Following David Hasselhoff’s cancellation of his pantomime debut in Wimbledon this Christmas (See News, 15 Jun 2006), the Baywatch star has been replaced by Henry Winkler – best known as the Fonz in American TV’s Happy Days - who makes his UK stage debut as the dastardly Captain Hook in Peter Pan, which runs at the New Wimbledon Theatre from 8 December 2006 to 14 January 2007.

Winkler (pictured) started his career on the stage, prior to shooting to international stardom playing the Fonz in the long-running 1950s nostalgia series Happy Days. Still a firm favourite, the character is currently featured on UK TV screens in the Citroen car commercial. Winkler will star alongside comedian Bobby Davro as Smee and children’s presenter Sarah-Jane Honeywell, star of Cbeebies’ Tikkabilla and Higgledy House, as Peter.

Peter Pan is produced by First Family Entertainment, the joint pantomime company formed by Ambassador Theatre Group (which runs New Wimbledon Theatre) and Live Nation, which also produced last year’s Cinderella, starring Richard Wilson, Susan Hampshire and John Barrowman, which became the first pantomime in Wimbledon’s 96-year history to hit £1 million in box office sales.

Winkler commented: “I am over the moon! There will be 40 people on that stage, singing, dancing and creating great comedy. So I want you all to leave your dinner tables early and get to the theatre. If you don’t come, I’ll come and get you! I want you to bring your grandmother and kids and friends. I understand that there will be hissing and booing - that’s a tradition. Well, I’m telling you right now: if I am booed, I will come down to the footlights and take names. But I promise you, I will be dastardly. That’s for sure.”

Karin Gartzke, chief executive of New Wimbledon Theatre, said: “We are delighted to have ‘hooked’ Henry. He was an obvious choice for us - he is a major international star, a brilliant actor and will bring an exciting new dynamic to pantomime. Parents will know and remember him fondly and a new generation of children will get to know his unique sense of humour too. With Henry playing Captain Hook, we are building on our position as the home of London pantomime.”

- by Caroline Ansdell