Curtain lifts on theatre pantomime

The programme cover for Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, which was designed by Emily Toft
The programme cover for Dick Whittington and His Cat at the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, which was designed by Emily Toft
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PANTOMIME fever descends on Bury St Edmunds’ Theatre Royal tonight in a whirl of colour, laughter and high jinks.

The venue’s highly anticipated festive production Dick Whittington and His Cat kicks off a near two- month run with its first performance this evening.

Rehearsals for Dick Wittington at the Theatre Royal in Bury.

Rehearsals for Dick Wittington at the Theatre Royal in Bury.

The traditional tale hurls audiences back centuries to an England scarred by the Black Death as they witness young Dick Whittington arrive in London to make his fame and fortune.

Luck shines on the show’s hero but evil forces are at play as the villainous Queen Rat and her army of ratlings are determined to infect everyone with the plague.

Director Colin Blumenau said: “It’s the story people know and love.

“The set is absolutely beautiful. There are songs, both original and covers of more contemporary numbers, a script that introduces us to the goodies and baddies and, of course, the participation of local people.”

The talented cast is led by Gareth Bennett-Ryan in the title role with Lizzie Franks as Tommy the Cat, and Corinna Powlesland as the beady-eyed Queen Rat.

Slipping into the dazzling costumes of panto dame Sarah the Cook – an opera diva turned superstar chef – is Stephen Weller.

The young chorus of Ratlings is formed by students fromt he Hazelwood School of Dance, in Bury.

A spokeswoman said: “With a brand new script penned by Daniel O’Brien and directed by Theatre Royal artistic director Colin Blumenau, hilarious original songs by music maestro Peter White, a wonderous set designed by Will Hargreaves and outlandish costumes by Sarina Hosking, Dick Whittington promises to be a fantastic, feline, fun-filled frolic for all the family.”

This year the panto opens a week earlier due to popular demand with more than 80 performances during its run including a gala show on Sunday, December 18, which features live pre-entertainment, fancy dress and goodie bags.

n The winner of the panto programme competition was Emily Toft, 12, of Ixworth, whose design will be on the front cover of the Dick Whittington programme.

All of the runners-up will be printed inside the programme and displayed around the theatre.

Dick Whittington and His Cat runs until January 15. Call the box office on (01284) 769505 or visit www.theatreroyal.org