Dani Harmer to wave fairy wand of change over Grand Opera House panto. Who’s joining her in Beauty And The Beast?

“I adore playing the loveable and slightly bonkers Fairy Bon Bon, so cannot wait to put on my wings once more,” says Grand Opera House-bound Dani Harmer

OUT with the old, in with the new, for the Grand Opera House pantomime in York, following the exit of Berwick Kaler and co after three years.

In come BAFTA award-winning Dani Harmer, Phil Reid, Leon Craig, Phil Atkinson and David Alock to star in Beauty And The Beast, UK Productions’ third panto at the Cumberland Street theatre, from December 7 to January 5. Further star-studded casting for Belle and the Beast will be announced shortly.

Best known for playing the title role in the CBBC series Tracey Beaker and its sequel Tracey Beaker Returns, from the age of 13, and later My Mum Tracey Beaker in 2021, Harmer will wave her wand as Fairy Bon Bon.

“I can’t think of a better place to be spending the Christmas period,” says Dani Harmer of her return to York

Bracknell-born Harmer, now 35, has appeared in numerous pantomimes and West End musical theatre shows, including playing the title role in York Barbican’s 2012 panto, Cinderella, when she had to miss two performances that clashed with her commitments competing in BBC One’s Strictly Come Dancing that season.

In the “craziest fortnight of my life”, she had to combine rehearsing each morning at the Barbican and spending each afternoon and evening at the University of York, practising routines with partner Vincent Simone, first for the semi-final, then three for the final: a tango, jive and show dance (Bohemian Rhapsody). “It’s been the best thing I have ever done,” she said at the time.

Earlier that year at York Barbican too, she appeared as Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz, returning there in March 2015 for two performances as Beauty in the Easter pantomime Beauty And The Beast. In between, she played not-so-innocent Janet in The Rocky Horror Show at Leeds Grand Theatre in June 2013 

Dani Harmer in the role of Beauty in Beauty And The Beast at York Barbican in March 2015

Now she will star in Beauty And The Beast in York for a second time, switching from Beauty to Fairy Bon Bon. “I’m super excited to be back in my favourite panto of all time, Beauty And The Beast,” says Dani.

“For those that don’t know, I have always been completely obsessed with this story, so it is a real joy for me to be bringing it to life on stage. And I adore playing the loveable and slightly bonkers Fairy Bon Bon, so cannot wait to put on my wings once more.

“And even more exciting to be coming to the gorgeous city of York! I can’t think of a better place to be spending the Christmas period. So, bring on the Yorkshire puddings and I really hope you enjoy our magical beauty of a show.”

Phil Reid’s Louis la Plonk

Joining Dani will be award-winning comedian Phil Reid as Louis la Plonk and panto dame extraordinaire and musical theatre star Leon Craig as his larger-than-life mum, Polly la Plonk, after West End appearances in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and Disney’s Aladdin.

Musical theatre star Phil Atkinson, from The Bodyguard, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Little Shop Of Horrors, will play the dastardly Hugo Pompidou, with David Alcock, from The Mousetrap and the BBC’s SAS: Rogue Heroes, as his assistant in villainy, Clement.

Producers UK Productions will be “pulling out all of the stops to bring their award-winning version of this timeless tale to York”. Managing director and producer Martin Dodd says: “We are delighted to be returning to the beautiful Grand Opera House and even more so that we can bring one of our favourite productions for the Christmas season.

Phil Atkinson’s dastardly Hugo Pompidou

“The show is filled with comedy, show-stopping tunes, a cast of top musical performers, magic and an award-winning script by Jon Monie [prize winner for Best Script in the 2019 Great British Pantomime Awards]. It’s a fantastic show for young and old and one that is sure to make your Christmas complete.”

Grand Opera House theatre director Laura McMillan says: “This year our Christmas is set to be a cross between a hilarious pantomime and a spectacular West End musical, really something for everyone.

“The audience are in for a festive treat, with a show packed full of award-winning talent and stars from the West End. There’s no doubt Beauty And The Beast will be a huge hit with something for all the family.”

Expect “larger-than-life characters, an unmissable transformation moment, slide-splitting comedy and stunning sets and costumes”, promises the panto press release.

Tickets are on sale at atgtickets.com/york

Leon Craig’s dame, Polly la Plonk, in Beauty And The Beast