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Sleeping Beauty & Peter Pan Previews

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 8th Oct 2012 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

As the region’s theatre’s turn their attention to the festive season, STEVE BURBRIDGE takes a look at what is on offer in Darlington and Sunderland this Christmas.

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A North East theatre has announced that the cast of this year’s pantomime, Sleeping Beauty, will be headed by a real-life husband and wife dream team.

Darlington Civic Theatre’s seasonal spectacular will once again star popular panto performers, Linda Lusardi and Sam Kane.

They say that happy endings only ever occur in fairy tales, but it was back in 1998 that Linda Lusardi, who was appearing as Snow White at the venue, met her real-life handsome prince in the form of hunky Sam Kane. They fell in love and the rest is history.

Fourteen years later the couple, who are now married and have two children, will be spinning the magic again and marking their fifteenth Christmas season performing together.

With a 25-year career in film, television and stage, Linda has starred in pantomimes across the country and will be taking on the role of the evil Carabosse. Sam, who has been a stalwart of musical theatre for many years and is well-known for his appearances in Brookside, Emmerdale and Coronation Street, plays the henchman and also directs the production.

The cast also includes Darlington’s very own former Pop Idol contestant, Zoe Birkett, in the title role. After finishing fourth, behind Will Young, Gareth Gates and Darius Danesh, she went on to have a successful singing career. Zoe returned to Darlington to take the lead role in the Civic’s 2007 pantomime, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

South Shields-born playwright and pantomime dame extraordinaire, Philip Meeks appears as Nurse Dolly, and comic Andy Jones is Muddles.

Jon Conway, executive producer of Sleeping Beauty, said: “Darlington Civic Theatre’s annual pantomime provides a wonderful opportunity for the whole family to come together and enjoy an unmissable visit to the theatre. We are delighted to have Linda and Sam leading a superb cast and I’m sure Sleeping Beauty will prove to be our best pantomime yet.”

Sleeping Beauty is produced by Qdos Entertainment, the world’s largest pantomime producer, and features an abundance of comedy, stunning sets and fabulous costumes and has the Civic Theatre’s hallmark of value-for-money and outstanding entertainment for all ages.

Lynda Winstanley, director of the theatre, said: “Here at the Civic, we love panto – Christmas wouldn’t be the same without it. Make sure you make a date to join us.”

Sleeping Beauty is at the Civic Theatre, Darlington from Saturday, December 8, 2012 until Sunday 20 January 2013. Tickets are on sale now and are priced from £13.50 to £21, with concessions available. To book call 01325 486 555 or log on to


This year’s pantomime at Sunderland’s Empire Theatre will not just be a fight of good against evil, it will also be a battle of the soaps!

Emmerdale goes head to head with Hollyoaks as Tom Lister, best known for playing ladies man Carl King, performs as dastardly Captain Hook, and Sarah Jane Buckley, who achieved notoriety as crazy Kathy Barnes, stars as the kindly Mrs Darling in Peter Pan.

The Wearside venue, which dropped the traditional festive panto for the last two years in favour of blockbusting musicals Legally Blonde and White Christmas, is promising a swashbuckling adventure which will be a treat for both young and old.

Audiences will be flown away on a magical journey to Neverland. With spectacular costumes and sets, stunning effects, jokes, songs, dancing and lots of audience participation, the story of the boy who never grew up will be brought to life by a stellar cast.

“Panto is such a wonderful experience,” said Sarah Jane Buckley. “Peter Pan is such a great story and lots of fun. I just love seeing children coming to the theatre. Some people ridicule panto but I see it as a great way to give children a real theatre experience which is massively important.

"If just one child grows to love theatre as a result of seeing our panto, then I feel we will have done our job.”

Sarah Jane cites Peter Pan as her favourite pantomime, having performed as Mrs Darling in Malvern, Rhyl, Tunbridge Wells and Lowestoft. Sunderland marks her fifth consecutive season in the role.

And the actress loves the challenge of a dual role, too.

"I play Mrs Darling quite straight but then play the Magical Mermaid as a real, down-to-earth Liverpool lass, heavy Scouse accent, the works. It’s such fun and a real hoot.”

Sarah Jane garnered rave reviews for her performance as Eva Cassidy in the musical based on the tragically short life of the shy songstress, Over The Rainbow. She also has an impressive list of other musical theatre credits including roles in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Oliver!

The cast also includes kids’ favourites Sy Thomas (CBBC’s The Revolting World of Stanley Brown) as Smee and Katy Ashworth (CBeebies’ I Can Cook) in the title role.

Peter Pan is produced by UK Productions, one of the country’s leading producers of musical theatre and pantomime, with arrangement from Great Ormond Street Hospital and Samuel French Ltd.

Ben Phillips, Sunderland Empire general manager, said: “As a huge fan of pantomime I can’t wait for Peter Pan to swoop down on to our stage this Christmas. It will be a show that will not fail to delight.”

Peter Pan is at the Empire Theatre, Sunderland from Thursday, December 13, 2012 until Saturday, January 6, 2013. Tickets are on sale now and are priced from £10 to £25, with concessions available. To book call 0844 817 3022 or log on to




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