Live online panto from Norfolk set to reach 80,000 children nationwide

13th November 2020

A pioneering pandemic-beating panto project in Norfolk is set to beam live festive frolics to more than 80,000 children across the nation.

The joint venture between Sheringham Little Theatre, St George’s Theatre at Great Yarmouth and Norfolk County Council’s Norfolk Music Hub combines live shows with a special schools streaming of Rapunzel the Lockdown Pantomime.

A “virtual” show initially aimed to give 5000 Norfolk children the dose of panto fun they looked like missing out on this year due to Covid-19 show cancellations and postponements.

But news of project spread around the schools jungle telegraph, and saw schools sign up from all over the UK – including Scotland, Northern Ireland, Leeds, Southampton and Chelsea – seeing the total spiral beyond 80,000 – with hopes of reaching 100,000.

It will be videoed and streamed on December 16 from St George’s Theatre, where the live shows are also happening on December 15, 17, 18 and 19, before switching to Sheringham on December 22, 23 and 24.

The Music Hub aims to give children the chance to experience live music making – in this case singing, and seeing a live four-piece band.

Its area manager Krista Ribbons said: “The uptake from across the country has been amazing. Young people have had a tough year, and were in danger of missing out on Christmas treats – so they were really keen to get involved in this bit of festive fun. There’s nothing else like it in the country!”

Schools are using online resources to learn seven singalong songs through instructional videos and downloadable lyric sheets. Tutors Tom Appleton and Ellie Bowers-Jolley from the Come and Sing Company also give tips on how to perform and the history and traditions of panto – all interspersed with panto humour.

On show day children are being encouraged to dress up as their favourite panto characters and share pictures on social media.

For those schools where rules don’t allow singing, there is the option of learning to “sign” the songs, providing youngsters with an added skill too.

Debbie Thompson director of both theatres said; “We are thrilled this panto project has taken off so well. It just shows the hunger there is out there for live pantomime – which is a great time for us to engage with children.  It is often their first experience of live theatre – and we know how much they enjoy coming to a live pantomime as a Christmas treat.

“The pandemic is stopping some of the traditional festive fun and events this year but we were determined to find a way to ensure youngsters didn’t miss out on live panto. So when we heard the Music Hub were looking to team up with a local panto we offered our services – and everyone is a winner, from the audiences to the venues and performers.”

Sheringham Little Theatre Rapunzel panto schools streaming