Young theatre hopefuls tread the boards

SHAUN LOWTHORPE They came with stars in their eyes - and while some would leave dazzled and smiling by success, others appeared dazed and subdued after failing to make the cut to be in this year's Norwich Theatre Royal panto.

SHAUN LOWTHORPE

They came with stars in their eyes - and while some would leave dazzled and smiling by success, others appeared dazed and subdued after failing to make the cut to be in this year's Norwich Theatre Royal panto.

Yesterday saw around 60 youngsters aged 5 to 16 vying to tread the boards for a month in Dick Whittington, the festive show for this year's reopened theatre.

Former Dr Who star Colin Baker, is among the stars taking part in the panto, which runs from December 19 to January 20.

The wannabe cast - all regulars from the Norwich-based Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts spent around two hours trying to catch the eyes of the judges and convince them they had the X-factor needed to secure a part.

Only half would make it through after showing their skills in a range of twirls, taps, and a rendition of Let's Go Fly A Kite.

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There was also a lot of studied interest from the casting team in the heights of the junior performers.

Brother and sister William and Florence Patient, were among the younger ones who made it through.

After a night at their grans, it was off to the Garage Theatre in Chapelfield, to show what they could do.

Florence, five, admitted it had been a hard morning.

“I like smiling at the audience,” she said. “It's been difficult because we had to stand a lot.”

William 6 ½, said: “This is the first time I have auditioned for the panto. I was thinking I would be able to do it.”

Johnny Gale, 14 from Cawston, near Aylsham, who previously won a panto part in Peter Pan, said he would love to tread the boards again.

“It's amazing,” he said. “The stage is amazing and the best bit is seeing the whole crowd. I'm nervous but I've enjoyed it today as well.”

Richard Gauntlet, panto director and writer, who will also be performing as Sarah the Cook, was busy pinning stickers on leotards as the numbers were whittled down.

“We are looking for people who can smile a lot,” he said. “You have got to have happy kids on stage.

“They are being used a lot this year, because they are playing rats, kids and a surprise animal at the end! There's also a lot of big stage effects this year which they have to keep out of the way of.

“It's going to be big,” he added. “The new theatre looks amazing, the circle is completely different and there is more footspace. It's going to be fantastic

Johnny Worthy, choreographer, admitted that choosing the final cast was the hardest bit of the auditions.

“It's the most difficult decision in the world,” he said. “They are all very good and I would give them all a part. I know there are going to be some tears afterwards when they don't get it

“Once we know we have got two and half weeks of hard rehearsals,” he added.

Charlotte Corbett, 'Miss Charlotte', principal at the Central School admitted the auditions can be a tense time.

“I think the parents get more nervous,” she said. “We try to prepare them for the disappointments. The children that get it have a fantastic time. But we do have a lot of other performances so there will be some treats in store for the ones that don't succeed.”

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