It’s rapidly heading towards that time of year when we can expect to see fairy dust and a few boos fill our theatres across the land. Yes, it’s pantomime time at the Mayflower Southampton and we’ve not only got the amazing QDOS set direct from last year’s London Palladium production but some of the best-seasoned pantomime performers in the UK within the stellar cast.
I met with the principal cast and we had a chat. Here are the bios for Joe McElderry, Suzanne Shaw, Sheila Ferguson, Bobby Davro and Steve McFadden.
Joe McElderry (Dick Whittington): The X Factor golden boy with the 24-carat voice and diamond personality, Joe has become one of the most loved young singers in the country.
Most artists only dream of mass appeal but since storming to victory in the 2009 X Factor final, when he performed a memorably brilliant duet with George Michael on the live semi-final, Joe has been the sweet-singing hero and heart-throb of hundreds of thousands of fans aged from five to 95.
He soared straight to number one in both the UK and Irish singles charts with a beautiful rendition of Miley Cyrus’ ‘The Climb’, after which he performed for Her Majesty the Queen at the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall and had a live regional tour at 16 major venues, culminating in a rapturous reception at the Royal Festival Hall
Since then he has released six very successful albums – the most to have ever been released by an X Factor winner – and has toured the UK seven times with his own show and band as well as performing in Pennsylvania, USA, to open the show for Adam Lambert at Pittsburgh Pride.
He appeared at the Blackpool Winter Gardens playing Tommy in the world premiere of The Who’s Tommy – The Rock Opera directed by Paul Nicholas, a Bill Kenwright tour of Saturday Night at the Movies and two tours as the lead in Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for which he has received critical acclaimed reviews with a leading reviewer stating: “Joe McElderry is the best Joseph since the shows inception by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.”
Joe performed his first panto for Qdos entertainment as Prince Charming in a sellout run of Cinderella at the Beck Theatre in Hayes and loved it so much – this is now his fifth pantomime.
Joe also works hard at raising money for charity and recorded the charity single ‘One World One Song’ with the legendary Dionne Warwick in aid of The Hunger Project UK and a moving version of ‘Abide With Me’ with the Royal Mail Choir, in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.
As a regional ambassador for the Teenage Cancer Trust, he yearly completes a challenging 140-mile three-day bike ride Coast to Coast with friends and family raising thousands for the charity.
Joe has been a regular guest on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff and has been one of the youngest to do a stint on Countdown’s Dictionary Corner.
Genuine family entertainers with such a wide and diverse fan base come along once in a generation.
SUZANNE SHAW (ALICE)
Suzanne Shaw is an actress, singer and TV presenter.
Suzanne made her professional TV debut at the age of 12 in the BBC children’s drama Elidor. Following this she appeared in several television series including City Central, The
Courtroom and Holby City.
Her big break came in 2001 when she auditioned for the ITV show Popstars, and subsequently won a place in the newly formed pop band, Hear’say. The group’s debut single was the fastest selling non-charitable record in UK chart history, selling over 1.3 million copies. They went on to have two number one records and four top ten hits. In addition to their chart success, they had their own Saturday night TV show Hear’say It’s Saturday, performed at the Royal Variety Show with Elton John, and headlined their own hit UK tour.
When the band split in 2003, Suzanne returned to her roots and has gone on to carve a hugely successful career in musical theatre, plays and television. Her numerous theatre credits include Roxie Hart in the West End production of Chicago, being, nominated for the Best Takeover in a Role in the Theatregoer’s Choice Awards. She played the role of Bobby in the remake of Summer Holiday(national tour), Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the New London Theatre, West End; Janet in The Rocky Horror Show (national tour and West End); Judy in White Christmas (Lowry Theatre, Manchester); the national tour of Vagina Monologues; Irene in Bill Kenwright’s production of Funny Peculiar (national tour); Geraldine in the brand new play Baggage at the Arts Theatre, London; Kristine in About Miss Julie (King’s Head, London) and most recently the lead role of Red Girl in Shout! The Mod Musical (Blackpool Opera House).
Bobby made his TV debut in 1981; his major breakthrough came with an appearance in Live at Her Majesty’s in 1983. This led to his own Saturday-night series Davro, Bobby Davro on the Box, Bobby’s Sketch Pad and TV Weekly, which immediately topped the ratings for six consecutive years.
