Leeds pantos to cast a spell on city audiences

The casts of two pantos which have opened in Leeds are lifting spirits in this testing weather

Cinderella is now showing at the Carriageworks on Millennium Square, while Aladdin fills a stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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Advance ticket sales for Cinderella were up 20 per cent on last year's panto, Snow White.

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Former 'Allo 'Allo star Sue Hodge, who was the French waitress Mimi, is playing the Fairy Godmother in the classic Christmas show.

The 53-year-old, who has appeared in panto since she was 14, said: "I know Leeds well from performing at the City Varieties previously.

"And I love the Carriageworks, which has a really intimate feel."

CBBC host Jez Edwards, who is playing the role of Cinderella's family servant Buttons, has returned to the theatre at his own request.

He said: "I had such a great time here last year and it was one of my favourite pantos among the 14 I have done."

Meanwhile Aladdin, which occupies the Courtyard stage at the Playhouse, has everything from a genie to flying carpets, magic lamps, deep dark caves and magnificent palaces.

The inventive set evokes a busy market place and was created with help from primary schools, the West Indian Carnival committee, and the Playhouse's over-55s group Heydays.

The collaborators were asked to design a market stall sign which displayed the diversity of market life and is included in the set.

Aladdin's story unfolds among the market stalls of pots and pans and bric-a-brac.

Aladdin is played by Gregory Bartlett, while his princess is Jenny Fitzpatrick, whose recent work includes the West End hit Oliver!

When the panto season ends, Greg plans to teach circus skills to street children in Colombia and hopes to raise 3,000 by riding a unicycle for 10 miles through the streets of Wigan.

He has been practising by riding through the streets of Leeds and around the Playhouse.

* For tickets to Cinderella, call The Carriageworks on 0113 224 3801. For tickets to Aladdin, call the Playhouse on 0113 213 7700.

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