The yellow brick road will be leading The Only Way is Essex star Mario Falcone all the way down to the Sussex seaside this Christmas as he makes his pantomime debut as Abrac, the Wicked Witch’s henchman in The Wizard of Oz, one of Worthing’s fun-packed family festive treats.


At the time of the official launch, Paul Hammond Associates were still in the process of casting some of the other major roles, but it has already been confirmed that, alongside Mario, there will be a cast of regular pantomime favourites and local, as well as national, celebrities.


Taking the lead role of Dorothy Gale, the little girl from Kansas who, together with her little dog Toto, gets transported to the Land of Oz, is accomplished leading lady Sarah Brown. Over the last ten years she has played all the major female pantomime leads and she is thrilled to be playing Dorothy for the first time in her career.


Following his previous Worthing appearances in Snow White and Cinderella, Kevin Tillett is back, but this time he’ll be playing Glinda, the Good Witch of the North and he will be accompanied by another PHA regular, Gary Starr (pictured) who appears as the Tin Man.


The only other cast members confirmed at launch time are Heart Radio’s Breakfast pair of Tom Evans and Jack Hayes who, following a tremendous reception last year, both return to the Pavilion Theatre stage. At the launch I asked them;

So, please tell me about your characters.

(TE) Well, how much do we tell you before the opening night? You see we don’t want to give too much away because, I can tell you right now, the show is packed full of little secrets and gems and twists and turns. Jack and I are… hmm, what can I say?

(JH) I think we can tell him our names. We should give him something really, otherwise it’s just rude.

(TE) That is true. I am playing Wilfred Zanola.

(JH) And I am playing Archie De Vaz and we are, in fact, the greatest showmen on Earth.


 Well I know that, I listen to you every day.

(JH) Anyone who’d heard the radio show would probably disagree with that strenuously. There we are just quite average showmen. But, here we are the greatest and we’re all set for The Wizard of Oz 2012, and into 2013, and we are really excited to be back.


Well, you must have done something right last year to be asked back.

(TE) Well, I’d like to think so. It was a wake up call for us last year, it was, really, the first panto experience for either of us and it was intense, but we had the most amazing time and made some amazing friends. The experience of being on stage every day and night is a unique one and something that you can’t really describe to people in words – it’s exhausting, but exhilarating at the same time.


It’s also nice to see that you not only have faces suited to radio, but also to the stage.

(JH) Again, some people would disagree with that… but we like to think that we brush up ok. We do have great make up artists here and they do their best with us. Seriously though, like Tom said, we had such a great time last year and we loved working with Paul Hammond and the panto was great success, I mean we broke the box office record down here.


But this year you have Bobby Crush down the road to contend with!

(JH) Bobby Crush has got us to contend with, I think you’ll find!

(TE) We offer a totally different experience to the show the Connaught will put on.

(JH) That’s what’s good for Worthing; they have two completely different pantomime experiences. Up the road they have Bobby, Nikki Kelly and Jon Moses and down here there’s us and Mario from TOWIE, who’s a smashing guy, so we have totally different target audiences too. We’ll have a lot of the younger females here to see Mario, cos he’s so good looking, and a few might come to see us, and then you have a completely different demographic up the road at the Connaught. So we hope we both have great success.


I then asked Mario, How are you feeling about being in your first pantomime?

I’m sort of excited and scared at the same time. I used to do loads of stage stuff when I was younger, when I was like 10 or 11, I even sang Ricky Martin’s "Livin La Vida Loca" at a charity concert, but it’s my sister who’s always been the acting one in the family. She’s always doing panto and, in fact, she played Dorothy a few years ago.


Will you be singing and dancing in the show?

There’s no dancing, no, but I’m not sure about any singing, I’ll have to wait and see what Paul’s got in store for me. The biggest problem for me will be trying to fit in all the rehearsals. In about two weeks I start filming season seven of TOWIE, and we have a Christmas special planned as well, so everything’s happening at the same sort of time.


But I’m really excited about being in the show and getting to see the audiences. They tell me that some of the performances are already sold out so I better hurry up and get some tickets sorted cos I know that Arg is coming to see me, Joey’s coming down too and, of course, Lucy will be here to see me – I think most of the cast will come down at some point and my sister is married to one of the guys from McFly, so they will be down here too, so it’s gonna be really good fun.


The Wizard of Oz can be seen at the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing from December 13th 2012 to January 6th 2013.