Panto wannabees queue early in a bid for stardom

EXCITED youngsters queued around the block for the chance of a role in a pantomime.

Staff at the Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth were amazed at the turnout after they gave the community a chance to play a part in Aladdin.

Some of the youngsters at the Aladdin auditions

Artistic director Richard Stride said: ‘We’ve never known a response quite like this. We had to open the doors early as such a huge queue had already built up outside.’

He said that the decision to give local lad Lee Backhouse the title role in the pantomime had stirred extra interest.

‘It seems that hundreds of other young hopefuls also wanted to have a go’ said Richard.

‘Hundreds of actors and dancers queued and Lee was even there at the auditions to give lots of encouragement to those who came along. From youngsters as young as six to adults as old as 70, they all tried their hand at singing, dancing and acting for a part.

Theatre staff had the tough job of whittling down the applicants to four eight-strong casts of young actors and dancers as well as teams of senior dancers and adult actors for a variety of chorus roles in the panto, which runs at the venue in Kent Street, Old Portsmouth from Saturday December 9 to Sunday January 7.

Richard said: ‘We were absolutely delighted with the turnout of highly skilled actors and dancers who play such an important part in the panto each year.’

Heather Uden, the musical director who has not only directed the musical aspects but also composed music for the company, said: ‘It’s wonderful to see so many young people with such passion for the arts.

My daughter started at Groundlings Drama school and has just completed a three-year course at Central School of Speech and Drama, and is now working as a professional actress.

‘It’s lovely to see similar young people just starting out on their journey too.’

The local cast joins Emmerdale and Doctors star Tony Howes, who will play Wishee Washee, Star Wars actor Richard Stride, radio presenter Paula Brett, and Les Misérables film actor Simon Rhys Jones.

For tickets call (023) 9273 7370 or visit groundlings.co.uk.

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