Peter Pan, Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton
Jack and the Beanstalk, Middlesbrough Theatre
Leading the way as Fleshcreep in Jack and The Beanstalk at Middlesbrough Theatre is John Altman - best known as Nasty Nick
Get ready to boo and hiss with the best of them for this year looks set to be a goodie when it comes to baddies.
Teesside’s theatres have lifted the curtain on their annual panto extravaganzas and the stars of the show will have a definite roguish side.
In Middlesbrough today for the launch of the show, John donned his dastardly costume for the first time and wasted no time getting in to character at a special photocall to launch the show.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ve never played Middlesbrough Theatre before, this will be my first time.
“I expect I will terrify the kids - so get down to Middlesbrough Theatre for Jack and the Beanstalk or I’ll come round your ‘ouses!”
Jack and the Beanstalk, Ferneham Hall, Ferneham
Fee, fi, fo, fum boomed the giant at Fareham’s Ferneham Hall last night as the theatre played host to an evening of festive fun.
Jack saved the day by climbing the magical beanstalk and rescuing fair Princess Gill in the Christmas pantomime.
And the star of the night was easily the 12-foot tall giant, who made an appearance as he hunted for little children to gobble up for dinner.
This reviewer isn’t entirely sure how the mechanical character was operated from the inside, but he was a sight to behold.
The stage was momentarily lit up with the light of phone flashes.
Ben Redfern returned to the theatre following last year’s run of Cinderella, and proved an audience favourite once again. Playing Jack’s goofy brother Simple Simon, he drove the show forward.
Joining Ben on stage, and playing his loving mother Dame Trott, was actor Mark Siney. Also returning after playing one of the ugly sisters last year, the chemistry with his fairytale son makes them a joy to watch.
If you’re going to watch one scene, then the kitchen one is always a winner – it involved eggs, a lot of flour and a flying pancake.
EastEnders’ Nasty Nick, otherwise known as John Altman, took a break from Albert Square to terrorise the audience as the evil Fleshcreep.
The boos screamed in his direction could probably be heard on the Isle Of Wight, as the children took in their stride the challenge of being the loudest.
As the giant’s faithful sidekick, he oozed menace.
The show was littered with family favourite pantomime tricks, such as the scene where the main characters are lost in the forest before being spooked – of course, he’s behind you! And that’s the fun of pantomime.
The family, whether it be kids or grown-ups, are whisked away into a world of magical fun for an evening. And it’s exactly what Ferneham Hall is offering this festive period.
But, in the end, does Simple Simon learn to make a pancake and does Dame Trott get her man from the audience, faithful Bob?
One thing is for sure, the unfortunate cow, which was sold for those mischievous beans, was an audience favourite.
by Mischa Allen
Christmas Light Switch On
Crowds flocked to Fareham Shopping Precinct to see the switching on of the Christmas lights. (left to right), Santa, The Mayor of Fareham Councillor Susan Bayford with actor John Altman and Peppa Pig.
Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Aladdin, The Plaza, Stockport
He played one of the most infamous soap villains as “Nasty” Nick Cotton in EastEnders, but actor John Altman doesn't mind being typecast as the baddie. John will be heading to Stockport Plaza this Christmas to play yet another pantomime villain – Abanazer in Aladdin.
He smiles: “I've been in around 25 pantomimes and I've played the villain in nearly every one, apart from Cinderella as there aren't really and bad male characters, unless I was to take up playing pantomime dames.”
“Most of the time I do play the baddies. People are usually booing and hissing before I even get on the stage!”
Of course in real life John is nothing like that character that haunts him. And he's looking forward to performing at the Plaza particularly as he's philanthropically involved in preserving such buildings.
He says: “I absolutely love this theatre - it is such an amazing building. "So many of these beautiful old buildings were destroyed, and a a lot of the children in the audience will never have seen anything like this before.
"I belong to the Cinema Theatre Association which works to prevent places like this from being torn down, so for me to perform in this theatre will be a real treat."
Ah, what a good guy after all!
The Adventures of Robin Hood
Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne
The defining factor that separates good pantomimes from great pantomimes is not just the connexion with the audience; it is also the connexions within the cast. A perfect example of this can be found in Eastbourne’s brilliant festive treat. This is not just a pantomime cast – this is more like a family of performers.
