Any youngster who watches CBBC will spot a familiar face in the cast of My First Panto: Rapunzel.
Stewart McCheyne plays the Prince and Rapunzel’s father in the latest interactive family show from The Garage and All-In Productions.
He’s known for playing cousin Mac in the children’s rock band Andy and the Oddsocks fronted by Cbeebies star Andy Day. The band have just filmed a new TV series which will be on our screens early next year.
Stewart’s theatre credits include Peter Pan, Grimm’s Halloween Fairy Tales, The Boy That Wouldn't Grow Up, Macbeth, The Dusty Springfield Musical, The Ballad Of Rudy, Kidnapped, Our House and Save The Last Dance For Me.
He’s joined by Abigail Middleton, who’s playing Rapunzel. Your little ones may also recognise her from the Disney Channel’s The Evermoor Chronicles. Her recent credits include Sleeping Beauty, Pig, Scouse Pacific, Kiss Me Quickstep and Peter Pan.
Emily Panes plays the witch Dame Gothel. Her credits include The Wonderful Discovery of Witches, The Art of Skipping, Romy and Julian, The Dance Hall and The Talk.
Writer and director Daniel Burgess, of All-In Productions, said: “I can’t wait to work with these amazing actor-musicians. I think we and the audience are going to have lots of fun. You’ll get to sing, dance and play along in this 50-60 minute show for ages up to 7 and their families. Cook vegetables from the witch’s garden, help Rapunzel escape from the tower, dress up old Dame Gothel and more.”
Thrown straight in at the deep end, the cast have been working on getting the musical numbers down.
Abigail said: “It’s all coming together and we can see where it’s going instead of it just being a lot of music in front of us and panicking. We’re giving it a bit more structure, a bit more of ‘this comes after this’ and ‘okay, is it under our fingers now’. Even if it’s not, it’s really important knowing what you don’t know as much as what you do and nice to mark out what needs extra work.
“Getting the music done first (helps with) ‘where does this scene come in’, ‘oh it’s after that’, ‘oh it’s that song, now we know what we need to grab, where we need to be’ so when you start the blocking it’s like ‘ah, I’ve got a bit more context through the music’.”
Emily agreed: “It’s nice to have that settled in when it comes to acting too and working out choices, all that kind of stuff.”
Being actor-musicians, expect lots of instruments.
“I play violin and piano and then the extras, the kind of buy one get one frees – the accordion is a piano you hold, the mandolin’s a violin the other way round. In this I’m mainly playing the violin,” said Emily.
Abigail plays eight instruments – “Jack of all trades, probably master of none,” she joked.
“Piano is my baby but an accordion’s been added (she’s actually playing Emily’s) and I don’t really play guitar but I’ve had guitar written for me for this so that’s also fun. I’m playing none of my main instruments in this which is a nice challenge.”
Emily added: “We’re just working on the mega-mix which is like the finale and we’ve just been trying to work out ‘okay, I’m on this instrument for this song, you’re on that instrument for that song, then running into each other’… Dan’s been talking about hiding hooks for instruments around the set and in Rapunzel’s hair.”
Both can’t wait to get to know their characters more.
Abigail said: “I’m looking forward to how different Rapunzel is as a princess. She’s not what you’re going to expect from a typical fairytale. I always said I’ll never play a princess, it’s just not something I look forward to but the idea of this princess is something fun to give a go. There’s a song called Rapunzel, Rapunzel that’s quite 1950s, quite out there and fun. That’ll be one kids will definitely be dancing too.”
Emily, who’s looking forward to meeting Rapunzel’s little lizard sidekick, also likes how her character Dame Gothel isn’t your usual villain.
“We’re turning the fairytale on its head again. I always get the ‘I’m just a princess’ role so I’m excited to do the other side of that for the first time. Everyone I’ve spoken to say the baddies are the best characters to play.”
High in a tower, Rapunzel sits by the hour, waiting for the day she can explore the world below. Is her mother Dame Gothel being over protective or is Rapunzel a prisoner? A chance encounter with a Prince turns her world upside down.
Give Rapunzel's hair some flair in our colouring competition. The winning look will be recreated on stage and earn its designer a family ticket to the show of their choice (subject to availability). Just download the picture here and send the finished design to us by 17 November. Include the entrant's name, age, their parent or guardian's name, a contact number and email address.