Countdown on as Shrewsbury panto promises to be bigger and better than ever - with video and pictures
It may only be mid September, but the launch of Shrewsbury’s pantomime means the countdown to Christmas is well and truly on.
Tickets are flying out faster than Aladdin’s carpet, with two thirds already snapped up.
It is the ninth year that Evolution Productions has put on the town’s panto, and writer Paul Hendy promises something bigger and better than ever.
Speaking at the official launch at Theatre Severn, Paul said: “Out of all the pantomimes Aladdin is one of the biggest and most spectacular.
“The story goes from Egypt to China and back to Egypt, so it allows itself a lot of spectacle in the show.
"We have got Brad who has been our dame all this time and he is something of a legend in Shropshire now.
"We very much build the show around Brad and his comedy talents.”
Of course he is talking about star of the show, Brad Fitt, not Brad Pitt as shoppers in Shrewsbury may have thought when banners for the annual pantomime went up in the town mistakenly bearing the name of the Hollywood mega-star.
Other cast members include BBC Radio Shropshire’s Eric Smith, Victoria McCabe and West End star Nathaniel Morrison.
Paul added: “It is a great story, one of the traditional panto stories, with all the classic characters you would expect.
"Big, funny and spectacular is what I’m aiming for.”
There are plenty of laughs promised as well as some surprises that are being kept under wraps until opening night.
Paul said: “We are going to be doing something this year that people won’t have seen before in Shropshire.”
Hailing from Telford, Paul has run Evolution for 15 years with wife Emily Wood, putting on pantos across the country, and has been behind the Shrewsbury panto since 2011.
“I like to think we have built a reputation over the last nine years for putting on one of the funniest, biggest pantomimes in the West Midlands,” said Paul.
“As a local boy I am very proud of the panto and how it had grown.”
Brad Fitt said: “It is always nice coming back, there is a familiarity if you know the venue.
"As a dame you have to connect with the audience so when you feel like you know them already it’s quite nice.”
Despite being such a well-known name in Shrewsbury, Brad said he does not get recognised in the street without his red lipstick and rosy cheeks.
But his eccentric alter-ego takes over the minute he is in costume.
He said: “All my dames have different names, different children, different tights, but they are the same dame.
“As soon as I put the make up and a pair of boobs on I start sitting differently and pulling this face.”
Rehearsals get under way in mid-November, with just a matter of weeks for the 40 cast and crew to perfect the performance before opening night on December 4.
By that time, some people will be taking their seats in the audience a full year after buying their tickets.
Theatre Severn marketing officer Beki Poole said: “Tickets went on sale at the start of last December, it is the best time for them to go on sale because everyone is in the panto spirit.
“The panto is a big family tradition for a lot of people in Shropshire.
"There is always a buzz around the theatre from September onwards.”
Tickets via 01743 281281 and for details on all upcoming shows at the theatre visit theatresevern.co.uk