Chris Jordan has, as usual, assembled an incredibly talented and, in most cases, familiar team who all act, sing, dance and, to be honest, work their socks off to make sure that the audience has the best possible experience. This is a pantomime in the very best tradition, and the audience reaction throughout shows that young and old alike are able to find plenty to enjoy.
The Sheriff of Nottingham, played by John Altman is suitably evil and with the help of Karen Mann as his mother, Morgiana, they make a tremendously nasty double-act with both children and adults soon filling the air with boos and hisses. Tracey Penn, every inch the traditional Principal Boy, is just perfect as Robin Hood. Playing with the full thigh-slapping gusto that the role demands, she powers her way through the musical numbers, shows that she is a very proficient dancer and provides the audience with the perfect antidote to all that evil.
After taking a break from the cast last year, Carl Patrick returns to take the role of Will Scarlet which he plays with comic perfection. Enticing the children to scream “Watcha Willy” every time he appears gets plenty of sniggers from the younger section of the audience and allows Martyn Knight, as his mother, Dame Desdemona Double-Top, to provide the older spectators with a few saucy jokes and double entendres. Wearing 11 amazing costumes, ranging from a baby–doll nightie to a full crinoline with various huge creepy-crawlies all over it, every entrance was a spectacular revelation.
Robin’s love interest, and ward of King Richard, Maid Marion Francesca Leyland is perfectly cast as she is suitably regal, but with more than a touch of vulnerability about her. The band of Merry Men is completed by David Alder, Nicholas Colicos and Ray Griffiths as Friar Tuck, Little John and Much the Miller’s son respectively, who all do their very best to extract every laugh they can out of the more-than-willing audience.
The finales to act one and two were both as spectacular as they were unusual and helped, once again, to make this pantomime stand out from the crowd. From the moment the curtain went up to reveal an opening number lifted straight from Les Misèrables, to the climax of the production – which could easily have been lifted from the show that is soon to be seen at the Palace Theatre in London – this piece is a total and utter gem. I cannot award six stars for a performance but if I could, I honestly would.
Jack and the Beanstalk, King's Lynn Corn Exchange
A bad boy of soap opera is swapping Albert Square for King's Lynn's Tuesday Market Place this Christmas.
John Altman, who played nasty Nick Cotton in Eastenders, will be starring in the first Christmas pantomime to be held at the King Lynn Corn Exchange.
It is hoped the £100,000 commercial production of Jack and the Beanstalk will bring new and younger audiences to the town's theatre.
Earlier this year West Norfolk Council announced the pantomime, traditionally held at the Princess Theatre in Hunstanton, would be moved to the King's Lynn Corn Exchange.
The Hunstanton Theatre management will be leased out, with the successful bidder expected to be announced tomorrow.
Mr Altman said he was looking forward to being part of the first pantomime to be held in King's Lynn. “I'm really excited about that and we hope it is going to be a big success. I think the way to make it a success will be to give it everything we've got.
“We are going to give them a top class panto of the standard you would find in any big city. That is what's coming here to King's Lynn.”
Mr Altman said he had been offered parts in other towns, but had chosen King's Lynn. “I decided to do this one because I seemed to recall that it's a lovely place. This came up and I knew that it was a very attractive place.
“It is great fun doing panto and I love entertaining the kids. I always get a great reaction from them. “Having recently been back to Eastenders I will hopefully be recognised from people aged eight to 80.”
Aladdin, Gordon Craig Theatre, Stevenage
EASTENDERS Nasty Nick will be at his most evil this winter. John Altman, who plays the Albert Square bad guy, will be playing the part of Abanazar in The Gordon Craig Theatre s Christmas Pantomime Aladdin and he s looking forward to getting reacquainted with the Stevenage public.
Speaking to The Comet about the show he said: "I'm very much looking forward to it. I've done pantomime in Stevenage before about 10 years or so ago when we did Dick Whittington and I was King Rat. There was big ship in it and it was great fun.
"There's a great old tradition at Stevenage. I like the size of the auditorium at Stevenage it's not too big. At Canterbury, although they are changing it now it's very big and that makes it harder.
