THE stars came out and raised more than £25,000 to help save a South Tyneside theatre from closure.
Comedian Jason Cook rallied his famous pals together for a charity gala in aid of the Customs House in South Shields.
Jason, creator of the BBC2 sitcom Hebburn, starred in two shows at the Mill Dam venue yesterday alongside fellow borough comedians Chris Ramsey and Sarah Millican.
Hebburn cast members Steffen Peddie, Victoria Elliott, Neil Grainger and Pat Dunn – along with East Boldon’s X Factor finalist Lola Saunders – also performed to show their support for the theatre.
They were joined on stage by swing singer Glen Roughead, backed up by young tap dancer Mia Thompson, and BBC Radio Newcastle’s Alfie Joey at the sellout showbiz extravaganza.
The event was prompted by a chat Jason, of Hebburn, had with Customs House executive director Ray Spencer about the future of the venue.
Jason said: “The idea behind the shows was to make money to keep the Customs House open.
“This is a very special theatre in South Tyneside, and it’s just an amazing place.
“It’s a proper community theatre, and that’s why we should be doing this to keep it open.”
Comedian Chris, of South Shields, added: “I love this venue – I genuinely do.
“I’ve got plans for the future for this venue for my stand-up personally, which I can’t go into, but it’s going to be big.”
Hebburn cast members brought their TV characters back to life with two sketches specially written for the gala.
Victoria, who has starred in the Customs House panto and played Denise in Hebburn, said: “It’s amazing how much has been raised.
“The Customs House is a place for people to come to laugh, and be educated, and see films and have drinks, and it’s important to keep it alive because it brings people together, and it’s nice to be part of that.”
Neil, pub singer Gervaise in the show, added: “This is the first time I’ve been to this theatre, but I really believe in North-East theatre, and I wouldn’t be an actor without it, so it’s really important to support the area, and something I’m really proud of is the arts scene in the North East.”
Steffen, Big Keith in the sitcom, said: “I’ve done comedy gigs here for years, and some of them have even been funny, so I wanted to come back and do it again.”
The money raised by the gig has saved the venue from closure, something Ray said had been close to happening.
He said: “I have to say that the show itself was incredible.
“The audience was so supportive, and the whole cast who were on stage together were unbelievable, and there was something in the region of 30 people taking part, and it was absolutely brilliant.
“We worried about the Customs House surviving, because we did very nearly have to close.
“To know we’ve got that sort of support front of house and backstage is incredible.
“We’d set a date on January 30, and that looked like that was when we were going to close.
“However, on Christmas Eve, we got some intervention money from London – from the Arts Council, God bless them – and that’s allowed us to move forward, especially now with this sort of money, into the next 12 months.”