Bognor’s panto company has started planning our Christmas fun.
The cast met up at the Regis Centre to try their costumes, to get to know the script and to get to know each other.
The show will be The Wizard of Oz running in the Alexandra Theatre from Wednesday, December 11-Saturday, January 4.
Making her panto debut, Katie Bennett is looking forward to being our Dorothy, fresh from great experiences on the set of Mary Poppins Returns and Mamma Mia 2.
Katie graduated with first-class honours in 2017 from St Mary’s University in Twickenham, and after working as a stand-in and a photo double on the big films, she is relishing her panto debut.
“I think to be a good Dorothy, you have got to be very brave. She is quite a strong female character. The Palladium version and the Judy Garland version are versions people will know, and I think you have just got to be very positive in the role. You have got to have the strength to go off and find what you find. She goes away with her little dog and her positivity never wanes.”
Joining her along the way will Jamie Bannerman, back in the town this Christmas as The Lion, his first goodie part for a while.
In all, it will be his fourth Bognor panto, a reflection of the fact that in Jamie’s view, Bognor really is one of the very best pantomime venues around.
“It has got that proper community spirit. It has got that fantastic family feel to it, and that is something that not all theatres have. Some theatres, you can perform there and you don’t even get to see the theatre manager. You just don’t see them at all! And you just think ‘Where is everyone?’”
That’s absolutely not the case at the Regis Centre where you are instantly wrapped up in the family feel of the whole place.
“And I think that makes such a big difference to everything and to the performance. It just gives you a positive energy, especially in panto. You have got that happy, family feeling right from the start and exactly the right vibe going on. You have got all the volunteers there, and everyone is smiling and welcoming you. You will always have a great time.”
Flying the flag for villainy will be Drew Donnell who returns to the Regis Centre this Christmas as the Wicked Witch.
In fact, he’s thinking of renaming the show after himself.
“I think it should be The Wicked Witch of Oz! Never mind the Wizard. Or Dorothy. Who’s Dorothy anyway!” he laughs.
Last year, Drew was Cruella in the venue’s Cinderella, a great experience all round.
“That was just so good. The audience were great and the company and the people were all fantastic. And the volunteers too… It just felt like home!
“The volunteers are so important. They play their part in the theatre and add that extra something. It really is like a family. And everybody does anything for anybody else. It was my first big panto part in a theatre and I just loved it.”
The Alexandra Theatre is pretty much the perfect pantomime venue.
“What is so good about the stage is that it is quite a big theatre, but it is also very intimate. You really feel like you are in the audience. The back row is like the front row, and you just don’t feel disconnected, and that is great. You grab the audience at the start and you take them on this exciting journey with it.
“And you get to read the audience. My entrance last year was through the audience, literally through the middle of them, and you feel like you are on top of them. You just have got to keep the ball rolling, and that’s the great thing about Bognor. It still feels like it is an intimate venue.”
Tickets on alexandratheatre.co.uk and 01243 861010.