In 1991, Bobby moved to the BBC and made three series, Public Enemy Number One, Rock With Laughter and Run the Risk. In 1997, he hosted Yorkshire Television’s Winner Takes All for 65 programmes. In 2008, Bobby joined the cast of EastEnders as lovable cockney rogue Vinnie Monks. He also performed in the ITV series Dancing on Ice and was asked to appear on two episodes of Celebrity Come Dine With Me.
More recently, he appeared in the daytime ITV show Who’s Doing the Dishes? and enjoyed huge success as a finalist in the 2015 Celebrity Big Brother house. When Bobby is not performing, he likes to spend his time with his three daughters in Surrey and indulging in his hobbies, which include golf and fishing.
SHEILA FERGUSON (SPIRIT OF THE BELLS)
Born in Philadelphia, Sheila shot to fame as the lead singer for the smash hit girl group The Three Degrees in the 1970s with over 17 chart topping hits including ‘When Will I See You Again?’, ‘Take Good Care of Yourself’ and A Woman in Love’.
Her sparkling career has seen her travel all over the world and has taken her from the Harlem Apollo to the Royal Command Performance and from the top of the charts to the big screen. Screen appearances by The Three Degrees included a number of classic movies and TV shows such as Sandford and Son, and the Oscar-winning The French Connection. When the group went their separate ways, Sheila’s career continued both as an actress and singer.
Her recording career continues with her solo album ‘New Kind of Medicine’. Sheila is also the author of Soul Food, a definitive history with recipes of black American cuisine and culture. She has appeared in many UK TV shows including Never Mind The Buzzcocks, I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, Loose Women, Marrying Mum And Dad, Pointless Celebrities and, for the Queen’s Jubilee year, A Royal History Of Pop. For the award-winning BBC documentary, The Real Marigold Hotel she has travelled the world sampling the cultures of some fascinating countries. Her musical theatre credits include Fame, Daddy Cool, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Soul Train, Oh What A Night! and Respect La Diva. She has toured the UK in David Gest’s Legends Of Soul and was thrilled to sing ‘Acid Queen’ in The Who Hits 50 charity gala. She has also enjoyed panto seasons in some of Britain’s finest theatres including Nottingham Theatre Royal, Windsor Theatre Royal, Norwich Theatre Royal and Derngate, Northampton.
STEVE MCFADDEN (KING RAT)
After graduating from RADA in 1987 Steve made his acting debut playing a small role in the 1988 television film The Firm. That same year he had an uncredited brief appearance in the film Buster as a gang member. This followed with appearances in the television series The Bill, Minder and Bergerac. He has also appeared in Kevin and Perry Go Large where he played a door attendant.
He became famous for playing ‘hard man’ Phil Mitchell in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. He joined the prime-time soap at the beginning of 1990, at the same time as Ross Kemp, who played Phil’s younger brother Grant Mitchell. During that time, his character has been involved in numerous ratings-pulling storylines such as Sharongate (where he had an affair with his brother’s wife Sharon) in 1994, and the most notable was the Who Shot Phil? Storyline. In March 2001 his character was shot and wounded by a mystery attacker. The identity of the attacker was revealed weeks later as Phil’s girlfriend Lisa.
Steve starred in an episode of the BBC1 anthology series Murder in Mind in 2001. He left EastEnders in late 2003 for a one-year break. His character was written-out of the series after being framed for an armed robbery by Den Watts (played by Leslie Grantham), and going on the run after breaking out of prison. During his break from EastEnders, he presented the reality television fighting series Britain’s Hardest, an underground competition aired on Sky One. He returned to EastEnders for two episodes in April 2005. In the story, Phil returned to Walford in need of financial help, only to be arrested and returned to prison. In October 2005, he returned on a permanent basis, after his character was cleared of armed robbery after Grant used money to influence witnesses to change their testimony. As of 2017, he is still in the series and is one of the longest-serving members of its cast.
In 2007, he appeared in the film Provoked. He has also appeared in pantomime in 2010/11 at Wycombe Swan Theatre in Peter Pan playing Captain Hook, 2012/2013 he appeared at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford in Aladdin playing Abanazar. In 2016/17, he played King Rat in Dick Whittington at the Birmingham Hippodrome and last year played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth.
Her pantomimes include the title role in Cinderella (Birmingham Hippodrome), Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (Grand Opera House, York); the title role in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Milton Keynes); the title role in Cinderella (Manchester and Bristol); Genie in Aladdin (Richmond) and Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (Aylesbury).
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