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New Wolsey's rock 'n' roll panto will celebrate 1,000 performances with forthcoming showing of Beauty and the Beast

PUBLISHED: 10:31 18 December 2014 | UPDATED: 10:36 18 December 2014

Shirley Darroch as Fairy Aubergine in rock 'n' roll panto Jack and the Beanstalk at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike Kwasniak

Shirley Darroch as Fairy Aubergine in rock 'n' roll panto Jack and the Beanstalk at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike Kwasniak

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The New Wolsey can't be approaching its 1,000th rock 'n' roll panto performance already - oh yes it can!

Will Kenning, Sarah Mahony and Karen Mann in rock 'n' roll panto Sleeping Beauty at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike KwasniakWill Kenning, Sarah Mahony and Karen Mann in rock 'n' roll panto Sleeping Beauty at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike Kwasniak

Starting back in 2001, it’ll reach the magic milestone with the December 30 evening show of Beauty and the Beast.

Performing each of the seven traditional shows – Cinderella, Aladdin, Jack and Beanstalk, Robin Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Dick Whittington and His Cat and Beauty and The Beast – twice, it’s estimated by next February the Civic Drive theatre will have shifted 400,000 tickets in the last 14 years.

That’s enough to fill Wembley Stadium 4.4 times, a Boeing 747 1,159 times, an Ipswich bus 4,210 times and Ipswich Town’s Portman Road stadium 13.2 times.

“Here at the New Wolsey we’ve always taken panto very seriously. For most people it’s their first experience of live theatre; for many it’s the only time in the year they go to a show,” said artistic director Peter Rowe.

Esther Biddle as Good Fairy Fortunate in rock 'n' roll panto Beauty and the Beast at the New WolseyEsther Biddle as Good Fairy Fortunate in rock 'n' roll panto Beauty and the Beast at the New Wolsey

“This is why every department in our theatre is stretching itself to the limit at Christmas time to provide the most action packed, fun-filled, joyous, anarchic entertainment we can, for an audience of all ages.”

The total combined playing weeks of all 14 actor-musician shows - which weave classic rock, pop and soul songs into well-known tales - is 126 weeks. That accounts for 2.4 years of their 14-year history. If you performed them back to back it would take 100 days.

Ninety actors have appeared in the New Wolsey’s rock ‘n’ roll pantos so far. The top five appearances are: Shirley Darroch – seven pantos (553 performances), Harry Myers – six pantos (430 performances), Steve Simmonds – five pantos (385 performances), Sarah Mahony, currently Luxury in this year’s Beauty and the Beast – four pantos (326 performances) and Esther Biddle, currently Good Fairy Fortunate in this years’ Beauty and the Beast – four pantos (325 performances)

“At its best, pantomime relies on and rejuvenates that community spirit which is the essence of the live theatre experience,” added Rowe, revealing next year’s show will be announced next March.

Sarah Mahony, Harry Myers, Alex Tomkins, Steve Simmonds and Francesca Loren in rock 'n' roll panto Aladdin at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike KwasniakSarah Mahony, Harry Myers, Alex Tomkins, Steve Simmonds and Francesca Loren in rock 'n' roll panto Aladdin at the New Wolsey. Pictures: Mike Kwasniak

“It’s a style of pantomime which has proved extremely popular - not just with our audiences but with all of us involved in making it.”

Go behind the scenes here and read the review here.

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