After playing to packed audiences and receiving its best reviews ever, the Theatre Royal in St Helens has decided to spread the joy by making its final showing of Cinderella a Pay What You Can performance.
The theatre says it’s a gesture of goodwill for those in need at a time of crisis, and a chance to give something back to the town and community it’s become very much a part of.
Panto – and theatre – director Chantelle Nolan says: “A number of theatres, not many, across the country are doing this and I thought it was a really nice idea.
“It’s a way we can give something back.”
She goes on: “We want it to be for people who would love to come to see the panto, and who normally come to see the panto, but because of the cost of living crisis genuinely can’t afford it.
“I think everybody deserves a bit of panto magic.
“I’ve already had a lady on from Wavertree who always brings her family but this year couldn’t afford to and she says it’s made her day – and the comments on social media already have been really positive, saying what a lovely idea it is and how great to give back.”
Chantelle adds: “I was a little worried that people might ask why they had paid money to see it and now others get to go for little – or nothing – but this is help for those who genuinely need it and people appreciate that.”
The Pay What You Can performance will be the last show this Sunday, January 8, at 5pm. The theatre will release a code from 10am tomorrow (Friday, January 6) which will remove the ticket charge when people go online to book.
Audience members will then have the option to make a donation when they arrive, or enjoy the panto, starring Corrie’s Kimberley Hart-Simpson and Britain’s Got Talent’s Jon Courtenay and Jamie Leahey and Chuck, for nothing.
“We are a 700-seat theatre and we have sold 300 tickets. We could have done a buy-one-get-one-free offer for the remaining 400, but we decided to do Pay What You Can instead. It’s a gesture from the theatre, from us, to end on a high,” says Chantelle.
Although it’s been on a high since the panto first opened last year.
“People have said it’s the best panto we have produced which makes me really proud,” says Chantelle. “Pantos have developed over the years, and now they’re full-on musical productions.
“There are so many numbers, special effects and costume changes. And I always try to do something different to create more magic for the children.”
(There’s a spectacular reveal scene inspired by Frozen in which Cinderella’s rags are magically transformed into an incredible ballgown so she can attend the ball and re-kindle her romance with the prince).
“We are a small theatre, but we are big in our ideas and what we produce.”
And there’s even more to get people queueing at the box office in 2023 – not least more pantos!
February will see another panto for half-term with The Wizard of Oz and there’ll be the usual Easter panto too, this time Beauty and the Beast, as well as one in October.
But Chantelle says: “There’s such a variety at the theatre all year round, from tribute acts to comedies, and psychics to children’s shows like Tales from Acorn Wood at the end of January.”