Blackpool Grand Theatre: This Lancashire Britain's Got Talent star and stand-up comedian is about to make his 1,000th panto appearance - oh yes he is.
and live on Freeview channel 276
Comedian Steve Royle will celebrate the landmark pantomime performances in this year’s Sleeping Beauty pantomime at Blackpool Grand Theatre when he stars as Silly Billy. Steve will be on stage alongside Dancing on Ice champion and Emmerdale star Hayley Tamaddon and celebrated playwright Philip Meeks (Emmerdale, Heartbeat, Doctors). Award-winning actor and director Daniel Taylor will star as King, Josh Belward (Skin Deep) as the Prince, Christina Meehan as the Bad Fairy Carabosse, and Maisie Sellwood makes her professional debut as Princess Rose.
But what was Steve’s first ever pantomime at The Grand?
“It was Peter Pan with Maureen Nolan in 2002. As long as I can remember my eldest daughter’s birthday then I can remember what year I did my first panto at The Grand, because she was just 10 months old and learnt to walk in the narrow corridors outside the dressing rooms holding onto the walls for support. I’ve held on to those same walls for support many times since then during after show parties!”
And what was his favourite panto character?
“I’ve always loved playing the part of Buttons because he plays such a major part in the pantomime and requires some ‘proper acting’ during the lovely pathos scenes. However, playing Smee alongside my good friend Tom Lister as Captain Hook has certainly provided me with the most laughs. I have so many favourite memories from over my panto years to choose from. Some of the funniest moments have come from the kids we’ve had on stage during the song sheet - I will always remember the child who said they wanted a remote-control submarine for Christmas.”
Madcap panto star Steve has also made hundreds of his co-stars laugh along the way, with some of them becoming firm friends.
“I have been lucky enough to work with some amazing people from various areas and eras of show business. Some have gone on to become close friends like Tom Lister, Danny Miller, Amy Thompson, & Hayley Kay. I recently went to Danny Millers wedding, and it was wonderful to see him do so well becoming King of the Castle on I’m a Celebrity last year. I think most people know that Tom Lister is now one of my closest friends and we regularly meet up for chats and drinks. We also collaborated a lot during the pandemic writing and performing on-line chat shows, sketches and of course our amazing Don’t Close The Curtains cabaret which we performed to care home residents through their windows. We see more of each other than we do our wives! (and have more of a laugh too, ha ha!) I also still get a Christmas card each year from Tony Caunter (Roy Evans in EastEnders) the first star I worked with in Peter Pan in 2003. He’s a lovely guy who now spends his days on a Narrowboat called Tender Seas which happens to be an anagram of EastEnders!”
But why does he love panto so much?
“I love panto for the same reasons comic legend Ken Dodd loved panto. It’s unique in the way it brings together all areas of the entertainment world. I get the chance to work with actors, dancers, singers, magicians and others all with amazing lives and careers. We also get to perform for young people who are often visiting the theatre for the first time. This can lead to a lifelong love of live entertainment. It’s always a pleasure when I meet people during the year and they tell me they have been watching me in panto all or most of their lives. It does however, also make me feel old. Oh yes it does!!”
And why does he choose to perform in panto at The Grand year after year?
“Not only do I get to perform in the fabulous medium of pantomime, but I also get to do it in one of the world’s most beautiful theatres. I did pantomimes in other venues before Blackpool Grand, but there is no other place like it and I always get excited when I walk onto that stage knowing that so many entertainment greats have done so before me - Gracie Fields, Peggy Ashcroft, Rex Harrison, John Gielgud, Noel Coward, Thora Hird, Arthur Askey, Sid James and the late 19th century vaudeville star Dan Leno (who I was privileged to play recently in a tour of Naturally Insane and in London’s West End) and, of course, my personal hero Ken Dodd.”
Renowned pantomime producer Martin Dodd has been working with Steve for twenty fun-filled years.
He said: “Wow, only 1,000 performances it feels like a lot more! Only kidding, and I want to congratulate Steve on not only this milestone but on coming back year after year with every performance as fresh and inspired as his first one. Whether that means he has learnt nothing in the last 20 years, or it was just so brilliant back then it couldn’t be improved upon, who cares, because with Steve in the show we can guarantee the audiences will laugh from the start to the finish. He is an absolute delight to work with. Here’s to the next 1,000 (unless I can find a contact number for that bloke with the piano that won BGT in 2020!)”
Executive pantomime director, Anthony Williams, added his congratulations.
“Huge congratulations to Steve on this fabulous achievement. His passion for both pantomime and Blackpool Grand Theatre is second to none and long may he reign supreme. Congratulation Steve - here’s to the next 1,000!”
Sleeping Beauty is at Blackpool Grand Theatre from Friday December 2, 2022, to Sunday January 1, 2023, with matinee and evening performances. Accessible performances will also be available.