THE new age of pantomime at York Theatre Royal will involve Evolution rather than revolution.
For the first panto of the post-Berwick Kaler era, the Theatre Royal is teaming up with award-winning pantomime producers Evolution to present Cinderella.
The show dates will be December 4 to January 10 2021, an earlier start and finish than the December 7 to January 25 run for Sleeping Beauty, Dame Berwick’s last pantomime as co-director and writer after a 41-year association with the Theatre Royal.
Cinderella will be directed by Theatre Royal associate director Juliet Forster, who directed Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York in 2018 and Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge in the Theatre Royal main house last September, as well as children’s shows aplenty.
The script will be written by Evolution co-founder and producer Paul Hendy in tandem with York-born comedy writer and podcaster David Reed, who has returned to his home city and will provide additional material.
The cast is yet to be announced but will not be a star vehicle, with variety acts and blossoming pantomime talent and a “York flavour” likely to be to the fore instead. The set designer, not confirmed yet, will be charged with creating magical transformations and glittering sets to complement the “stunning songs and side-splitting laughs”.
Formed in 2005 by Paul Hendy and Emily Wood, Evolution Productions present “bespoke pantomimes of epic spectacle and hilarity” for the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield; Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury; The Hawth Theatre, Crawley; Garrick Theatre, Lichfield; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury; Alban Arena, St Albans; Octagon Theatre, Yeovil, and Grove Theatre, Dunstable, now joined in a co-producing partnership by York Theatre Royal.
Juliet Forster and Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird were exhilarated by Evolution’s 2019-2020 pantomime for Sheffield Theatres, starring long-running dame Damian Williams in Cinderella at the Lyceum.
Paul Hendy’s script from that hit show will provide an early template for Reed to set to work on giving it a York branding, with Cinderella’s rags-to-riches story being switched to this historic city in a “new pantomime for everyone”.
Executive director Bird says: “We are over the moon to be creating a spectacular new pantomime for the people of York: one that’s tailor-made for the whole family, while honouring the pantomime traditions that our audiences love so much.
“Our recipe includes two of the most exciting voices in our city, David Reed and Juliet Forster, together with Emily Wood and Paul Hendy, the finest makers of pantomime in the country – a fairytale combination.”
Bird continues: “This phenomenal team will give the York Theatre Royal pantomime a new lease of life with a fresh, family friendly, fun-filled approach to the story of Cinderella. It’s a pantomime for the new decade, set with pride in our amazing city.”
Evolution Productions has built a reputation for superior, bespoke pantomimes with the emphasis on high-quality production values, strong casting and funny scripts, twice winning Pantomime of the Year at the Great British Pantomime Awards.
Producer and writer Hendy says: “Emily and I are absolutely thrilled to be working with York Theatre Royal on this year’s pantomime. We are huge fans of the theatre and we’re looking forward to collaborating with Tom and his brilliant team to produce a wonderful, family-friendly pantomime with spectacular production values, a superbly talented cast, and a genuinely funny script.”
Ticket prices will remain the same as for 2019-2020. Family tickets and Sunday shows are being introduced, as well as schools and groups discounts so that “everyone can go to the ball”.
Theatre Royal members’ ten-day priority booking opened today; members’ five-day priority booking on February 8; 9am in person at the box office, 10am online and phone booking. General booking opens on February 13; same times as above. Box office: 01904 623568 or at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.
Meanwhile, Berwick Kaler’s first pantomime at his new York home, the Grand Opera House, will be Dick Turpin Rides Again, with writer, director and revived dame Kaler being joined by regular cohorts Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell for Qdos Entertainment’s panto partnership with the Ambassador Theatre Group.