Shrewsbury pantomime Sleeping Beauty aims to draw in crowd of 35,000
[gallery] Shropshire's biggest pantomime is set to attract more than 35,000 visitors this winter and smash box office records for the second year running, according to theatre bosses.
Peter Nicholson, theatre manager for Theatre Severn, said early indications from ticket sales showed this year's production of Sleeping Beauty was due to beat the 2012 attendance figure when just under 35,000 people flocked to see Jack and the Beanstalk.
In 2011, about 33,000 people saw the production of Aladdin.
Mr Nicholson said ticket sales were looking "extremely good" on the same time last year as cast and crew prepare for the biggest pantomime yet – with 63 performances over five weeks from December 5 to January 12.
"We don't just want to match last year – we want to beat it," he said.
"The tickets are selling extremely well. This is the third year now that Evolution Productions has been behind the show and we're really starting to build a reputation for staging what is a quality production."
The theatre chief was speaking as cast and crew – complete with a fire-breathing dragon – attended the official press launch for the show at Shrewsbury Castle, in Castle Foregate.
The show features Brad Fitt as Nurse Nellie, BBC Radio Shropshire presenter Eric Smith as King Eric and comedian Adam Moss as Jangles.
Following the launch at Shrewsbury Castle, open auditions for this year's show were held at Theatre Severn.
Children aged between eight and 15 strutted their stuff for two hours in a bid to win a place in the dancing ensemble. They were taught a routine to learn for the show as part of the audition.
For the third year in succession the town's annual pantomime has been written and produced by Shropshire TV personality Paul Hendy, originally from Dawley in Telford, who made his name on shows such as Don't Try This At Home and Wheel of Fortune.
Mr Hendy, who has run Evolution Productions with his wife Emily Wood since 2005 and now holds eight productions across the country each year, pledged that this year's show would be the funniest yet.
"I am very proud to be here," he said. "I am Dawley born and bred and my family still live there and to win this contract three years ago with Theatre Severn was a dream for me.
"One of the reasons we're successful is the quality cast we've put together – we try to bring genuine West End talent to the stage in Shropshire and not just cast celebrities for celebrity sake like some shows do."
He said: "This show will really cement our reputation and it genuinely is the funniest one yet especially when two tonnes of water is used to drench Brad and Adam on stage."
The former TV star said he had named the fire-breathing dragon Helga, after his mother-in-law. Rehearsals start in mid-November, with tickets for the pantomime on sale now. For tickets call (01743) 281281 or visit www.theatresevern.co.uk
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