Pantomime is a time-honoured British tradition. As a nation we’re all a bit panto mad.
Every year, some of the UK’s biggest talent team up to put on some fantastic panto classics jam-packed full of comedy and laughs for the whole family.
And this festive season is no exception.
Panto-loving Mancunians are in for a huge treat as not one but two Coronation Street legends are teaming up for this year’s big Christmas panto – Cinderella at the Opera House.
We’re all familiar with the fairy tale of Cinderella, the unfortunate sibling who is forced to live a life of misery while watching her stepsisters and evil stepmother living a life of luxury – until she meets her Fairy Godmother and finds Prince Charming, that is.
But what we aren’t so familiar with is the version that features one of the most notorious villains in soap history.
Connor McIntyre first walked the cobbles of Coronation Street in 2014, playing the iconic role of villainous Pat Phelan – and it wasn’t long before we discovered his evil intentions.
He was named Villain of the Year at the British Soap Awards for two years running – so who better to play one of Cinderella’s evil ugly sisters?
And if that casting wasn’t grand enough, TV legend Les Dennis will be starring alongside his Corrie alum. Les, who played Michael Rodwell in the ITV soap for two years, was left for dead by murderous Phelan after uncovering his sinister ways and suffering a heart attack.
Panto veteran Les has performed in Cinderella many times but this is only his second time playing one of Cinderella’s ugly sisters.
“I’ve done loads of pantos before. I’ve had one of those careers where panto was the stock -in trade for me. It’s just what I do at Christmas,” says Les.
He may be a panto veteran but Connor is a novice.
“This is my first ever panto and how lucky am I?” says Connor. “My first panto and I get to do it in Manchester with my good mate Les Dennis and this amazing cast. You couldn’t make it up. It’s going to be great and I’m relying on Les and his panto expertise. I’m learning at the feet of one of the masters.”
“Once Connor put his frock on it was like a duck to water,” says Les. “He says he’s never done it before, but he seems to have taken to it very quickly. He’s already been bossing me around!”
He believes there was a time when panto was in decline – but now it’s back and bigger than ever.
“It’s a British cultural phenomenon because it doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. Men dressing as women and women dressing as men. The slapstick comedy that’s funny for both children and adults – it’s very much part of English heritage.”
So what can we expect from the show?
“Simply put, it’s going to be a great, great production,” says Connor.
“It’s an amazing cast that’s absolutely perfect for Manchester with mine and Les’ relationship to Corrie. It brings a whole other dynamic to the show. And also, with Gareth Gates as Prince Charming – and Shannon Flynn as Cinderella. This is a Qdos pantomime, the best of the best. It will be a massive spectacle and you will love it.
Les agrees. “It’s going to be fantastic. Cinderella is the most magical panto of them all, the story is there, the magic is there, the comedy is there – and of course the comical villains.
“From the response we’ve had so far, the comments on social media etc, everybody thinks that our pairing is a brilliant idea. There’s already been a lot of anticipation and the audiences will really enjoy it.”
And what have they got planned for after panto season? “I think I’ll put my feet up for a while,” says Connor. “Nothing concrete for next year as yet but it’s very much that game isn’t it? Opportunities just come along at different times.”
Struggling to resist the urge to make another Coronation Street-related joke, Les added: “Don’t you talk about concrete, you better not be thinking about putting me in concrete, Phelan!”
Cinderella is at the Opera House, 8th – 30th December 2018. Tickets are on sale now and are priced from just £12 each.