Is it curtains for the Juniors' panto?

IT could be curtains for the Co-op Juniors' Christmas shows at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich.Ipswich council, which runs the Regent, is considering bringing in a professional pantomime for an extended season at East Anglia's largest theatre.

By Paul Geater

IT could be curtains for the Co-op Juniors' Christmas shows at the Regent Theatre in Ipswich.

Ipswich council, which runs the Regent, is considering bringing in a professional pantomime for an extended season at East Anglia's largest theatre.

That would force the Juniors to move their production – possibly to the February half-term.


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The move from the traditional Christmas slot will cause outrage among the Juniors' loyal following across the region.

For many families taking relatives, the show has become one of the highlights of the seasonal period with loyal followers going year after year.

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Until now, the Juniors have always been a fixture in the theatre at Christmas and there has been no real pressure to move it.

"The Juniors are fantastic, and always one of the most popular shows at the theatre," a senior council source told The Evening Star.

"But we do have to look at all the options – it may be that we go for a professional show and invite the Juniors to look at different dates.

"Or they could appear alongside professionals. We have to look at what we can do at the theatre," the source added.

Juniors' pantomimes have always sold out and have been more of a money-spinner than most professional shows for the theatre.

But because they are amateur productions, they only stage a limited number of shows – Snow White was produced on nine days.

Officials at the Co-op Juniors had not been told about the council's considering booking a professional pantomime in future.

However, the group has booked the Regent for the next four Christmases.

"We shall need to contact the council quickly to find out exactly what they are considering for the Regent," said Pam Walker from the Co-op member education department, which runs the Juniors.

"We have heard these comments in the past, but the council administration has always been in favour of us staying at the Regent. If there is any talk about this, we need to be involved."

It is very difficult to find other acts to fill the Regent during the remainder of January – few shows are touring because most theatres are booked by professional pantomimes at this time.

This year the Regent has just one show booked for the rest of January – Chris Rea is performing on January 26.

For years, opposition councillors have suggested that a professional pantomime should be brought in – some theatres use a six-week pantomime to effectively bankroll themselves for the rest of the year – but these suggestions have always been rejected by the ruling Labour group.

They have been concerned that a long panto at the Regent would undermine the highly-successful New Wolsey productions.

There is also the fear that the Juniors could suffer from "panto overload". If families have already been to see pantos at the New Wolsey and the Regent at Christmas, will they really want to shout: "It's behind you!" again in February?

The future of the Regent has been subject of a long-term review by officials and councillors in Ipswich.

The only firm decision that has been taken is that it will remain a theatre – everything else is up for discussion.

Until recently it was claimed the theatre would only be attractive to professional companies if a multi-million pound extension was built.

However, the successful productions like Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Corpse, and Caught in the Net have proved that it is able to put on these shows now.

This spring the West End musical Boogie Nights is also expected to draw the crowds.

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