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Wednesday 20 December 2017

Review: Corrie's Charlie Stubbs in pantomime - Oh yes he is!

I love pantomime, I really do and I attend one every Christmas.  And when the panto at my local theatre includes an ex-Coronation Street actor, I love it even more.

Last night I set off to the Sunderland Empire to see Bill Ward, better known to us Corrie fans as Charlie Stubbs, in Jack and the Beanstalk. You must remember Charlie Stubbs? He was the one that Tracy Barlow batted to death with an ornament. 

Bill is pictured at the top of this blog post in character as Fleshcreep, the baddie. But he played a baddie with a difference, with a bit more style and finesse than the usual pantomime baddie has, and he played it for all he was worth. He was sharp and very funny and really rocked the green velvet suit, I have to say! Although the audience started booing Fleshcreep when he came on stage at first, we warmed to him by the end and every time he came on stage it was a delight to see him again. You can't say that about too many baddies in panto. 

In true panto style, Fleeshcreep made reference to all things Weatherfield with a mention of hotpot, Tracy Barlow, Janice Battersby and Bill Ward's own role in this year's Inside Soap Awards when Emmerdale won Best Show-stopper for the motorway crash and James Barton's death. James Barton was the role that Bill Ward played in Emmerdale, the soap he moved onto when he left Corrie.  Oh, and did you know he was a professional landscape photographer? You can find out more on that here.

Bill was in Emmerdale for three years and over 300 episodes, before his character met a rather gruesome death at the hands of emotionally volatile partner, Emma. And as we know, in Coronation Street, Bill played builder Charlie Stubbs, who, er, met a gruesome death at the hands of his emotionally volatile partner, Tracy Barlow.  He says he's a bit worried about doing any more of these kinds of jobs ...

But anyway, back to the panto.

Starring alongside Bill Ward are Janine Duvitski as the Fairy. You'll know Janine from Benidorm where she plays swinger Jacqueline.

Princess Jill was played by Jade Natalie who sang her heart and soul out all the way to the back row of the dress circle and beyond. Along with David Barrett as Jack, the pair of them were a worthy pantomime romantic couple.  Graham Martin played the King with aplomb.

But it was Charlie Guest as Simple Simon along with Philip Meeks as Dame Nellie Trott who were my stars of the show. These two are everything that a good panto should be - silly, a bit (but not too much) rude and lots of good fun.

The panto was magic, just brilliant. With stunning costumes and sets, hilarious song and dance routines, plus more jokes than a bag full of magic beans.  The second half had me in tears of laughter and the bit when you get to put your 3D glasses on ... well, I won't spoil it for anyone going to the theatre but there was an awful lot of screaming going on in the theatre last night, and most of it came from me!

And on a more personal note, the panto turned out to be very special to me because it was the first time since I was seven years old that I've heard this song sung...
 "Why does the brown cow give white milk when she only eats green grass..." 
I was transported back to the early 1970s in a heartbeat - and enjoyed every single second too.

Jack and the Beanstalk is on at Sunderland Empire until January 7 2018.  Don't miss it.   Buy your tickets here.

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