Panto launch time for Aladdin at Llandudno’s Venue Cymru Theatre

IT FEELS like a whole new world – oh yes it does! Now theatres have reopened and the cast of Aladdin at Venue Cymru couldn’t be more excited.

On Wednesday, September 29, the Pioneer jumped on a magic carpet to catch up with the cast ahead of this year’s Pantomime.

Panto favourite John Evans [Wishee Washee] is gearing up to return to the Venue Cymru stage for his 11th time. He will star alongside actor James Lusted [High Councillor] from Rhos-on-Sea; musical theatre performer Jade Davies [Princess Jasmine] from Denbigh and Eric Potts, who will be directing and appearing in the production as Widow Twankey.

Jason March-Williams is starring as Abanazar and Danny Hendrix will play the title role, Aladdin.

Speaking to coastal chief reporter Suzanne Kendrick, John said: “It has been a long time. It is a relief, it is lovely to get back and I know the theatre did a fantastic job during Covid and totally changed their working ways around to help people. But it is great to be back and get ready for panto.”

The cast are ready for panto! Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

The cast are ready for panto! Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

Evans admitted it was “strange” not to be in pantomime last year; Evans first appeared in a Llandudno pantomime in 2006 and performed every year until 2016 before performing at the Liverpool Empire Theatre for three years.

John said: “We had a few people around for Christmas dinner and I was doing a song sheet at the end of Christmas dinner. People were saying – ‘shut up! You are off work!'”

This is Jade’s first pantomime.

Jade, who is Love Island star Amber Davies’ sister and attended Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph, said: “This is my first panto and I’m really excited. It is going to be amazing [performing panto in North Wales]. Just to be local and see local audiences, all my friends and family can come along. It just means a lot… I think it is going to be really special.”

Jade revealed that her mum Susan and Amber were “so excited” when she told them she’d got the part.

“We have always been together every Christmas but last year, no one could get home,” she added.

“They were over the moon for me.”

Jade admitted that securing the role of a panto princess was a dream come true.

John Evans. Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

John Evans. Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

“I’ve always wanted to play a panto princess,” she said.

“And I’ve always said if I do panto, I want to to do it at home. So I’ve kind of got the best of everything.

“I love Aladdin, I’ve seen the musical, the Disney musical as well.

“Princess Jasmine is one of my favourite Disney princesses. 100 per cent. I think she is going to be naive at the start, finding her feet before falling in love and maybe comes into herself at the end.

“It will be nice to go along that journey of growth.”

Eric is certainly no stranger to pantomime. He is regarded as one of the country’s top pantomime dames having appeared in 29 consecutive festive shows across the country. This will be his 30th. 

In June, he was appointed as artistic director of Imagine Theatre ltd, who are co-producing this year’s show with Venue Cymru.

Eric said: “I’ve being doing panto for an awful long time and this is my first one in Llandudno. The theatre is fantastic. It is such a beautiful venue and fantastic location.

“It has been a bizarre time and it is great to actually be here. There is a real buzz and real excitement moving towards the production. I was all set to go and do a shortened run of panto at the Opera House in Manchester last year and I literally drove half way to the theatre and the announcement came that we were going back to tier four and I had to turn round and go home.”

The Pioneer asked Eric, after such a tough year, if he would prefer to have magic lamp or magic carpet.

A photoshoot was conducted on the panto launch day at Venue Cymru. Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

A photoshoot was conducted on the panto launch day at Venue Cymru. Picture: Suzanne Kendrick

He smiled and replied: “In 30 years, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that.

“I love travel. My wife and I love travelling so I’d be giving up a lot with that genie but it would have to be a magic carpet – going wherever we wanted to.”

James, who has performed in Snow White several times all over the UK, is starring in his first Llandudno pantomime.

“I’m really excited about this show because it is the local theatre to me and I have never performed professionally on the stage here at Venue Cymru,” he said.

“That makes it extra special this year and of course not having panto last year but being at ‘pantoland’ for Christmas with my family as well. 

“I remember coming here as a child, coming to see pantomimes and coming to see different shows that use to tour around the UK. There have been some amazing names on the treads here and I’m very privileged to be a local guy to be here and to perform in this great show.

“I’ve always been in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs so it is nice to not be playing a dwarf and being the high councillor this time.

“I’m really excited about that.”

We will be sharing our full video interviews with the cast over the next few weeks so keep an eye on your Pioneer and www.northwalespioneer.co.uk!

Aladdin will run at Venue Cymru from December 11 2021 until January 2 2022. Visit www.venuecymru.co.uk/aladdin-3 to book.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno