The first in the series of GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST is Aladdin – at Salisbury Playhouse in 1998, written by Kate Edgar and Colin Wakefield.
Kate and Colin had been staging successful Pantomimes at Salisbury Playhouse for several years. This was my very first Musical Directorship of a Christmas Show, although it was my second year in Salisbury, having played keyboards the previous year for JACK AND THE BEANSTALK.
> Getting to MD my 1st Panto.
> Working with a second member of the Secombe dynasty (On this occasion the fabulous Katy, having previously worked with Andrew on my first ever job – Annie at the Liverpool Playhouse). I was lucky enough to meet Sir Harry when they came to see the Panto – “Ah yes, the one bobbing his head throughout the show” he said!
> As a fan of the Carry On films, getting to work with the lovely Julie Stevens, also known as “Gloria from Bristol” from “Carry on Cleo” and one time member of the PlayAway team. (Jonathan Cohen was one of my inspirations to play the piano as a primary school child. Check out Julie and Jonathan here, along with Brian Cant, Toni Arthur, and Tony Robinson: https://youtu.be/3MDVSHsFFh0)
The Full cast was : Rebecca Arch, Gary Bates, Simon Egerton, Rachel Matthews, Stan Pretty, Katy Secombe, Julie Stevens, Dale Superville, Bob Whelan, & James Wilson.
Favourite Theatrical Anecdote:
Being a regional producing theatre, Salisbury had their next show in rehearsal whilst we were performing the Panto. In this case, Noël Coward’s BLITHE SPIRIT, and was to star Fenella Fielding as Madame Arcati. As is usual in a building on day one of rehearsals, there was a big “Meet and greet”, with the dreaded “go round the circle, and say your name and what you do”. Having completed my obligatory “I’m Richard, and I’m the MD for Aladdin”, up stepped the aforementioned Madame Arcati, and in her unmistakeable voice simply said “I’m Fenella”, and sat back down. As I may have already mentioned (🙈) I’m a big Carry on fan, so this was quite a moment for me – I was only disappointed she didn’t say “Do you mind if I smoke”. For those unfamiliar with what on earth I’m on about – you can see for yourself here: https://youtu.be/P3L6PMHaTEA
Here’s a very short clip of the curtain calls (From the days before smart phone video recording in HD!), with me clearly channeling Rolf from the Muppets!
WRITTEN BY Colin Wakefield & Kate Edgar; DIRECTOR – Kate Edgar; DESIGNER – Simon Higlett; CHOREOGRAPHY & MUSICAL STAGING – Bill Deamer; LIGHTING DESIGN – Pete Hunter; SOUND DESIGN – Gina Hills; DSM ON THE BOOK – Rhian Thomas; KEYS 2 – Dean Austin; DRUMS & PERCUSSION – Lyn Edwards
Please feel free to add your own memories of the show below, or on the posts on Facebook and Twitter.
This is a very difficult time for those working in the Entertainment Industry, and for theatres, so if you are in a position where you can help out in any way, here are the links to the MU and Equity hardship funds, and to Salisbury Playhouse’s donations page:
Musicians Union Coronavirus Hardship Fund: https://musiciansunion.org.uk/Donate
Salisbury Playhouse Support page: https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/bookings/donate/
Check out all the other GHOSTS on the main page: https://richardatkinson.org/ghosts-of-christmas-past/