Panto breaks box office records

Victor Ariat

Smooth sailing for Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra at Portsmouth Guildhall

The panto at the Kings Theatre in Southsea is a box office record breaker – oh yes it is!

Around 35,000 panto fans have been through the historic theatre's doors since Jack and the Beanstalk opened in December – more than ever before.

Starring a fresh-from-the-jungle Britt Ekland, Home and Away favourite Lynne McGranger and Coronation Street's Steven Arnold, there were plenty of names to draw crowds.

But as the reviews came in, heaping praise on the production, the audiences began growing faster than a handful of magic beans.

'Every year we try to improve on what we've done before, and this year we've had 35,000 people come along, which we know is more than last year,' said Sandra Smith, who is in charge of the King's publicity.

'We're thrilled. For the first time this year we had two performances on the last day. The final one sold out completely.'

Writing on Twitter, Britt revealed the news. She said: 'Jack and the Beanstalk @Kingstheatre in Southsea broke box office records!'

The schedule was punishing, with 45 shows in just 25 days. But Lynne McGranger, who played the deliciously nasty Witch Blackweed, said she'd 'be back in a heart beat'.

'It was just a dream come true,' she said.

'I'd always wanted to play at the Kings, but never could because of the scheduling, and being part of the record-breaking panto is so exciting, it's unbelievable.

'Everyone there was so dedicated and lovely, both the cast and the crew.

'It was incredibly punishing, lots of people got sick.

'But I absolutely loved it and me and my husband absolutely fell in love with Portsmouth and Southsea.

'It's a lovely place, and I'd love to see it in the summer.'

The next Kings panto has already been decided - it's going to be Cinderella.