1.The ‘Baywatch’ cast
Some people stand in the darkness, afraid to step into the light… but not the ‘Baywatch’ team. New Wimbledon Theatre bagged two flesh-baring faves from the Saturday night soap. The most famous double act of the ’90s, Pamela Anderson, bounced into 2010’s ‘Peter Pan’ with David Hasselhoff. When the Hoff had to miss a show he was replaced by Jerry Springer. As a veteran of sexually crude, violent, audience maddening shows, he fitted right in.
2. Ann Widdecombe
When she wasn’t advocating the reintroduction of the death penalty, former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe tried to soften her image with an appearance in Dartford’s Orchard Theatre’s 2011 ‘Snow White’. It was difficult for all concerned – every time she was meant to be centre stage, poor old Ann kept wandering off to the right.
3. Cliff Richard
With The Beatles’ arrival in the early ’60s, British pop’s biggest godbotherer became old news. So, like any career-savvy musician in need of a fresh start, he made a beeline for panto. Cliff and The Shadows played the Palladium’s 1964 and 1966 Christmas shows. Their best years, the audience was no doubt quick to point out, were behind them…
4. Priscilla Presley
Elvis’s ex has had so much ‘work’ done she looks younger than her grandkids. So she was an obvious choice to play the youth-obsessed queen in New Wimbledon Theatre’s 2012 ‘Snow White’. Rumour has it she’s eyeing up the title role in a new production of ‘Annie’.
5. Elton John
Reginald Dwight starred in a 1984 charity ‘Mother Goose’ at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Given that the on-stage Elton is basically a combo of every panto character already, it’s not actually surprising to learn that he donned an OTT outfit to tread the boards in the campest performance art known to man.
6. Ian McKellen
The idea of highbrow panto might seem oxymoronic, but that’s what Old Vic audiences got in 2004. One of cinema’s most famous wizards put Gandalf to one side to play Widow Twankey in the theatre’s ‘Aladdin’. It was a double-entendreridden delight, incorporating inventive uses of the word ‘ring’.
7. Julie Andrews
Before she became the practically perfect Mary Poppins and brought the hills to life in ‘The Sound of Music’, one of Julie Andrews’s favourite things was panto. She starred in the lead role of the London Palladium’s 1953 ‘Cinderella’. The gender-bending obviously appealed – she went on to play a man and a woman in cross-dressing 1982 comedy ‘Victor Victoria’.
8. Steve Guttenberg
‘Police Academy’, ‘Three Men and a Baby’… the ’80s were a prosperous time for Stevie G. But by the mid-noughties his career had switched to full-speed reverse. Following in the footsteps of every has-been actor, he signed up for panto glory in Bromley. The man we once cherished as Mahoney became Cinderella’s dad in the Churchill Theatre’s 2008 production.
9. Henry Winkler
Ever since the mid-’80s, Henry Winkler had been searching for a part to match his role in ‘Happy Days’. Little did he know that the Fonz’s successor was waiting in Wimbledon – Captain Hook in 2006’s ‘Peter Pan’. He’s to reprise it in Richmond this year, despite the fact that it quite clearly hampers his ‘Heyyyy’ thumbs-up signature move.
10. Jim Davidson
The forces’ sweetheart got his big break in the panto world when he wrote and starred in 1995’s ‘Sinderella’, an adult version of the fairytale, followed by ‘Boobs in the Wood’ in 1999. Seemingly continuing with the X rated titles, he landed the lead in ‘Dick Whittington’ at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre but for once, ‘dick’ jokes were banned. Christmas truly is a time for family…
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