Snow White set to bring panto magic to Milton Keynes Theatre - with stars including Lesley Joseph and Judge Rinder

The cast of Snow White at Milton Keynes ThreatreThe cast of Snow White at Milton Keynes Threatre
The cast of Snow White at Milton Keynes Threatre

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This year’s panto at Milton Keynes promises to be bigger, brassier and oh so much better than all the rest – oh yes it does!

With spectacular special effects and an equally starry cast – including Lesley Joseph and Rob Rinder - Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs opens on Saturday December 10 and runs until Sunday January 8.

It’s the magical Christmas panto that’s best loved by the performers and the Milton Keynes Citizen is proud to be a media partner with the Ambassador Theatre Group.

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And if the launch this week was anything to go by, it’s going to be a real treat and a laugh a minute.

The stars of Snow White are ready to entertain youThe stars of Snow White are ready to entertain you
The stars of Snow White are ready to entertain you

Paul Chuckle as lovable but hapless Oddjob and Aaron James as Snow White’s bestie Muddles have already formed a hilarious rapport with the jokes and send-ups coming thick and fast – which will be the perfect antidote to winter blues and all that’s going on in the world.

Completing the celebrity sextet, beautiful Charlotte Haines is Snow White while Dale Mathurin makes a charming and dashing Prince.

Lesley Joseph and Rob Rinder are reprising the roles they played last year in Bristol – he as the mischievous Man in the Mirror and she the Wicked Queen. They were also in Strictly together in 2016 and there’s an easy camaraderie between them that’s a joy to see.

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Lesley has a particular soft spot for Milton Keynes – she appeared as Miss Hannigan in Annie, the first production at the theatre when it opened in 1999.

She’s the consummate comedienne, best known and loved as Dorien Green, the neighbour from hell in Birds of a Feather. But her back catalogue includes everything from musical comedy to Shakespeare and Chekhov.

One of her recent highlights was the BBC’s Pilgrimage: The Road to Rome where she embarked on a journey through the Swiss Alps to Rome to meet the Pope.

"There were eight of us,” she recalls, “and we had a half hour audition with the Pope. We were all supposed to introduce ourselves and when it came to my turn I did a complete monologue and said I was 72.

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"The Pope shook my hand and laughed and said: ‘You aren’t really 72, are you?’

"And I took his hand and said: ‘Yes – bless you.’”

She giggles at the memory, then admits she’s very superstitious: “If something works on the first night, I do it every night. “

Panto is her passion and she loves the way children react to the scary bits. "Ask them who they love best and they always say the dragon,” she smiles.

Rob Rinder is a man with a razor sharp mind, a quick wit and many interests – a barrister who’s enjoyed enormous success with his television series Judge Rinder, and who’s renowned for his soul-searing documentaries about his family’s Holocaust experiences. In addition he’s an author, national newspaper columnist and human rights campaigner, as well as being a panto performer par excellence.

He also loves to laugh and his joie de vivre is infectious.

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A self-confessed mega-insomniac, he adores panto and claims it’s transported generations: “It’s authentic, we’re able to whisk the audience away with the magic of Christmas.”

And referring to the current production he says: "I get to tell Lesley Joseph off every night – what’s not to like about that?”

Veteran comic Paul Chuckle - one half of the Chuckle Brothers – says he still misses his brother Barry who died four years ago, but feels he’s always beside him, goading him on.

And he has no intention of retiring: “My wife won’t let me – she’s out shopping now.”

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Aaron James, who’s sitting beside him, chips in: “She lost Paul’s credit card but he didn’t report it because whoever took it didn’t spend as much.”

The pair bounce off each other and you can tell immediately how much they’re looking forward to working together.

Both their careers began at holiday camps and admit they were great training grounds. Aaron explains: “They give you confidence, you learn how to work an audience.”

A keen golfer, much of his time away from the theatre is spent hosting charity events and corporate evenings where his easy bonhomie is much admired.

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Ask him about his handicap and Paul immediately quips: “His clubs.”

The dynamic duo have sport in common. Paul is a lifelong Rotherham supporter – and the club made him honorary life president.

Aaron bemoans the fact he’s put on a lot of weight over lockdown. “The doctor told me to stop eating fatty,” he explains. “I said: ‘Like chocolate and cream and stuff?’ And he said: ‘No. Stop eating, Fatty.’”

And they both howl with laughter.

The role of Snow White is taken by pretty-as-a-picture Charlotte Haines who says: “Who doesn’t want to play a princess? It’s every little girl’s dream.”

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Since graduating from the Guildford School of Acting, she’s appeared in a host of shows as well as films and TV.

And she runs her own singing business, Songs Gone By.

She explains: “When I’m not performing I sing at various residential homes and for charity. I absolutely love it. It’s so fulfilling – you really make a difference to other people’s lives.”

She’s delighted to be back in panto and says: “It’s very professional and you learn such a lot watching other people – about theatre etiquette and how to hold an audience.”

Hackney-born Dale Mathurin – her Prince – says there’s never a dull moment. Although his background has been mainly classical, he’s throwing himself into his royal role with gusto.

And he’s not worried about making a mistake. “The audience love it when things go wrong,” he smiles. “It’s one of the best things about panto.”

> Tickets available from ATGTICKETS.COM/MiltonKeynes