|Snow White in Milton Keynes|
Friday 9 December 2005 - Sunday 22 January 2006
Back in the summer, when I said yes to taking part in Panto, I knew it'd be much more than just a job, but I didn't realise it would turn into life itself.
|Big George in finale outfit!|
From the first read through of a brand new script, right up to the terror/excitement/relief/elation of opening night (a journey which lead me into the murky waters of choreography, the confusion of technical rehearsals and the terror of the full dress rehearsals) it has been the most intense showbiz experience of my life (and I've had a few in my time).
One of the hardest things about the whole affair was keeping my character I play a secret.
In one of the bravest casting decisions in the history of Panto, First Family Entertainment impresario, Kevin Wood honoured me by cutting me down to size as a dwarf.
And not just any old dwarf, but one of the finest seven to ever tread the boards.
Led by Warwick Davis (star of Willow, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Narnia, Ray, etc), the troop is made up of Sammy and Hayley Burroughs (daughters of Sunday Night At The London Palladium legend Peter Burroughs), Keijo Samela and Ricky Danielsson from Sweden.
|Warwick Davis in Sherlock Holmes.|
Plus Ray Griffiths, who entertains the nation every Saturday morning on ITV’s Ministry of Mayhem (as Ram It Ray) and eight year wonder girl Annabelle Davis (daughter of Warwick and Sammy) as dynamic dwarf super-sub.
Everyday we perform a matinee and an evening show (there are 80 shows in all, including dress rehearsals).
The day starts with a physical warm up (optional for everyone but the dancers) and a compulsory vocal warm up, where for 10 minutes solid we sing "tee ah ah ah" "Bella Senora" and the tonsil twisting "Ken Dodds Dad’s Dogs Dead" in every key known to mankind.
That’s followed by what is known in Pantoland as "The Half", which is 35 minutes before the performance, where everyone is confined to their dressing room in order to slap on the make up and squeeze into costume.
There is no doubt, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Milton Keynes Theatre, is a dazzling spectacular, unlike any other Panto staged in the City, or anywhere else in the country for that matter.
It's not so much your traditional slap your thigh affair, but more a high class West End fairytale, that will transport you into a fantasy world of wonder. It could be described as a movie on stage
Starring the sensational Toyah, whose brilliant portrayal of the evil Queen will have you booing in your sleep for weeks, alongside one this countries national treasures, Richard O’Brien as the Man in the Mirror, who warps time and space before your very eyes.
The Prince played by the golden voiced Duncan Breeze and human rag doll Mark Hilton as Muddles, are joined by a troop of dancers who appear to fly through the air.
The lead is played by ex-Hear’say star, Suzanne Shaw, although the beautiful Princess you see on stage is a far cry from the cheeky girl who is the life and soul backstage.
In fact my only disappointment so far has been the lack of a prima donna, throwing unreasonable wobblers all over the place. We all eat, drink and laugh together, it’s kinda Carry On Panto!
|Big George as Dennis the Menace|
Of all the reviews and plaudits that have come my way, the one that has made me proudest is "Big George is a lot shorter than he looks".
Being seen as a dwarf is a bit like becoming a member of the Beatles, only a lot more fun. We spend our time backstage larking around, swapping tired showbiz anecdotes and rowing about where we're going to eat between shows.
The only thing keeping me sane these days is Bucks Breakfast, although thinking of the madness we get through every morning between 6:30 and 10, that's crazy talk.
Cha Cha Boom Oi
Big George's panto diary part 1
Hi diddly dee, an actor's life for me!
Well, not really, but this Christmas I will be appearing on stage at the Milton Keynes Theatre in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Tickets are selling fast (33 per cent up on last year) so don’t say you didn’t have the chance to come and throw rotten tomatoes!
It stars Suzanne Shaw as Snow White, Toyah Willcox as the Wicked Queen, Richard O’Brien as her Henchman and Warwick Davis as Prof, the lead Dwarf. And what am I? The romantic lead? 3rd Tree on the left? I’ll let you know when rehearsals begin in November. Although after Toby [Friedner's] success in Aladdin two years ago, whatever I play, it’ll be a tough act to follow!
Mind you, this isn't the first time I’ve slapped on the grease paint.
|Big George broadcasts during camping week|
Last year I shot a not so much “low budget” as “no budget” film: UNFiNiSHED. My part was Ludwig Van Beethoven turning up in modern day England to complete his 10th and final symphony. It’s currently taking it easy in post-production. Also in the new year I’ll be filming a couple of pilot sketches, as an old and grumpy Dennis the Menace.
Mind you, it’s a project that was only made possible by a Bucks' Breakfast Show listener, who sprang to the rescue when it became impossible to find a suitable jumper in the distinctive red and black stripes in my size (50 inch chest)!
But back to the Panto. The press launch was held during the middle of Camping Week on the Bucks' Breakfast Show. It will be the first Panto produced by First Family Entertainment, with all new sets, costumes and script. The original Disney songs will be featured too, although contractually the names of the Dwarfs from the 1930’s classic (the first full length cartoon ever made) can’t be used.
Talking of Camping Week, it was wonderful to get a visit from Carenza Dealey on our last day, at the Pepper Pot in High Wycombe.
After the four massive heart operations she’s had over the summer, it showed the amazing power of the human body. She was grabbing at my radio mic, smiling and looking so much stronger, a proper handful for her parents, Yvette and Garry.
|Big George at Winslow Fair|
After a week spent in an ever-shrinking Camper Van and tent, sleeping in lay-bys and farmers' fields, it was a wonderful finale for Louise Gosling, Lorna Milton and me.
And to all the people who came along to our shows in Winslow, Aylesbury, Weedon Park Bucks County Show and High Wycombe, it was wonderful to to see you.
“oh no it wasn’t”
“oh yes it was”
Looks like the Panto season really is upon us!
From rehearsals and the first night, to backstage shenannigans and showbiz parties - keep up with Big George's panto adventures on this Web site!