Ask anybody from Magna Vitae Productions and it seems like a lifetime ago, (it’s actually fourteen months) since the team at the Embassy Theatre, Skegness sat down and discussed the feasibility of bringing the production of their annual pantomime in house for the first time. A meeting which involved long discussions, plenty of notepaper, brainstorming sessions and more than a sizeable amount of positive mental attitude – others call it enthusiasm. How hard could it be? It would take some time to find out the answer.
After the end of the 2016 season and with another pantomime over, Christmas 2017 seemed ages away and therefore, there was no need to think about it now. Wrong. With the decision to bring Aladdin in house for the festive period now made, there was so much to consider before an audience could be entertained. Auditions, budgeting, lighting, marketing, set design and so much more. No one wavered – the path was now set and cries of ‘oh yes we can’ were heard throughout the corridors of the Embassy Theatre. The focus remained and detractors were not permitted (there weren’t any anyway)! Many great artistes had passed through the doors of the theatre, many of them household names. It was now the turn of Magna Vitae Productions to forge a reputation as the biggest pantomime force in town and boy, did they aim high.
With a story written and a creative team assembled, auditions were held at the famous Pineapple Dance Studios in London. After seeing many hundreds of potential cast members, the Production Team had found their Aladdin – along with several others who would all form a part of this magnificent spectacle. After a photoshoot with all of them at the venue they would all call home for three weeks in December, the design team set to work creating the images that would adorn every wall, banner, photoframe and village hall noticeboard from Skegness to Saxilby! A huge amount of work was involved as a pantomime of this scale had never been attempted at the Embassy Theatre before. Detractors take note – it can and would be done. Thankfully, there was a technical maestro and he has with the aid of his team, produced something quite amazing. A director with experience was essential and again, he delivered not only a script worthy of this fine venue – he also delivered a vision – a vision that both he and the theatre could be proud of.
Rehearsals started with two weeks to go and the cast had ‘moved in’. Two weeks would be ample time to ensure that every move was perfectly staged, every line was delivered with gusto and every costume fitted perfectly. Surely spending so much time together would cause problems? Backstage gripes and minor stresses. Not a bit of it. Nothing could in fact, be further from the truth. Everyone was getting on famously – like old friends. The atmosphere that only a theatre can muster. After two dress rehearsals and several late nights the ‘stage’ was set. How would it go? The answer would not be too far away.
After a sold out schools performance on the morning of 15th December, at 7:00pm on the same day, the great and the good all gathered in the auditorium to see what had been achieved. Children were carrying their merchandise – flashing swords and lamp keyrings, whilst parents leafed through a copy of the programme, trying to familiarise themselves with everyone involved. Do I know anyone? Will I spot anyone famous? No. Stars were going to be made – no need for celebrities here. It would be a lie to suggest that there wasn’t some nervousness. There was a sense of slight apprehension but everyone involved was confident that this would work. The investment both financially and also in the many hundreds of hours spent creating this fantasy world – would it pay off? The answer was a resounding yes.
The performance on Gala Opening Night delivered in abundance. The cast, crew and an army of volunteers delivered something so special that some members of the team were reduced to tears. It’s just a pantomime surely? Not at all. This represented an investment. An investment in both time and also in sheer hard work – determination at times. It had all been worth it. Objective achieved.
The feedback has been so positive with comments throughout the town and on social media proclaiming Aladdin as the king of the pantomime and the best one to ever have graced the Embassy stage. When you consider the people who have been here before – that is some accolade. A fluke – not a chance. Night after night, throughout twenty (yes, twenty) performances, hundreds of people arrived to ensure they were not going to miss this. This was a pantomime that deserved its plaudits. Having broken previous sales records with Aladdin, there will be no resting on any laurels as attention has already turned to next year’s pantomime Cinderella which will open on Saturday 15th December 2018. Tickets are already on sale – with some seats already sold.
The only way is up – but the benchmark has been set. Second best is not an option. Only the very best will do. Fourteen months after the initial discussions, it was clear that everyone had come together to create something that will forever be remembered as the pantomime where Magna Vitae Productions came to town and also, when Magna Vitae Productions ‘went to town’ to create a show that will always be remembered as the one where ‘we did it’.
Cinderella will be supported throughout the next year by a range of fantastic, varied and entertaining shows which help re-inforce the reputation of the Embassy Theatre as the premier entertainment venue on the East Coast. Find our more by visiting our website or following us on social media.
Written by Brendan Bugg