It’s that time of year again folks when men dress up as dames, women dress up as Prince Charming and goodness knows who dresses up as a cow or a horse. It’s time for pantomime – ‘oh no it isn’t, oh yes, it is!’
As the cast and crew of Aladdin the Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto, this year’s festive offering at City Varieties Music Hall, prepare to entertain Leeds audiences from Friday 24th November 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018, we thought it the ideal time to delve into our history archives and look at City Varieties Panto through the years.
Pantomimes at the Varieties date back to at least the early 1940s when Harry Joseph was proprietor. One famous tale exists of a woman giving birth during a performance of Babes in the Wood in 1941. Legend has it that the child was gifted free admission to the Varieties for Life.
Towards the end of the 1940s, pantomimes fell from favour and it was not until 1968, after Harry’s sons, Stanley and Michael took the reins, that they made a return to the Varieties’ stage, with Terry Cantor at the production helm. These Panto’s often-featured Terry’s son, Kenny Cantor, alongside other variety stars, including The Patton Brothers, Leeds’s own Wendy King, and the hugely popular clown Charlie Cairoli. Productions of Cinderella during this period were famed for a coach pulled by real (but very small) horses and Snow White boasted “real dwarves”.
In the early 1980s, ownership of the venue passed into the hands of Leeds City Council and General Manager, Peter Sandeman, was appointed to run the venue. As well as reintroducing a live stage version of The Good Old Days, Mr Sandeman also revived the family pantomime.
Forming a partnership with writer-director Robin Davies (Catweazle, Shakespeare in Love), these hugely successful shows (the early ones often featuring popular TV stars), ran for over 20 years and created the now-famous Leeds tradition of an anarchic “rock fight” with sponges!
After Jack & the Beanstalk completed its run in January 2009, the venue closed its doors for a major restoration, primarily funded by Leeds City Council, The Heritage Lottery Fund and the Friends of City Varieties.
Following the £9m refurbishment, City Varieties re-opened its doors in the Autumn of 2011, and that December, hosted Aladdin, the first of the Rock’n’Roll Pantos – a very different format from the previous style using a talented troupe of actor-musicians who performed all the classic hit songs and music live on stage. The “rock fight” was also given a 21st Century make-over to become a “boulder battle” with giant inflatable bouncing balls.
Since then, Cinderella, Jack & the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Robin Hood and Sleeping Beauty have all been given the Rock’n’Roll treatment with increasing success and a whole new Leeds tradition has been born.
Aladdin the Rock ‘N’ Roll Panto is at City Varieties Music Hall from Friday 24th Nov 2017 to Sunday 7th January 2018
Tickets are priced from £15.50 to £26.50
(Prices include a £1 booking fee. Where applicable, a £1 charge for postage will also be payable.)
Book online at cityvarieties.co.uk or call Box Office on 0113 243 08 08.