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Panto is set to be Pan-tastic!

PAN-TASTIC ... Katy Ashworth as Peter Pan. Inset, other cast members.
PAN-TASTIC ... Katy Ashworth as Peter Pan. Inset, other cast members.

CHRISTMAS is less than 100 days away – and that can mean only one thing.

Panto season is almost upon us, and swashbuckling adventure Peter Pan is coming to the Sunderland Empire.

Sunderland Empire Panto 2012'Peter Pan'Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Darling, Tom Lister as Hook and Sy Thomas as Smee.

Sunderland Empire Panto 2012'Peter Pan'Sarah Jane Buckley as Mrs Darling, Tom Lister as Hook and Sy Thomas as Smee.

The classic tale is being given a Christmas twist as the traditional panto returns to the Wearside venue for the first time in three years.

Last week, some of the cast were at the theatre in High Street West, preparing for this year’s seasonal show.

Stepping into the shoes of panto baddie Captain Hook is soap star Tom Lister, who plays Carl King in Emmerdale.

North Yorkshire-born Tom, who is making his panto debut at the Empire, said: “I’ve never done pantomime before but there’s nothing like that live reaction from the audience and I’m really looking forward to it.

“It’s a great privilege to have the panto brought back by public appeal. Let’s just get bums on seats and have an absolute riot.”

Joining him as his sidekick will be presenter, actor and stand-up comedian Sy Thomas, playing Smee. Sy is starring in the new CBBC series The Revolting World of Stanley Brown, which he says has helped him prepare for the role.

He said: “I’ve never done panto before but my background is in kids’ TV so I’m used to that and you can have fun and mess around.

“It’s really exciting and it’s such a good tradition, every city should have it.”

Sarah Jane Buckley stars as the lovable Mrs Darling – a contrast to her role as Kathy Barnes in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.

This will be her fifth year starring in this version of the pantomime.

She said: “This is a great version. It’s a traditional panto with a very real story to it, but each panto brings it right up to date.”

Children’s TV favourite Katy Ashworth, best known for presenting CBeebies show I Can Cook, will be joining the cast as Peter Pan.

The last two years have seen the Sunderland Empire opt for musicals Legally Blonde and White Christmas rather than the traditional panto.

But this year, theatre bosses decided to return to their seasonal roots to deliver some fairytale magic to the region.

Ben Phillips, Sunderland Empire general manager, said: “It really was because of feedback from customers. The musicals did very well for us, but you have to listen to your customers.

“I think this UK Production version will have a lot more magic than the last time.

“The cast are actually going to fly over the audience which didn’t happen in the last pantomime – is has a very high production value.”

Peter Pan is on at the Sunderland Empire from December 13 to January 6.

Tickets cost between £10 and £29.50. To book, go to www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland or call the box office on 0844 871 3022.

n We’ve got two family tickets, admitting four people with a minimum of one child, to give away for the 7pm show on Friday, December 14.

To be in with a chance of winning, just tell us who is starring in the panto as Peter Pan.

Fill in the coupon on this page and send your answers to Vicki Newman, Peter Pan, Shields Gazette, Northeast Press, Echo House, Pennywell Industrial Estate, Sunderland, SR4 9ER.

Twitter: @shieldsgazvicki