Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the start of the pantomime!

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, right, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, right, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Pantomime season is in full swing – oh yes it is! – as rehearsals for Norwich Theatre Royal's festive show get under way.

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, right, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, right, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

This year's Christmas production is Jack and the Beanstalk, and the cast have been having lots of Fee-Fi-Fo-Fun in the first week of rehearsals.

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

While the lead actors have been going through their lines, member of the ensemble have been learning the dances, and next week they will put everything together and start doing runs of the show, which is based on the classic fairytale of a boy called Jack who is tricked into selling the family cow for some magic beans.

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, pictured, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTO

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto, including Wayne Sleep, pictured, begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Richard Gauntlett, who is once again writing and directing the Theatre Royal pantomime, said they were giving the story a unique twist for the Theatre Royal stage.

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

He said: 'It's a traditional Jack and the Beanstalk but with a western feel. We've transported it into the Wild West just to give it a new look and some new gags!'

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

When asked about his favourite scenes in the show, he said: 'We have a very, very big slosh scene, a messy scene, and the giant should be quite spectacular this year too. Watch out for the giant!'

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Richard is well known for playing the Theatre Royal's pantomime dame, and this year he is playing Nigella Trottalot, mother of Jack and Silly Trottalot.

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals. Local performers, Harriet Bunton and Joe Press

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals. Local performers, Harriet Bunton and Joe Press.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

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About the larger than life character, he said: 'She's your favourite auntie, she's always up for fun, always in search of a man and always loving her two sons and her cow. She's a matriarch of a very strange family. She's always out for a happy ending.'

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals. Local performer Harriet Bunton with dancer and

Cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto begin rehearsals. Local performer Harriet Bunton with dancer and TV star Wayne Sleep.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Meanwhile Wayne Sleep is preparing to play the panto baddie, Phineas P Stinkworthy, and said he was hoping to get lots of boos from the audience.

'He [Phineas] keeps telling the audience off and they shout back at him, well hopefully they will be shouting back, because in a pantomime you are only as good as the audience, so I'll expect lots of boos and hisses and lots of audience participation!'

But he said that, in true pantomime style, his character is not all bad.

'At the end I [Phineas] turn into a very nice person, I turn into a wonderful guy that is able to do hopefully a fabulous tap dance at the end of the show, that's when I do my big dance number.'

And he said throughout the show there are lots of theatrical treats in store.

'There's some wonderful special effects, I get taken up in the giant's hand to the sky. I fly, and the fairy flies, and the house flies, everything flies!

'The beanstalk also grows in front of your eyes...and you see the giant - you see his big legs at one point, at another point you see his arms, then another point you just see his head, and the head covers the whole of the stage. It's good fun!'

Jack and The Beanstalk is at Norwich Theatre Royal from Tuesday, December 13 until Sunday, January 15. Tickets are priced between £7-£23.50. For more information and to book tickets, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the Norwich Theatre Royal box office on 01603 630000.

Today Norwich Theatre Royal will be closed between 12.30pm and 2.30pm to allow staff to attend a formal farewell event for the theatre's outgoing chief executive Peter Wilson, who is leaving after 25 years at the helm. Online booking for shows will still be available during this time at www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

NO PLACE LIKE HOME FOR TWO OF THE PANTOMIME STARS

There is no place like home for two of the performers in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Harriet Bunton, who plays Dolly the Fairy, and ensemble member Joe Press, who is also playing Daisy the cow, both hail from Norfolk and are delighted to be back in their home county.

Harriet, 24, who grew up in Horstead, actually first trod the boards at Norwich Theatre Royal as a pantomime babe in Cinderella when she was just six-years-old. In total she has been a babe in 10 Theatre Royal pantomimes.

The former Coltishall Primary School and Thorpe House School pupil, who now lives in London, said: 'Cinderella, my first pantomime will always be really special. I did Peter Pan with Richard [Gauntlett] when he played Peter, and that was really fun because we got to be Lost Boys.'

At 16 she went to train in musical theatre at Laine Theatre Arts and since then she has appeared in We Will Rock You and Sunny Afternoon in the West End and a tour of The Rocky Horror Show.

Now she is back in Norwich playing Dolly the Fairy.

'She's a fairy from the Wild West and she's loosely based on Dolly Parton so she's a bit kooky, a bit cheeky, she's a lot of fun,' she said. About returning to the Theatre Royal stage, she said: 'It's surreal, really, really surreal...it's almost like coming home, it really is like a little family so it's great to be back.'

Joe, 21, from Wroxham, also said it felt surreal to be performing at the theatre where he grew up watching pantomimes.

The former Broadland High and St John's Primary School pupil, who is now training at Laine Theatre Arts, said: 'It's mad, in the first read through on Monday I was sitting there thinking, 'is this actually happening?' because it is one of those bucket list things that I wanted to tick off, and to do it while I'm still training before I have actually left college is fab.'

He added: 'My mum used to bring me [to the pantomime] and she said this is my 20th pantomime, so I think I was taken to the pantomime from when I was born! It's a big family affair. Every Christmas they come along and there's 77 family and friends this year coming to see the pantomime all at the same time.'

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