"The intimacy of The Gordon Craig Theatre lends itself to panto and you can reach people a lot easier.
"Also people go back to the panto at The Gordon Craig year after year. They're a lively lot down in Stevenage."
John is no stranger to the part of Abanazar and is hoping he gets the opportunity to play some tricks on the unsuspecting audience.
"I've played him before, he's a shady Egyptian magician so hopefully I'll get to play a few tricks on people and terrify them even more. I'm hoping to get lots of boos because I wouldn't be doing my job otherwise."
He added: "I think it was in Stevenage once, that a lady bought her son back afterwards to show him I wasn't the nasty man he'd seen on stage but I still had my costume and make-up on and as soon as he saw me he burst into tears and held onto his mum's skirt as tight as he could. It was well intentioned but it backfired!
Panto is all about making kids believe what they see is real.
The Gordon Craig Theatre has a long tradition with pantomime and John believes there are several reasons why it is so popular. "It's an old tradition and combines the good old English humour, that carry on used - the sort of postcard humour." "It's a family event at a festive time in a long grey winter. It's a relief all round at quite a stressful time of the year and it's allows people to go out and boo and hiss and cheer and let it all out."
John has been heavily involved in the EastEnders storyline of late and recently went out in a blaze of glory as the café was blown up a scene he says he had great fun filming.
"I'm ending my time there and it's been fun," he said. "I got very close and got very hot. It was exciting - I was inches away from the flames but it was all done very safely. We had the Harrow fire brigade on hand to make sure it was all safe.
"The stunt guys have these pipes that they feed gas through and they move them around that make it look like there's a big fire."
The hosts, Babs and Gaz, along with three of the stars of this year's pantomime, Aladdin, showing at the Gordon Craig Theatre, including John Altman (Nick Cotton from EastEnders) and Craig Perry, at the Stevenage Christmas Lights Switch-on 26 November 2009
Dick Whittington, Hexagon Theatre, Reading
A BOLT of lightning roars through the PA system and backstage staff scurry around with their voices hushed.
It's an hour before the matinee performance of Dick Whittington, this year's pantomime at Reading's Hexagon Theatre, and all hands are on deck making final preparations.
The production, which has been running since December 6, features ex-Hollyoaks actress Christina Baily who plays Dick, and EastEnders comeback actor John Altman, who stars as the villainous Evil King Rat.
There's an of air anticipation in the warren of backstage rooms, which resembles a bomb site, with random items strewn around - a green polystyrene hand, a sailor's hat, discarded paint pots and an old vacuum cleaner to mention a few.
Head flier Lorenz Hamadeh, who is in charge of the curtains and putting the scenery backcloths in place, is making final checks with the stage crew.
"We're always a bit boisterous and the adrenaline starts flowing," he says. From a backstage point of view, the cloths and the set have been more involving than in previous years.
"They're more detailed, so when you look from the front it looks more three-dimensional.
"We've had to work a little bit harder than in previous shows."
Meanwhile, wardrobe assistant Emma Lloyd is frantically unloading costumes from a tumble drier and shipping them to the dressing rooms in a washing basket.
"I've been making some of the costumes, organising them, maintaining them, washing them, then I dress the actors during the show," she explains concisely. It's very busy in the mornings and busy throughout the whole day. Everything has to be washed after the show and everything has to be dried and ironed."
As the anticipation mounts, members of the cast are pacing around in their dressing rooms, reading over their lines.
"I guess on the first show you're pretty nervous," says John Altman, sitting in a white bath robe and blue pumps, applying his make-up.
"The adrenaline is flowing, even if you've been in the business a long time. Anyone who says different isn't telling the truth, especially in pantomimes, because you have half the time to practice. There's a hell of a lot to fit in and it's a bit hair-raising when the curtain goes up."
The 56-year-old, who commutes from Richmond, has to rise at 5am each day, and says he rests and psychs himself up by listening to heavy rock music and hitting the gym.
Analysing his evil character, who attracts a hail of boos and hisses, he says: "I especially like the physicality of getting myself into a rat-like mode, with the walk and the movements. King Rat is unique, he's devious and mysterious."
But door man Dil Longstaffe, who controls who comes and goes, is somewhat detached from the melee, and says: "Sometimes it looks like pandemonium and I wonder how on earth can they get a show together, when they're walking about with half an outfit on.
