Latest news / 5 November, 2020


Manchester Opera House and pantomime producers Qdos Entertainment have today announced that a socially-distanced pantomime will be staged at the venue, with an all-new production of Sleeping Beauty, thanks to support from The National Lottery.

Starring Salford-born funny man Jason Manford as Muddles, with comic legend Billy Pearce as King Billy, musical theatre leading lady Jodie Prenger as The Enchantress and Eric Potts as The Queen, Sleeping Beauty will play from Saturday 12 December for a strictly limited 3 week run.

The production is able to go ahead thanks to the support of The National Lottery, which will give thousands of theatregoers, in Manchester and across the country, the chance to enjoy socially distanced pantomime this Christmas. The show is being staged as a result of an initiative between The National Lottery and Qdos Entertainment which is providing financial support for theatres to stage socially distanced, live pantomimes this festive season. This will make it viable for venues, including the Opera House, to open their doors to the general public, generating vital income for the theatre and helping to restore jobs while providing much-needed cheer for pantomime lovers.

Jason Manford has solidified his reputation as one of the nation’s best-loved comedians having enjoyed success on stage, on screen and on tour for almost two decades. Earning multiple awards from an early age for his comedy, including a nomination for the hotly contested Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe, Jason soon became a staple of UK television, hosting numerous Comedy Galas for Channel 4, his own ITV variety show Comedy Rocks and numerous episodes of Live at the Apollo for the BBC.

As an actor, Jason has appeared on stage in the musicals Sweeney Todd and Curtains in London’s West End, toured the UK in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and in Mel Brooks’ The Producers, and released his own album of show tunes, A Different Stage. Most recently he starred in Derren Litten’s BBC comedy Scarborough, and came a close second on ITV’s musical contest, The Masked Singer. Sleeping Beauty marks Jason’s first foray into the world of pantomime.

Speaking on his casting, Jason Manford said:

“To play Panto in Manchester this year of all years feels like a very special job indeed. To help cheer up the families and children of my own city, after what has been one of the hardest years many of us will have ever faced, is an honour and a privilege. I take my own family to see a Panto every year and it’s a wonderful introduction to the theatre for the children and a fabulous Christmas tradition for all. I’m so excited to be following in the footsteps of some of my comedy heroes, as well as leading a company of talented cast, crew, and the wonderful, hard working front-of-house staff at the Manchester Opera House.

Many of us will not have been in a theatre since March, so the anticipation of sharing this hilarious show with you this Christmas is thrilling. I am so chuffed to have been asked by the Panto specialists, Qdos Entertainment, to help support Manchester theatres this festive season and all the while having a blooming good laugh with you and your family.”

Jason will be joined by comic legend, Billy Pearce, as King Billy. A mainstay of variety entertainment since the 1980s, Billy came to national prominence when he appeared on New Faces, which led to numerous high-profile stage and screen appearances, including 5 Children’s Royal Variety Performances, one of which he hosted, and 3 Royal Variety Performances. Billy recently received the Services to Arts and Entertainment award at the Yorkshire Awards and the Pride of Yorkshire Award. Sleeping Beauty marks his first pantomime season away from the Bradford Alhambra Theatre where he starred every year for over two decades.

Best-known for winning the coveted role of Nancy in the West End revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! through the BBC talent show I’d Do Anything, Jodie Prenger rose to fame singing for survival in front of a panel of famous judges and millions of television viewers every Saturday night also winning the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical. She is a regular guest DJ for BBC Radio 2 and has toured the UK extensively in the in the one-woman musical, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Tell Me On a Sunday, starred in the title role of Calamity Jane on its UK tour and appeared nationwide in the acclaimed, one-woman, Willy Russell play Shirley Valentine.

Best-known for his role as Coronation Street’s eccentric baker Diggory Compton Eric Potts stars as The Queen. Eric has appeared in and written numerous
pantomimes over the last two decades, bringing his unique brand of comedy and showmanship, in an array of outrageous costumes to audiences’ delight. His
television roles include Doctor Who, Still Game, Peak Practice and Brookside, and he regularly appears on stage across the UK in classical plays, revues and
comedies. Sleeping Beauty marks Eric’s return to the Opera House having starred alongside Craig Revel Horwood in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs last

They will be joined by Louis Gaunt as The Prince. Most recently seen as Kenicke in the UK tour of Grease, Louis has appeared in Sweet Charity at Nottingham Playhouse, Kiss Me, Kate at Sheffield Crucible and starred as Will Parker in Oklahoma! at the Grange Park Opera, for which he won the 2018 Stage Debut Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

This new production will be packed full of comedy routines, audience-safe participation and all the unmissable magic that Manchester Opera House audiences have come to expect from their annual festive pantomime. The previously advertised production of Aladdin will be staged in 2021 and existing bookers have already been contacted with details of their new tickets.

The support of The National Lottery will ensure that socially distanced panto can take place this year at Manchester Opera House, and other theatres across the UK. Up to 20,000 free tickets to pantomimes across the country, including in Manchester, will be made available to National Lottery players to thank them for making it possible for this Christmas tradition to go ahead. National Lottery players raise on average £30M each week for Good Causes. This year has
seen up to £600M in National Lottery funding being used by charities and organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus outbreak across the
arts, community and charity, heritage, education, environment and sport sectors.