For many years, the citizens of Milton Keynes have eagerly anticipated the start of panto season, for we are truly spoiled. Not only do we have the opportunity to visit Milton Keynes theatre, and see some noted celebrities cavort for our entertainment; but we can also choose to dazzle our senses with the sights, sounds and sweet-throwing of the evergreen, ever-popular and always sold-out Best Little Panto in MK – delivered year after year by Milton Keynes Amateur Operatic Society! (and for much of that time, in Stantonbury) UNTIL NOW!
Since 1976, MKAOS have delivered laughter, musical numbers, and dancing to rival pantos everywhere. They are also very proud that, in spite of the oceans of talent and amazing production value displayed for our entertainment, the ticket prices are astonishingly modest in price, especially when compared with other local panto options. For years, they have provided a much-loved Christmas treat, and tickets have been selling out earlier and earlier every year. (They were so well established, they also became known as The Stantonbury Panto.) And they have won Best Pantomime in the East Midlands, nine years in a row, at the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA) Awards!
Except this year, one vital thing has changed – the Best Little Panto has MOVED. The production team, cast, scriptwriter, costumes, directors, even the legendary bench – the WHOLE SHEBANG – will from now on be known as:
The Panto at The Venue MK
Walton High, Walnut Tree
It was a bit of a surprise eviction from their home of many years – especially when over 70% of tickets for this year’s panto had already been sold when they were given notice – but there is lots to look forward to. John Dowell – co-writer, co-producer, co-founder of the production company (Dreams ‘n’ Wishes), Cowardly Lion, and all-round theatre talent – tells us why it’s so exciting:
“It’s a wider stage, so we’ll look and feel less cramped. On the technical side, we’re excited to have a theatre with a fly tower. This means we can raise and lower scenery cloths from above, rather than dragging them off sideways. It’ll make us look very professional!
“For our audience, there’s plenty of parking (Stantonbury can get a little crowded when there are other events on). The entrance has a levelled approach making it easier for all, with a very nice reception area serving snacks and drinks. Inside the seats are much nicer – comfier with more room. And with more seats, hopefully we can accommodate all those disappointed people who miss out on tickets because we sell out so early. All in all, I think the audience will be as pleased as we are, and consider it quite an upgrade!”
And how is the seating working in the new theatre, particularly if you had already bought some in the old theatre?
“So far we’ve been selling tickets that replicated the seating plan at Stantonbury. But there’s extra seats we can sell in The Venue, so as and when shows become close to capacity, we can release those extra seats for sale. That’s why we’re pleased to announce that Row O has now been made now available at selected performances: 17th matinee, 23rd matinee and evening, 27th evening and 30th matinee. So if you wanted a larger family booking or end of aisle seats for any of these shows, you might now be able to grab them – if you’re quick!
(The Cowardly Lion and Scarecrow – John Dowell and Emma Belam – have fun on their promotional shoot at Safari MK)
It sounds lovely – but what can we expect from The Wizard of Oz? It’s not a traditional pantomime after all, and most people are familiar with the 1939 Hollywood classic…is it going to be very different? John explains…
“Yes and no. We can’t use the words or music because they’re copyright protected and can only be performed under licence as the movie musical. But it pretty much follows the original L Frank Baum book ‘The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz’ which is out of copyright and we’re allowed to use that. So yes, it’ll be the story you expect, plus some little bits we added from the book just for fun!”
Regular attendees of the MKAOS panto will know that are many highlights to anticipate, which are enormously popular with returning audiences – so I couldn’t let John go without making sure some of the MKAOS hallmarks will still be there:
“It wouldn’t be a panto without a Dame and a linkman, so we’ve worked hard to get them into the story, along with your favourite panto moments. Spoiler alert; there may be a bench!
“You’ll see your regular favourites in the cast; most were in Aladdin [last year’s MKAOS panto] and some have returned after a break. There are new faces too, including Leah Scott playing Dorothy. It’s her first panto here, though people might remember her brilliant performance with us in our most recent musical, ‘The Wedding Singer’.”
There is, in fact, going to be a December pantomime at Stantonbury – BUT, if you are buying tickets in the hopes that you will see the stuff of local legend, and the Best Little Panto in Milton Keynes, you need to make sure you are buying tickets for The Wizard of Oz, through the Dreams n’ Wishes Productions website, to see MKAOS at The Venue MK.
To snap up your tickets before they sell out, visit the http://www.dreamsnwishes.co.uk/faq.htm or call the Box Office on 07765 084193 and leave a message – every call is always returned!
From L-R: Annette Cowell (Glinda), Simon Page (Tin Man), Emma Belam (Scarecrow), Leah Scott (Dorothy), Steve Clark (Auntie Em), John Dowell (Cowardly Lion), and Juliet Lennox (Wicked Witch of the West)
Good Luck guys and girls x
Mum to Mum is with you all the way!
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