"It's the part that the audience doesn't see, but the hustle and bustle is all part of what they do."
Snow White, Civic Theatre, Darlington
Listen to John talking about his role in Snow White at the Civic Theatre, Darlington 2007. Click below.
Jack and the Beanstalk, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
This year’s pantomime seems to take on a sharper edge. The dancers display more athletic technique than previous years, giving them the chance to show off their talents. The sets have more depth and realism and there seems to be an overall assured confidence within the cast.
This must be due in part to choosing a cast which gel comfortably together. Ben Nicholas aka Stingray from Neighbours has mastered audience participation and with Steve Walls as his brother Billy, the humour and slapstick are well executed. Geordie Walls is brilliantly cast and performs with experienced confidence.
Petite Rachel Jerram makes an endearing Princess Tamara with a powerful voice. Her father the King is played by Livy Armstrong with an amusing, bumbling authority.
Amanda Barrie, from Coronation Street and Bad Girls performs a childlike Fairy Sugarsnap with balletic flourishes and some delightful moments involving her broken wand.
EastEnders’ bad boy Nick Cotton alias John Altman plays her nemesis Fleshcreep. Being evil is clearly no difficulty for Altman and his musical numbers are well performed.
. Local favourite, comedian Dave Lee appears this year as Widow Twankey. His popularity with the Marlowe audiences makes him and his ghost gag bench a real crowd pleaser.
The Marlowe hits the mark again this year and with flying peas, a brilliant dancing cow and an impressive giant, the producers Evolution Pantomimes have continued to provide new ideas to reward its faithful audiences.
Two of the stars of Jack and the Beanstalk, this year's panto at The Marlow in Canterbury, came to Deal to switch on the Christmas Lights on Thursday (23 November). Shown here in Gerry Costa's photos of the ceremony, outside St George's Church in Deal High Street, are Amanda Barrie (from ITV's Coronation Street) and John Altman (from BBC-tv's Eastenders) together with Deal mayor Cllr Jim Cronk, and Deal and Walmer Chamber of Trade president Cllr Pat Heath.
Aladdin, Lyceum Theatre, Crewe
THE good, the bad and the beautiful have been unveiled in a puff of smoke to herald this year's Lyceum Theatre panto in Crewe.
It was launched by a spectacular array of actors as the cast of Aladdin graced the stage ahead of their appearances in December.
Former stars of EastEnders, Emmerdale, The Bill and Brookside donned their costumes to whet appetites for what is to come in the Christmas production of Charles Vance's Aladdin.
Original soap bad boy John Altman, who came to fame through his role as nasty Nick Cotton in EastEnders , plays Abanazar.
Since leaving the soap, he has appeared in Oliver! and had an outstanding run as Billy Flynn in the musical Chicago.
Altman appeared in a play called Worm's Eye View at the Lyceum in March and is looking forward to returning to Crewe.
He says: 'The Lyceum theatre is a beautiful theatre and the audiences are always full of life and create a good atmosphere.
'It's lovely working there as it's perfect for panto.
'I like coming back to do theatre performances because you always have to give it that little bit more than in film and TV.'
Jack and the Beanstalk, The Pavillion, Worthing
Old Panto pic of Rollo,David Karl and John Altman. Jack and the beanstalk at the Worthing pavilion theatre.
Peter Pan, Beck Theatre, Hayes
By Rachel Sharp, Leigh Journal
Peter Pan at the Beck Theatre was all a Panto should be and more. The old favourite told the magical story of the boy who didn't want to grow up and instead spent his days fighting pirates in Neverland.
The wonderful scenery transported the audience from the roof-tops of London to a fairytale Lagoon in the Neverland forest, where Captain Hook fought the brave hero Peter Pan.
John Altman (aka 'nasty' Nick Cotton) was, as usual, a brilliant baddie in his role as the evil Captain Hook, and Sara Hillier was completely believable as the impish Peter Pan.
Altman played his villainous character to full effect and soon had the children booing and hissing every time he so much as stepped on the stage.
