Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The panto's the thing

There is much to be glum about at this time of year, but one light I always look for in the autumn shadows is the revelation of which unlikely celebrities have been hired for panto season. Who has traded a pound of their flesh (which, if casting permits, they can disguise with a menacing hook) for the adulation of near-sighted pensioners and children totally jazzed on carbonated soft drinks and Jelly Babies?  Acts you may not have heard of in 15 or 20 years, who you assumed had perished in an inferno of political correctness and reality television, will rise phoenix-like to give their Baron Hard-Up in Woking or their Buttons in Wolverhampton.

In particular, I am fascinated by the US celebrities who have been lured over here to embrace our long-cherished festivities. In recent years, pantogoers have seen The Fonz as Captain Hook, Patrick Duffy as Baron Hardup, creepy little Mickey Rooney (Hardup again) and Paul Michael Glaser  (another Hook). Fonzie initially motorcycled in to replace Hasselhoff, who got a better offer. It would seem from this that Captain Hook is touted as the Hamlet of panto roles, with Baron Hardup the King Lear. This surely must be one of the ways in which the stars are sold the gig by 'their people'. Like, 'Hey! You're doing theatre! In England! They invented theatre! You'll be getting really raw with your craft.' And 'Panto's, like, a rilly, rilly old custom. Y'know, like Shakespeare!' Either that, or it's the mythologically enormous paypacket that panto purportedly dangles.

Little do our American cousins realise that come mid-January, they'll have contracted tonsilitis five times as it is passed back and forth, in and out of the dressing rooms. And as well as their costume, lovingly stitched from the finest manmade fibres, they'll be wearing a large coldsore every night, which has been fed and watered by the freezing English weather. After they've performed their cover of Rihanna's Umbrella, while dancing with Faye from Steps and a dozen children twirling umbrellas, and helped cook a slapstick wedding breakfast for the finale using a giant box of cereal with Credit Crunch written on it, they'll be spending every lonely night sleeping in a grubby Holiday Inn, making up complimentary sachets of Cadbury's Options with their own hot tears, dreaming of sunshine and good dentistry.

Anyway, my point is, this year the Churchill Theatre in Bromley have hired Hollywood In The 80s' own Steve Guttenburg. I saw a bit of Steve on Dancing With The Stars – the inferior US translation of Strictly Come Dancing. He is the most relentlessly positive person I have ever, ever seen in my life. He makes Tom Daly seem like Leonard Cohen. He really does feel grateful and blessed for every sorry opportunity that has ever come his way, and he has the permanently beaming expression of a child star, yet the slightly artificial hairline of a middle-aged Californian actor. I hope he brings the man from the Police Academy films who makes all the funny noises as the kids would love it, and he could probably use the regular work. Miss R has promised she will come and see this with me, as I long to see whether this Overgrown Pollyanna can keep smiling through his sub-standard accommodation and four weeks being upstaged by two paunchy stagehands wearing a giant cow's outfit,  but I suspect that the prohibitive price of theatre tickets In This Country will prevent us. (Dear Melvyn Bragg, I know not where else to turn, but I am concerned our children can longer afford to go to the theatre etc etc). Still, if the Churchill Theatre could also hire Ted Danson and Tom Selleck to appear with Steve as Three Men Playing Ugly Sisters, there is no ticket price too high.

11 comments:

Chris said...

That's nothing. 'The Tiger Who Came To Tea' is coming to the Churchill Theatre, Bromley, and I believe they've inveigled Shere Khan from Disney's 'The Jungle Book' into playing the lead.

Mr A

Anonymous said...

I used to have a big crush on Steve Guttenburg. How much are those tickets?

Ms Rose

Anonymous said...

Don't worry team, I know Bromley like the back of my hand. If we can't afford the tickets I'll get us in through a fire escape. Or maybe Guttenburg could stay chez me (it's either that ot the Bromley Court Hotel - coincidentally and confusingly not too far away from Bromley's Court (where criminals live)). Then we could have complimentary tickets.

Miss R

Miss Jones said...

Mr A, this is stunt casting gone mad. I just hope the rest of the cast won't suffer too much from the budget cuts which will have to be made to fund his specialist diet - live cartoon deer and antelope etc.

Ms Rose, so did I, but not as much as Tom Selleck. I mean, I didn't fancy Steve Guttenburg as much as I fancied Tom Selleck. I don't know if Tom Selleck had a crush on Steve Guttenburg. Anyway, cheap seats are £25, although now it looks as though our hero will be bedding down in Miss R's airing cupboard, perhaps we can bypass buying tickets and spend the money on a fake Christmas dinner at a Harvester beforehand. I'm excited!

Anonymous said...

Tom Selleck is a proper silver fox. Allegedly he has signed up for this year's Dancing With The Stars, on Steve Guttenburg's recommendation, as they are still friends. So quite possibly he will be showing his support in the audience at the Churchill even if not appearing himself.

Mme Treacle

Miss Jones said...

Mme Treacle

This is TOTALLY AWESOME news in every way. The thought of Selleck commandingly dancing the waltz is almost too much. I may swoon.

Talking of silver foxes, I found myself alarmingly drawn to John Suchet the other day when I saw him on The Weakest Link. I really think there is a whiff of Clooney about him. Just me?
x

Chris said...

Here, if you are planning to go and see this momentous theatrical event, may I suggest that you do a double bill with Antonio 'Huggy Bear' Fargas in 'Snow White' at the Lewisham Broadway Theatre?

South-East London? Man, it's like Hollywood round here. Hollywood in the decade from about 1977, certainly, but Hollywood nonetheless.

Mr. A

Anonymous said...

Miss Jones, have you forgotten the time you traveled the length of the country to come and stay with me in the university holidays, just so that we could go and see Blake from Home and Away as Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk in Southsea? You can keep your Hollywood stars thank you - surely no pantomime could match that Olivier award standard production.

(Although i too had major crushes on both Tom Selleck and Steve Guttenburg - there must be hundreds of us out there)!y

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree about Tom Selleck – too right wing, moustachioed and generally Tom of Finland for me.

Ms Rose

(I hope this won't cause a rift...)

Miss Jones said...

Ms Rose, I don't see this as a rift. I see it as a boon. In the event that we bump into Guttenburg and Selleck late one night in a hotel bar somewhere in the Bromley area, there will be no squabbling whatsoever. Poor Ted Danson, does no one love him?

Anon, I remember that the tragic love story of Meg and Blake was a key bonding experience in our first year. A pilgrimage to Southsea was the least I could do. Until quite recently I still had that signed photo of Les Hill – a name to inspire teenage passion if ever there was one.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean until recently? Surely you haven't disposed of it?!