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Panto royalty Jimmy Tarbuck helps celebrate Wolverhampton Grand's 125th anniversary - with pictures

By Alison Norton | Wolverhampton | Theatre & Comedy | Published:

This week Wolverhampton Grand Theatre celebrated turning 125 with a glittering opening of festive pantomime Dick Whittington.

Wolverhampton Grand's panto opening

The atmosphere was truly buzzing with excitement and Christmas magic as families, couples, groups of friends and colleagues packed the city centre venue to celebrate the milestone.

Pantomime royalty Jimmy Tarbuck made an appearance on the night, taking to the stage dressed as The Sultan to deliver a comedy act.

The Sunday Night at the London Palladium host covered everything from his appearance on Strictly Come Dancing to his favourite football team Liverpool and of course the mighty Wolves, to his forthcoming tour with Des O’Connor.

“This wonderful theatre is yours. It’s Wolverhampton’s,” said Jimmy.

“And here’s a little appeal from me - please look after it, dust it down and wrap it in cotton wool. Enjoy it.”

“Come and see this wonderful pantomime in this wonderful theatre of yours. Happy Christmas and God Bless all of you."

Wolverhampton Grand's panto opening

The show also stars the likes of Hi-de-Hi! stars Su Pollard and Jeffrey Holland, Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas, comedian Aaron James and returning favourites Ian Adam and Julie Paton.

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Following the 79-year-old's performance, a four tier cake adorned with images paying tribute to the theatre, created by Sugar Budz in Compton, was wheeled onto the stage.

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Sugar Budz owners, Debbie and Amelia Nutting said “We were very excited to be asked to make the cake. It will feed about 200 and it took about 20 to 30 hours to make it.”

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Audience members praised the performances, and the theatre's celebrations.

Six-year-old Lilly Preece from Stafford said: “The big rat was scary and the cat made me laugh when they said his name was Tommy Ticklebum.”

“I’d give it 10 stars, it’s the best panto I have seen.”

Louise Geirnaert, Jimmy Tarbuck, Joseph Roberts and the anniversary cake

Professional actress Aimee Fisher from Wolverhampton said: “I am absolutely loving the show. There is plenty for the kids, some adult humour and its very enjoyable to watch.

"The giant rat was impressive, I want to see it again.

"The kids in the show have loads of energy and are smiling, which is great too.”

“It was here at the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre that I started my performing dream, so happy 125th Birthday.

"Without the Grand, my passion would never have been kick-started and I would not have gone on to pursue my career.

Wolverhampton Grand's panto opening

"Without the Grand I would not be who I am or where I am today, so thank you and happy birthday.”

Adrian Jackson, chief executive and artistic director at The Grand Theatre, extended a heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended the opening celebrations.

“Our Gala night this evening is very special for the Grand Theatre, marking not only the official opening night of panto, but also our 125th birthday.

"There’s such a rich history of entertainment here and public support of this very special theatre is incredibly sincere.

"On behalf of everyone at the Grand Theatre, I extend heartfelt thanks to everyone for making this iconic theatre a great success for the whole community.”

Wolverhampton Grand's panto opening

Opening on 10 December 1894 with a performance by D’oyly Carte Opera Company, the Grand Theatre hosted its first pantomime just two weeks later, with Sinbad the Sailor opening on Christmas Eve.

The venue has since hosted the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Gene Vincent, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, Lulu and many more.

Dick Whittington runs until January 12. Call 01902 429212 or visit www.grandtheatre.co.uk for tickets.

Alison Norton

By Alison Norton
@AlisonNorton

Theatre critic and unofficial 'am dram queen' for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star

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