as Baroness Hardup, adding: “We are going double hard to bring double the enjoyment, double the fun and we want double the laughs from the audience because it’s two years condensed into two hours.”
From the Fanny Cam to 3D effects – the sleeves of The Regent Theatre panto productions are always full to the armpit with tricks. Whilst the guys wouldn’t give much away, I’ve been told that someone will be dressing up as a superhero, and that you ought to bring a brolly.
Kai warned: “It’s going to be two hours of pure escapism, and whatever turmoil you’ve been through over the last two years you’re going to have belly laughs and going to be soaked to the skin so bring your umbrellas.”
Jonny hinted at a spectacular costume change for one of the cast members – I could take a good guess at who – and said: “If you like Avengers and superheroes, someone who is a good friend of mine is going to be donning a superhero outfit, and that’s worth the ticket price alone. But, from a magical point of view the end of act one is special.”
And there has even been surprises for Naomi, who is of course, cast as Cinders. She said: “They’re going above and beyond this year. I can not say too much, but what they’ve told me I’m losing my mind over. There’s going to be incredible special effects, loads of surprises, surprises even for me – I can’t wait. This Christmas is going to be really special.”
The old favourites
Stoke City supporters may find some content of the panto distressing, seeing as Jonny makes it no secret he’s a Valiant – I suspect there might even be a quip at The Royal Family thrown in for good measure, too.
And a trip to the panto wouldn’t be complete without the annual celebration shout outs, particularly Beryl Smith’s – we’re all waiting to see if she made it this year.
Now, Jonny and Christian simply wouldn’t crack on whether we would be treated to a rendition of Five Gold Rings with a set of bog rolls, or if they weren’t able to get their hands on any after pandemic panic buyers continue to wade through their tissue paper castles in the spare room. nearly two years on.
But it’s these old favourites that fail to get old, like your most-listened to Spotify track or the film you can recite backwards. Roll your eyes as much as you want, but you secretly love it.
The ensemble are an incredibly talented bunch from Jonny’s own Wilkes Academy, and every year their execution of choreography and tricks is mesmerising. And for some of them, it’ll likely be their first big production on stage in front of thousands of people that week.
Naomi said: “The dancers are incredible. Some of the stuff you will see is world class, and it’s amazing that they get to have this experience too, through Jonny and his family.”
Baroness Hardup dons a zebra print dress akin to one I have in my own wardrobe, which I adore. Christian’s outfits are always stellar, and there are usually a few outfit changes too.
And in a Cinderella story, there’s the iconic outfit change from rags to riches, so I’ll be excited to see that ballgown transformation too.
A panto would be nothing without the audience shouting ‘Ayup, me ducks’, and ‘oh no it isn’t’, and the cast are just as excited to see bums on seats as they are to be on stage themselves.
Kai said: “It’s been an awful time, we wont dwell on that too much because everyone knows. Every year prior to that people would come for their Christmas treat and see the wonderful pantos here at The Regent Theatre. The loyalty that people show to the shows and the pantos is so appreciated and we always do our best to give them the best show possible for their hard earned money that they use.
“We have two years of pent up magic, laughs, mayhem and energy waiting, and if you doubt for one second that this isn’t going to be bigger and better than ever then you’re so wrong. This is going to be spectacular. I love Stoke-on-Trent and the people, and the welcome they give us. They’re the best audience I’ve performed in front of.”
Christian added: “We cant wait to see a full house of Stokie faces, and of course pay a visit to Robertos – it’s our favourite place to go.”
Cinderella is a real Disney classic, and one that can be rewatched and rewatched time and time again, and has been remade more times than I can count.
Kai said: “Cinderella is a magical story with heart romance, lots of silliness, classic baddies, brilliant songs and routines and massive special effects,” which seemed to sum up the show quite nicely.
Tickets for Cinderella start at £13 and are on sale at www.atgtickets.com/stoke or when you call 0844 871 7615.