Comedy star Jason Manford and musicals favourite Jodie Prenger will return home to the north west this Christmas to bring the famous Manchester Opera House pantomime to life for 2020 – in a socially distanced production of Sleeping Beauty.
Salford-born Jason will make his panto debut as Muddles, while Blackpool-raised Jodie will become the Enchantress in the festive family show, which will run from December 20th to January 3rd.
And it has today been announced that NHS workers and their families will get the chance to see the very first evening performance of the show for FREE this December as a way of saying thank you for their heroic work throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
Ambassador Theatre Group say NHS staff can enter a ballot for free tickets for their families from today.
Sheena Wrigley, theatre director at Manchester Palace and Opera House said: “We are thrilled at the prospect of working with Qdos Pantomimes and re-opening the historic Manchester Opera House with this festive family show.
“It’s especially important that we can play our part in keeping one of the city’s great Christmas traditions alive after what has been an especially challenging time for communities in Greater Manchester. Our wonderful NHS staff can enter a ballot for free tickets for their families at healthservicediscounts.com, our way of saying a huge ‘Thank You’ for everything they’ve done this year.”
The production is able to go ahead thanks to the support of The National Lottery, giving thousands of theatregoers in Manchester and across the country the chance to enjoy socially distanced pantomimes this Christmas.
The initiative between The National Lottery and Qdos Entertainment is providing financial support for theatres to stage socially distanced live pantomimes making it viable for venues to open their doors to the general public, generating vital income for the theatre and helping to restore jobs whilst also providing much needed cheer.
Joining Jason and Jodie in Sleeping Beauty will be panto legends Billy Pearce as King Billy and Eric Potts as The Queen, while Jenny Gaynor plays Carabosse, Louis Gaunt as The Prince and Sarah Goggin as Princess Beauty.
Tickets are available now and are available in a range of bubble sizes with a safe distance between each group, so customers can enjoy the festive fun, safely.
Theatre bosses say the safety of both guests and cast are of the highest priority for this panto season by keeping in line with the current government guidelines, adapting to any changes the government may make.
Customers will be able to book for a bubble of up to six with each bubble being separated by a combination of empty rows or empty seats to ensure they are a safe distance from other patrons, reducing the venue’s capacity by 50%.
Staggered arrival times and one way systems will be in place with sanitising stations placed around the venue and deep cleaning taking place between every performance.
Instead of queuing for refreshments, guests will be encouraged to stay in their seats by the removal of the interval and the added ability to order drinks directly to their seats.
Backstage will have a Covid Monitor, employed to keep the cast safe and socially distanced, implementing precautions such as choreographed stage exits and contact-free performing for the actors, with rehearsals limited to just essential cast and creatives for each scene being rehearsed.