PANTOMIME comes back to Bath Theatre Royal this Christmas, and what better way to celebrate than with Cinderella – with the villainous Ugly Sisters, Fairy Godmother, a touching romance and magical transformations, it is “the perfect panto,” says comedian and Bath favourite Jon Monie, who has written the script for the show.
After the lockdowns of 2020 and the heart-break of the pantomime that had to be cancelled, everyone is excited, says Jon.
The cast met for the first time at Bath in mid-October and there was a real buzz. Only Jon and this year’s Fairy Godmother, Dani Harmer have played panto together before.
Ugly Sisters Nic Gibney and Duncan Burt hit it off immediately: “We could finish each other’s sandwiches and sentences,” said Nic, who is happy to be back close to home this Christmas. Nic grew up in a village near Bristol and was deeply involved in the area’s thriving amateur dramatic scene. He loved the stage – particularly musicals – and finally, at the age of 28 took the plunge, got accepted at the Guildford School of Acting. Since then, he has been touring the world, appearing in some of the biggest musicals, including Beauty and the Beast, The Rocky Horror Show and Evita.
He did three Evita contracts, including a tour that came to Bath Theatre Royal. He also met and performed with Patti LuPone, the original Broadway Evita, and was invited to perform with her at New York’s Nederlander Theatre in Deconstructing Patti in 2017. “That was one of the highlights of my life,” he says.
A tour on a cruise ship gave him the opportunity to play one of theatre’s great roles, Elyot in Noel Coward’s Private Lives. “As a musical theatre actor it’s rare to be offered a straight part,” he says.
Other career highlights include playing the Pirate King in the all-male Pirates of Penzance, touring Australia, but he has a special affection for pantomime. “It’s the biggest fun of the year,” he says. “And it’s the hardest work.”
This is a 19th panto appearance at Bath for Jon Monie, who lives in Wiltshire. His many fans will be looking out for his brilliant combination of hilarious jokes, funny faces and poignant moments as the lovelorn Buttons.
Following the success of his Beauty and the Beast, Jon has written the script for this Cinderella. He hasn’t made any dramatic changes, he says, but Cinderella will be a bit more feisty than principal girls tend to be, and he has “had a bit of fun with the Prince.”
It will be the classic Bath mixture of jokes, songs, audience participation and that special magic of the theatre at Christmas. Jon worked for many years with the late, great Chris Harris, and he says they follow Chris’s approach: “What we try to do in Bath is to produce a good, strong, traditional, story-led family pantomime.”
There will be lots of new jokes, but also a couple of familiar routines, such as the ghost sequence which always produces “a wall of sound” from excited children. “We try to transport the audience to a world of adventure, magic and wonderment. I can’t wait!”