The talented young stars of the Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017
The role of the babes is one of the great traditions of pantomime, and this year nearly 30 local children are performing in Norwich Theatre Royal's production of Sleeping Beauty.
Starring alongside the adult cast, which includes Eastenders actress Gillian Wright and Play School presenter Derek Griffiths, the babes are having a great time playing everything from beetles to skeletons to guests in the show which has given the fairy tale a Downton Abbey-esque twist by setting it at Norbridge Abbey in the 1920s.
There are three sets of nine youngsters who alternate performances and they are all students at Norwich-based Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts which has a long tradition of providing the babes for the theatre's pantomimes.
Sleeping Beauty choreographer Dee Jago said: 'Pantomime is about children, children come to watch it so the fact that they are involved as well, they are up there singing and dancing and having a great time, it's just part of it, it's hugely important.
'They (the panto babes) are involved a lot this year, they are sidekicks to the baddie and dressed as beetles, they have to help her in her quest. With the dancing, they are in the opening, they are also dancing skeletons, they do a bit of Olly Murs at the end as well.'
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The talented youngsters were among 54 children to audition for the show.
Dee said: 'They all do so well and we have to pick the best. It's a great achievement for them to get in. I look for if they can pick up the steps, if they can use their face and I can see some personality. We kind of do a height line, we start with a little one and go up, so that has to come into it as well as good singing, good dancing.'
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She said the whole experience was a great opportunity for the children.
'It's hugely exciting, they get to work on a professional stage with professional actors and dancers...They have to learn quite a lot in a short space of time so I think it's a huge sense of achievement once they've done that and then they reap the rewards when they get the claps.'
Some panto babes may even become stars of the future. Harriet Bunton - who played Dolly the Fairy in the Theatre Royal's production of Jack and the Beanstalk last year and is now in Mamma Mia! in the West End - is a former panto babe, as are Central School of Dancing and Performing Arts principals Adam and Fern Carpenter.
Fern said: 'It's such good stage experience for the children, learning how to be professional in a professional production, and they really learn the discipline that they need. Even the preparation that they do getting ready for the audition is such a big thing for them. As a school we are really lucky to have such a good relationship with the Theatre Royal.'
Adam added: 'The children love it. In the changing rooms they are constantly going through the numbers, they just love it. It's a brilliant opportunity for them - not every youngster gets the chance to perform at the Theatre Royal.'
Sleeping Beauty runs until January 14. Visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.ukFour panto babes share their show highlights:
Isla Dack, seven: 'I like being a ladybird because I get to go on late and everybody laughs.'
Gabriella Hewitt, 12: 'The skeletons is my favourite scene because you glow up in the dark and we dance with the big dancers. It's really cool.'
Talulah Eadie, eight: 'I really like the bug scene because the costumes are really nice and when we go in a line we bump into each other!
'Being in the car in the opening [scene] is really fun...I've never done a panto before and it's really fun.'
Lucas Foley, 12: 'This is my first panto and I'm really enjoying it because I've made loads of new friends and the dances are very complicated but enjoyable at the same time. My favourite part of the show is Dance With Me Tonight becuase we pair up with the adults and I have to a solo with the adults.'
Norwich Theatre Royal's 2017/18 pantomime babes cast list
PURPLE SET: Ella Snowling, Delilah Budds, Adara Sayer, Darci-Rose Sayer, Liberty Downing, Jayna Carroll, Evie Collinson, Charlotte Board, Fifi Sweeting.
YELLOW SET: Isla Dack, Molly Crafter, Marnie Crooks, Talulah Eadie, Emilia Kerby, Paula Sarmiento, Roisin Kelly, Gabriella Hewitt, Lucas Foley.
GREEN SET: Ava Parslow-Williams, Alice Hood, Ruby Kirwan, Sophie Goodhew, Madeleine Rose, Ruby Smith, Lily Dagless, Alexandra Bassham, Mia Parslow-Williams.
Former Central School students and babes from pantomimes past who are now professional performers
Luke George - 42nd Street in London's West End
Tom Partridge - Funny Girl UK tour and Singin' in the Rain in Paris
Will Luckett - Starlight Express in Germany
Alex Green - Snow White pantomime in Colchester
Nick Collier - The Book of Mormon in the West End
Harriet Bunton - Mamma Mia! in the West End
Emma Hunter - The Bodyguard European tour
Alice Sillett - Arts Council Funding for a production of The Abominable Snowman with Moon On A Stick
Charlotte Scott - Cats world tour
Megan King - Thursford Christmas Spectacular
Sophie Carpenter - MSC Cruises
Lauren Carrick and Hannah Robotham - Princess Cruises
Aaron Sillis - choreographer/movement director who has received a MTV Video Music Award nomination
Nancy Wei George, Bryony Moore, Sian Pond - Professional teachers