As a December baby, a trip to The Regent Theatre’s Christmas pantomime has been a life-long tradition of mine – it’s a sure fire way to get you into the festive spirit. And this year, the team are busy working behind the scenes to bring the magical story of Peter Pan to life, promising to be the ‘best one yet’.
Everyone’s favourite pantomime stalwart, Jonathan Wilkes, is back in his home city for his 18th Stoke-on-Trent Christmas season – because it wouldn’t be a proper Stokie Christmas without him, right? And just to make him feel old, I was eight years old when Jonny was the star of the panto for the first time, in 2005.
For this years’ Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan performance, Jonny will star as Smee, joined by Kai Owen as Hook.
Jonny Wilkes said: “Being back on-stage last Christmas in Cinderella was a truly magical experience, and I can’t wait to return to my hometown again this year for what will be my 18th year at the Regent Theatre. It’s a brand-new title, which means a new show full of new jokes and routines that is sure to make it the best one yet.”
Stoke’s homegrown actor will star alongside Kai Owen, Hannah Everest as Wendy, and Amanda Coutts as Tinker Bell in the laugh-out-loud comedy – produced by Crossroads Pantomimes – from Friday, December 9 to Saturday, December 31.
Peter Pan will feature all of the madcap mayhem audiences have come to expect from The Regent’s Christmas spectacular, with incredible special effects, stunning song and dance and plenty of audience participation. And I hear Jonny and Kai have a few tricks up their sleeves, too!
And if you still need convincing, here are eight reasons you should watch The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan at The Regent Theatre this Christmas.
A fantastic cast
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. Kai – who typically plays a villainous character, but is actually very lovely, has known Jonny for years, and the whole cast just bounce off each other.
Amanda, who plays Tink, said the boys are mayhem-causing jokers both on and off stage during Panto season. She said: “There will be lots of silliness! Jonny and Kai are the same backstage as they are on stage – they love to wind you up and have fun. Audiences can expect lots of naughtiness and silliness from them this Christmas.
Peter Pan is Leicester-born Hannah Everest’s first time in The Regent Theatre panto, following the success of her role in Sleeping Beauty, in 2021 in Sheffield. The 20-year-old is very excited to be performing alongside ‘massive star’ Jonny. She said: “It can be quite daunting working with a new team but as soon as I met the cast, everyone was so lovely and welcoming. They’re massive stars and they’re so much fun to work with, we’re going to have a great five weeks ahead of us getting ready for the show.”
Jonny and Kai will be ‘Stokie-ing’ up the script for the annual panto, and this year, there are no Covid-19 restrictions, meaning audiences are in for even more fun and giggles for two hours straight.
Kai, as well as bringing all his usual hijinks and humour to the stage, is co-directing with Jonny this year, and said: “It’s really exciting. It’s the classic Stoke panto for the Stoke people with the Stoke jokes surrounded by utter stupidity.”
Jonny added: “I’m in the middle of all this causing chaos. This year there are no restrictions so for me, I can bring out all my toys and I can’t wait. The audience will be hit with pretty much everything this year.”
Bags of surprises
The sleeves of The Regent Theatre panto productions are always full to the armpit with tricks, whether that’s a ‘Fanny Cam’ or a real flying carpet. Whilst the guys wouldn’t give much away, I’ve been told that you ought to bring a brolly, and there may be some rollerskating.
Amanda warned: “As well as lots of spakles, lots of bling, you might see a little bit of rollerskating. There’s lots of things to look forward to, but the best advice I can give is be prepared for anything. You might need to bring brollies.”
Jonny and Kai are both extremely excited for the final scene in Act One, which often sees The Regent Theatre pull out all of the stops for a magical end to the first half. Jonny teased: “There’s something amazing for the end of act one, it’s really special and I’m so excited because people won’t believe it.”
Kai added: “There are going to be some unbelievable special effects. At the end of Act One there’s something this theatre will never have seen before.”
The old favourites
Jonny makes it no secret he’s a Valiant, so Stoke City supporters may find some content of the panto distressing. Fans can expect pop culture jokes from the last 12 months, and though you can roll your eyes as much as you want – you know you secretly love it.
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. I hope she has.
Last year, due to Covid restrictions, items weren’t allowed to be thrown into the audience – but this year, we hope to see a welcome return to the ‘traditional’ Five Gold Rings run around the auditorium.
A magical story
Peter Pan is a real Disney classic, and one that can be rewatched and rewatched time and time again, but this Pantomime has been set in the aftermath of the Peter Pan story, where ‘the magic has disappeared.
Kai explained: “The dust has settled and Peter and Wendy can no longer fly. It’s Tinks mission to bring the magic back, but along the way they come across some nasty characters who may or may not have changed and become nice people. In all, it’s a fun filled festive feast of comedy, entertainment and songs.”
Jonny added: “We’re going back to Neverland and it’s up to us to make Peter Pan believe again. We thought the crocodile had eaten Captain Hook, but he’s back so there’s the classic Pan and Hook battle. I’m on no-one’s side, I’m just in the middle of it causing mayhem!”
A welcoming audience
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.
“It’s a joy to be back,” said Kai. “It’s always a joy and the year seems to go so quickly before we’re here again. Every year they come in their droves and it’s supported and appreciated. I cant wait.”
Amanda added: “The audiences are so amazing in Stoke, they’re so much fun. I feel like everyone here is so lovely and I feel so welcomed.”
Join Jonny and the team on a swashbuckling trip this Christmas at The Regent Theatre where laughter is guaranteed by the barrel-load. Jonny commented: “We’ve had a tough few years and we’re still going through it but I want people to come and forget their troubles for a few hours. Let’s enjoy ourselves.”