Jennifer Ellison chats about Blackpool Grand's panto – Sleeping Beauty

We catch up with the former ”Singin’ in the Rain” star to chat about Pantos (I know it’s only September) at the launch of The Blackpool Grand’s ”Sleeping Beauty.”

Jennifer Ellison
Jennifer Ellison
© The Blackpool Grand

The sun is shining from a blue sky as Blackpool Grand launches its 2014 panto in the lush surroundings of the town’s Stanley Park. The area is busy with families, and many of the children are in fancy dress, excited to meet some of the stars of Sleeping Beauty.

The excitement goes up a notch as Steve Royle lives up to his Silly Billy character name by coming across the boating lake in a water sphere – no mean feat in the freshening winds and everyone breathes a sigh of relief when he is safely on dry land again.

A heavily pregnant Jennifer Ellison, dressed head to toe in black velvet, including horned headdress, is content to sit and watch. With just a few weeks to the birth of her third child, she’s entitled to take things easy.

So what attracted you to the month-long run in this panto?

I just love panto. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and it is my favourite time of the year. I jumped at the chance of appearing in Blackpool because it gave me so many happy childhood memories. We would come for the day to see the lights, and go on the beach to make sandcastles – it’s a great place for families and I can’t wait to share it with my boys, who are four and one. It was also home to my great friend Bernie Nolan and I’ll be thinking of her when I’m on that stage.

Do you enjoy the response from the children?

As an actress and performer it is great to get such a reaction from the audience. I love all the audience participation – panto is such great family entertainment. It’s the second time I’ve played a panto baddie and I can’t wait! The first time I did it, I was a bit worried about how I’d react to all the booing and hissing from the audience but it’s addictive! You find yourself looking forward to the next round of booing and trying even harder to get that reaction.

Why do pantos continue to be so popular?

You can take the whole family along and they’ll all enjoy themselves. As a parent, it is good to know that the show is aimed at families and you don’t have to worry if the kids shout and join in because no one will mind! I can remember going to the panto as a kid and wanting to be up on that stage with them. Pantos have a magic that appeals to everyone, no matter how old you are.

Do you hope to do more musicals?

I had such a wonderful time in Singin’ in the Rain that I’d love to do more musical work. It was the best show I’ve ever done – I loved appearing in it. Obviously I was influenced by such an amazing film version – it is a classic and a favourite of mine, and I loved playing Lina Lamont. She was probably my best role ever, she has great lines and the show is so well written – it was a pleasure to be in it. I’d certainly love to do more musical stage work.

Why should audiences see Sleeping Beauty?

It is going to be a brilliant show, the cast is great and everyone is lovely. Blackpool is famous for putting on fantastic pantos and this year’s is going to be a lot of fun. We can promise a really enjoyable time, whatever your age.

Jennifer Ellison plays wicked fairy godmother Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty, at Blackpool Grand Theatre from December 5, 2014 to January 4, 2015.