A retired mechanical engineer is set to star in his 45th consecutive annual panto – oh yes he is!
Frank Jones, 74, will be performing alongside his two grand-daughters, Megan, 17 and Ella, 11, in Wrexham and District Pantomime Company’s production of Beauty and the Beast.
Customers at the Eagles Meadow shopping centre in Wrexham were given a sneak preview of the show which is on at the town’s William Aston Hall between Saturday, February 18, and Friday, February 24.
To help promote the ever-popular panto, which is expected to raise in excess of £10,000 for local charities, members of both the senior and junior dance sections of the company wowed shoppers at Eagles Meadow by performing a number of routines.
Frank, who will be playing Beauty’s father this year, took part in his first panto with the company back in 1972 – when Apollo 17 was the last manned mission to the moon and Elton John released his hit, Rocket Man.
The former semi-professional singer from Rhos has no plans to retire from the stage any time soon.
He said: “I still enjoy it immensely and I especially enjoy working with so many fantastic young people. It’s wonderful being involved in a show with my two granddaughters; it’s something we can enjoy together.
“Although I worked as a mechanical engineer I also worked as a semi-professional entertainer for many years, singing in clubs and pubs around the region so I suppose I’ve always been used to being on stage.
“Over the years I’ve had lots of roles and this year, my 45th consecutive panto, I’m playing Beauty’s father. I get to sing a solo; You’ll Never Walk Alone, the Liverpool anthem from Carousel.
“In the story Beauty’s father is a trader who has to go to Liverpool but gets lost in the woods in bad weather. It the first time we have done Beauty and the Beast
“I just enjoy everything about it, the rehearsals as well as the performances. It’s a chance for different generations to work together.”
He added: “It’s also wonderful we raise so much money for local charities. All the proceeds got to good causes. Last year more than £4,000 went to both Nightingale House Hospice and Hope House Children’s Hospice and £1,000 to the Parkinson’s Society.”
According to publicity officers, Jayne Galante and Soo Moulton-Wilde, company members grateful to Eagles Meadow for allowing me to promote the panto there.
Jayne said: “It’s been fantastic and a big help. The children really enjoy performing at Eagles Meadow and it’s a chance for people to get a taste of our new show.
“The company has more than 100 members aged from just five up to almost 80. It’s not all about being on stage we have costume designers and dressers, make-up artists and people who fill a huge number of roles.”
Soo added: “Hopefully this year’s show will raise more than £10,000 with all profits going to local good causes. As last year Nightingale House Hospice will benefit again. Putting on a show involves a great deal of hard work but it’s something we all really enjoy.”
Borras Infants school teacher Katie Cooney, 31, joined the company three years ago and she is playing the Fairy Godmother in Beauty and the Beast.
She said: “I absolutely love being involved in the annual panto. This year I’m actually playing a female role for a change and will get to wear a dress! Last year I was Prince Charming and the year before that I played Dick Whittington. It will be nice to play a girl for change.
“I just love working with children I teach and those I have taught who are now at senior school. It’s amazing seeing them develop and gain confidence. It’s just wonderful working with these amazing young people.”
She added: “It’s also fantastic to be able to perform some dance numbers here at Eagles Meadow. However, I landed the role of playing the pantomime horse’s bum while we handed out flyers about the show. Now that wasn’t the best casting but it was good fun!”
Mark Salisbury, 54,of Wrexham, a West Cheshire College maths lecturer will be playing the pantomime dame for the 15th time in what will be his 17th consecutive production.
He said: “My brother-in-law got me involved as he was a producer at that time. I just really enjoy it; it’s like a big happy family. My wife Frances is the company’s treasurer. It’s not my only annual performance as I get to play a certain character at Nightingale House Hospice every Christmas!”
Dancers, Charlie Moulton-Wilde, 14, who attends Ysgol Rhosnesni and Sienna Galante, nine, who attends Borras Primary School, really enjoy performing with Wrexham and District Pantomime Company.
Charlie said: “This year is my fourth panto as a dancer. I really enjoy everything about it. Everyone works together, not just children but the adults too.
“It’s been great dancing at Eagles Meadow and everyone seemed to like what we did. It’s a great show and I think people will really enjoy it.”
“Sienna added: “I love dancing and this is my fourth panto. I enjoy working with everyone, children and grown-ups. Maybe I’ll be a professional dancer, I don’t know yet what I want to do.
“It’s been great fun dancing at Eagles Meadow and everyone seemed to enjoy it. The show is fantastic and people should definitely get a ticket and come along.”
Eagles Meadow manager, Kevin Critchley, was delighted to welcome the young dancers.
He said: “The young dancers put on a great show which was a real treat for our shoppers and visitors. It’s wonderful to see children and young people working with older people as part of a community endeavour.
“Wrexham and District Pantomime Company has a rich history going back over a century and the support they give local good causes such as Nightingale House Hospice and Hope House Children’s Hospice is fantastic.
“We were only too pleased to be able to help them promote their show which I’m sure, as in previous years, will be a huge success.”
Beauty and the Beast will be performed at the William Aston Hall at 7.15pm between Saturday, February 18 and Friday, February 24 with a matinee performance at 2.15pm on Saturday, February 18. For tickets, which are £9 for adults and £7 for children or concessions, call the Box Office on 0844 888 9991 or visit www.glyndwr.ticket.co.uk or purchase on the door.