As cast and technical teams recover from the 2018/19 Pantomime season and Producers turn to preparing for the 2019/20 season, the whole Pantomime Family came together with a host of celebrity stars and Pantomime fanatics to celebrate the genre at the third annual GB Pantomime Awards at the New Wimbledon Theatre in London. It made for a fabulous night under the wonderful host, the marvellous Christopher Biggins, the first GB Pantomime Lifetime award winner and a Pantomime Legend.

I had the pleasure of seeing 48 of the nominations in this years 29 awards (and 11 of the award winners), so can attest to the amazing standards and highly competitive nature of the awards . It’s not only the big Pantomime producers like Qdos, Evolution, Imagine, Jordan, U.K. Productions and Little Wolf that set these standards but many of the smaller independent venues create excellent shows for their local communities. All of them got recognition for their efforts in front of their peers at the ceremony.

My personal favourites were Robert Lindsay winning best male villain as Captain Hook at Richmond Theatre and the trio of Les Dennis and Connor McIntyre as the Ugly Sisters and Ben Nicklass as Buttons in Cinderella at the Manchester Opera House. Richmond also got nominations for Best Ensemble and Pete Watts for Best lighting. Guy Unsworth was nominated for best Director for Manchester but was beaten by Kathryn Rooney for Cinderella at Bristol Hippodrome. A very popular winner was Bob Golding who turned the supporting role of Dandini in Cinderella at St Albans arena into a winning one and stopped the show on every entrance with his comedy business .

Another two top shows were Peter Pan in Birmingham and Snow White at the London Palladium with six nominations each (although only Rick Coates scooped a win for musical achievement at Birmingham). The Hackney Empire production of Aladdin got one win of five nominations with the irrepressible Clive Rowe winning best Dame. On the south coast, the Poole Lighthouse’s production of Dick Whittington won best Principal Boy, the Ceebies star Chris Jarvis, from three nominations .

I did not get up to Scotland and therefore missed Aladdin at Kings Glasgow (Best Panto over 1500 seats) and Beauty and Beast at Edinburgh Kings (Best Panto 750 to 1500 seats) but it was wonderful to see two stalwarts of Scottish Theatre, the delightful Elaine C Smith and the amazing Allan Stewart pick up the awards for the shows respectively. Another 2 venues I missed but will definitely be on my schedule for next year were Snow White at Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage which won best Pantomime (under 750 seats) and best female villain, Hannah Jane Fox and Peter Pan at De Montfort Leicester which won Best Ensemble and best supporting female, Sam Bailey.

Some of my other favourite winners were Katie Beard for her choreography in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford, Victoria Spearing for her amazing sets for Dick Whittington at South Hill Park in Bracknell and Ella-Jane Thomas in her professional debut in Beauty and Beast at Loughborough Town Hall as best newcomer. All excellent productions serving up strong shows for their local communities. Another popular female winner was Charlie Raine, a partially deaf actress who signed the role of a sheep in Beauty and Beast and won the new award of Best Pantomime Animal!

The awards show included the exciting new ventriloquist Max Fulham and his Grandad who will be in Bromley with Biggins in December, a strong opening number with Rebecca Lake and Stagecoach student Sophie Petit, and a fresh version of the Pantomime classic “If I was not..” by Liam Mellor and friends as well as tributes to the great Dames of the past and Pantomime people who sadly passed away in last year including the legendary Barry Chuckle .

The show ended with last year’s Lifetime winner Roy Hudd presenting this year’s winner Berwick Kaler (40 years as Dame at Theatre Royal York) and then sharing some delightfully eccentric reminiscences of their lives in Pantomime: A conversation that continued offstage for another thirty minutes!

These awards, the idea of Sam Munday Webb and Daniel Dawson, are now firmly established and there was a party atmosphere in the stalls as the stars mingled including Darren Day, Su Pollard, Anthea Turner, Gary Wilmot, Paul Zerdin, Linda Luscardi, Lesley Joseph, The Grumbleweeds, Billy Pearce and Jess Robinson as well as Producers and Venue Management and cheered on their favourites or home teams.

Reviewed by Nick Wayne

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