Latest news / 16 November, 2020


Milton Keynes Theatre 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 Lee Mead, Claire Sweeney and an all-star cast, Sleeping Beauty will play from Saturday 19 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 Milton Keynes 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 Milton Keynes Theatre, 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.

Best-known for winning the BBC talent show Any Dream Will Do, Lee Mead won the title role in the West End revival of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s Joseph
and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to rave reviews. Since then Lee has had lead roles in Wicked and Legally Blonde in the West End, released
several solo albums and toured extensively. No stranger to pantomime, Lee has starred in seven Qdos Entertainment pantomimes, including his star turn as
Prince Charming in their critically acclaimed production of Cinderella at the London Palladium and last year’s Milton Keynes Theatre pantomime, Aladdin. From 2014 to 2016 Lee starred as Ben “Lofty” Chiltern in Casualty, which saw him nominated for various national Best Newcomer television awards, a role he reprised on the popular BBC spin-off series, Holby City. Sleeping Beauty will see Lee swap the medical gowns for something more regal in the role of the Prince.

Starring alongside Lee as the evil Carabosse will be star of screen and stage, Claire Sweeney. Having shot to fame as Lindsey Corkhill in Brookside, Claire
went on to form a hugely successful stage career, including high-profile appearances in Chicago, Fosse and Guys and Dolls in the West End, was a regular panellist on ITV’s Loose Women and presented numerous shows including 60 Minute Makeover and Chef Vs Britain alongside Gino D’Acampo. Claire returned to the stage touring the UK in Legally Blonde the Musical, Educating Rita and Tell Me on a Sunday, and most recently appeared in the hit comedies
Benidorm for ITV and Scarborough for the BBC, both penned by Derren Litten.

In the role of The Enchantress will be pop and television star Suzanne Shaw, who rose to fame via the popular ITV talent search Popstars and the music group Hearsay. The band’s debut single Pure and Simple was the fastest-selling non-charitable record ever to reach number one, with sell-out tours and a record-breaking album which followed. Suzanne went on to establish herself as an actress with leading stage roles in Chicago, The Rocky Horror Show, Summer Holiday, White Christmas, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, appeared in various pantomimes, and starred as Eve Jenson ITV1’s Emmerdale.
She won the third series of ITV1’s popular skating show Dancing on Ice and participated in the All Stars series in 2014.

Starring as Princess Beauty’s hilarious best friend Muddles is comedian and magician Pete Firman. Widely recognised having starred in BBC1’s prime-time Saturday night programme The Magicians, he has made special guest appearances on ITV1’s The Next Great Magician and Let’s Sing and Dance for Comic Relief. His skill for fusing magic and comedy has made him one of the most in demand magicians working on British television, writing and performing in magic shows such as Monkey Magic, Dirty Tricks, Derren Brown’s 3D Magic Spectacular and The Secret World of Magic. An accomplished television presenter, Pete has fronted the gameshows Stakeout and Wait For It for the BBC and The Body Shocking Show for E4. His stage work has seen him perform his array of magic and comedy across the UK, performing regularly at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal and numerous Qdos Entertainment pantomimes.

This year’s cast will also feature two legends of comedy, Allan Stewart and Andy Gray, who will be swapping their usual pantomime home at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh, where they have delighted almost two million festive theatregoers for the last twenty years, for Milton Keynes Theatre. The much-loved pairing of Scottish comedy royalty will provide all the laughter and quick wit the duo are best-known and loved for in their native home, with Allan playing The Queen and Andy as The King.

Allan Stewart has enjoyed an extensive career in stand up, music and musical theatre for a number of decades, including ITV one-man comedy programme, The Allan Stewart Tapes and he has appeared on a variety of sketch and variety programmes throughout the 1980s. On stage Allan has appeared in
numerous Royal Variety Performances and performed to critical-acclaim in the Olivier Award winning musical Jolson the Musical. A mainstay of pantomime, Allan has appeared at the Kings Theatre in Edinburgh every year since 1998, and holds the venue’s record for playing Dame more times than any other actor.

Andy Gray starred in BBC Scotland’s award-winning comedy Naked Video, sitcom City Lights, Two Thousand Acres of Sky for the BBC and Boyz
Unlimited opposite James Corden. He has regularly toured Scotland in numerous comedies on stage, is a regular at the Edinburgh Fringe and starred in the Susan Boyle musical, I Dreamed a Dream. More recently Andy made his debut in the popular Glasgow-based soap River City and in the 2020 film When
Stars Align.

They will be joined by Tegan Bannister in the title role of Princess Beauty. A graduate of both Sylvia Young Theatre School and Urdang Academy, Tegan has already enjoyed west end success having appeared in The Lion King and most recently as Eponine on the critically-acclaimed UK tour of Les Misérables. Tegan returns to Milton Keynes pantomime having starred as Princess Jasmine last year. Will Jennings also joins the cast as Slimeball, having played Dandini in pantomime for Qdos last year in Wimbledon. Will’s theatre credits include Les Misérables in Concert, Benidorm Live, The Mousetrap, Shrek the Musical and Avenue Q.

General Manager of Milton Keynes Theatre, Emma Sullivan, said: “We are totally overjoyed to be opening our doors again for a fantastic family pantomime! With thanks to Qdos Entertainment and The National Lottery we will be able to host an unforgettable festive experience with all the laughs and thrills you would expect, while making sure the theatre is absolutely safe for our audiences. To express our gratitude to the incredible NHS workers, we will also be inviting them and their loved ones to the first performance free of charge. This year, we hope to give Milton Keynes a much-needed Christmas to remember!”

This new production will be packed full of comedy routines, audience-safe participation and all the unmissable magic that Milton Keynes Theatre audiences have come to expect from their annual festive pantomime. The previously advertised production of Jack and the Beanstalk 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 Milton Keynes Theatre, and other theatres across the UK. Up to 20,000 free tickets to pantomimes across the country, including in Milton Keynes, 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.