Russ Kane of Capital Radio fame brilliantly played Hooks' sidekick, Starkey, and the hilarious Jeff Stevenson as the pirate Smee was the link man, keeping the story moving along nicely and involving all the kids in the fun.
There was more singing and dancing in Peter Pan than I remembered as a child, but it was worth it. The children from Hillingdon Theatre Dance Centre were fantastic, and Vicki Randall who played Wendy sang beautifully.
And then there were the pirates. Apart from a comical sketch involving floor mops and the hilarious 'He, Me, Who, Him' sketch, the acrobatic dance displays by the pirates, played by Joey Bryans and Philip Marriott, were a good enough reason alone for anyone to want to step aboard the Jolly Roger.
There were just enough 'he's behind you' moments, sing-a-longs, and the usual slapstick humour that goes hand in hand with Pantos to keep everyone entertained, including the adults. And for the adults trying to re-capture their childhoods, well I am not embarrassed to say that I screamed myself hoarse trying to tell Peter Pan and his gang there was a crocodile behind them, and I clapped along furiously with all the five year olds to save the beautiful Tinkerbell, played by Lucie Cullinan.
Peter Pan, Derngate Theatre, Northampton
Kristen O'Brien as Peter Pan and John Altman as Captain Hook
CBBC's Kristen O'Brien and EastEnders' baddie 'Nasty' Nick Cotton (John Altman) star in this year's Derngate pantomime, Peter Pan. Kristen O'Brien is the boy who never grows up, Peter Pan, whilst Altman plays his arch enemy, Captain Hook. He's taking a break from touring in the musical Chicago to play Captain Hook. It's his first visit to Northampton but it's a return visit for Kristen O'Brien. She played Peter Pan at Derngate in 1997.
Also in the show is Andy Ford, who's famous for his crazy antics as Patrick Baker on Five's children's show Havakazoo. He plays Hook's sidekick Smee.
The panto also features the Tangra Troupe - an award-winning balancing and tumbling act from Bulgaria. They'll be playing pirates.
Comedian Jim Davidson's own production company is behind this show at the Derngate. They're promising spectacular effects and plenty of fun and laughter.
Bronze statue of panto legend Dave Lee unveiled outside the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury
Hundreds turned out despite the downpour for the grand unveiling of a statue of panto legend Dave Lee.
The bronze figure, complete with the comedian's trademark bench, was created as a tribute to the "country's most famous and respected panto dame", who died in 2012 aged 64.
It has been installed outside the Marlowe Theatre, providing a permanent reminder of the dedicated entertainer who performed more than 1,000 pantos there over 16 years.
A devoted philanthropist, he also raised more than £2 million for his charity, Dave Lee's Happy Holidays, which sent ill and disabled children and their families on trips.
Theatre-lovers and showbiz friends, including the likes of John Altman, Richard Digance, Joe Pasquale and Brenda Blethyn, turned out in force yesterday to honour the larger-than-life comic.
Marlowe Theatre director Mark Everett said the statue provided a tangible memento of someone who was "a big fella in every sense of the word".
Panto directors Paul Hendy and Emily Wood with actor John Altman
He said: "It's a wonderful moment and a great tribute to a great man who we still miss - particularly during pantomime season.
"Dave was such a fixture here, and never, ever missed a performance. People remember him with great affection.
"He wasn't much of an actor but had a great presence on stage. Audiences miss him, but his legacy is first-class pantomime here in Canterbury."
EastEnders star John Altman, who met Dave many years ago while starring in panto in Surrey.
Paying tribute to his "very dear old friend", the actor from Herne Bay - famous for playing "Nasty Nick" Cotton - described Dave as "unique and warm".
Hundreds attend Dave Lee's funeral in Canterbury
Hundreds of people have attended the funeral of the Kent comedian and pantomime star Dave Lee at Canterbury Cathedral. Lee, 64, who was described as an "incredible comedian" and a "wonderful ambassador for Kent", died of pancreatic cancer two weeks ago.
He starred in more than 1,000 pantomime performances over 16 years at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury.
John Altman gave a reading at the funeral.
Altman was born in Herne Bay, went to school in Whitstable and had known Dave for 25 years.
He said: "We had three things in common; we were both born on March 2; we both played drums and we both supported Tottenham Hotspur."
John Altman arrives for the funeral