How Leeds panto adds sparkle to Christmas

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Pantomime is one of the nation’s best-loved festive traditions. Reporter Laura Bowyer went behind the scenes at a Leeds theatre.

It’s still a moment etched into the back of my mind.

YEP reporter Laura Bowyer (centre) gets help with her make up from  Snow White,  Lisa Kelsey,  watched by the Forest Fairy Jennifer Webster.

YEP reporter Laura Bowyer (centre) gets help with her make up from Snow White, Lisa Kelsey, watched by the Forest Fairy Jennifer Webster.

Sitting on the shoulders of one of the tallest girls in my secondary school waiting for our big stage debut as the cyclops in Mother Goose. It was a nerve-racking moment.

But in all the excitement we hurried onto the stage minus one of our main props - a sword for our great battle scene.

In all of my panic I whispered to my acting companion below that I had forgotten our sword.

Little did I realise that the microphones above us had picked up my panicked cry and broadcast them to the whole auditorium leaving the audiences in stitches of laughter.

So 18 years later I decided to face my theatrical demons and head back on the stage once more.

And this time I was determined not to leave my prop - a trusty triangle- behind.

For one night only I was given a small role in the “comedy section” in The Carriageworks’ Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Little did I know before accepting the challenge I would have to sing a short solo in front of hundreds of people.

After a quick rehearsal I was then ushered into the changing rooms to check my costume fit me.

Wardrobe lady Kathryn Harrison, who hails from Leeds, is responsible for making sure everyone’s outfits are kept in good shape.

And within minutes she helped me transform.

Meanwhile Snow White actress Lisa Kelsey, the Wicked Queen Brigid Lohrey and the Forest Fairy Jennifer Webster were all preparing their hair and make-up in front of a huge mirror adorned with lightbulbs around the outside.

I could hear the audience chatting away as the theatre filled up and once the curtains rose there would be no going back.

I was counting down the minutes until suddenly over the tannoy I had been given my stage call.

Nervously I picked up my triangle and clutched onto it tightly as I approached the wings of the stage.

But my over-enthusiastic rehearsal in the wings saw the string mysteriously detach from the baton of my triangle with just seconds left.

With no time to spare I was introduced on stage and had to sing my lines and play my triangle.

Thankfully I had a few supporters in the audience who cheered me along and within just what seemed like seconds my panto stint was over.

But for the cast and crew of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs they are taking to the stage until January 10.

Brigid Lohrey, who plays the Wicked Queen, said: “I just love fairy tales. There is something lovely about telling stories as well and this is just part of that.

“The Wicked Witch is pretty horrible in Snow White and it can be very full on.

“But it is lovely to be able to see the reactions on the faces of the audience especially at the end when you get right to the front.

“It is my first panto here in Leeds but it is such a lovely city.

“The panto audience here in Leeds are certainly not shy and they love to get involved.”

Lisa Kelsey, who plays Snow White, took to the Leeds stage last year in a much more sinister role.

She played the Wicked Fairy in Sleeping Beauty but was looking forward to taking on the role of a princess.

She said: “It was a challenge for me but I was thrilled when I was offered Snow White.

“Snow White was my first role on panto so to be able to become her again was very special to me.

“I love playing a princess and I did struggle a bit last year not being liked and being bad.

“It is just so nice to see the children’s faces when you walk out as they think you are really a Disney princess. It is every girl’s dream.

“I just love Leeds and I really enjoyed performing here last year.

“I really wanted to come back and it is also close to home so it means I get to see my family.”

Firm panto favourite Jez Edwards, who is the lovable Muddles, loves nothing more than taking to the stage and making young theatre-goers laugh.

He said: “This will be the first theatre experience for little ones and my role is getting them all on side.

“If we give them a really great theatre experience they are going to want to go on and see musicals.

“We put a lot of importances on making sure they have the best experience here.”

And he is often challenged by young members of the audience during a special song sheet scene where three children are given the chance to sing with Muddles.

Jez added: “A three-year-old can say anything and it keeps you on your toes.

“I always went to pantomime when I was a child and it has been in the family.

“I have been doing it for the last 16 or 17 Christmases and to be honest I wouldn’t know Christmas without pantomime.”