Youlgreave pantomime celebrates half century

Fifty years of Youlgrave Panto, writer director Jan Wilson who has been involved throughout and musical director Nick Stacey who has been involed for thirty years.
Fifty years of Youlgrave Panto, writer director Jan Wilson who has been involved throughout and musical director Nick Stacey who has been involed for thirty years.
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THE PRODUCER who has helped put the magic into Youlgreave Pantomime for decades is celebrating the show’s 50th anniversary by remembering how it helped her find her very own Prince Charming.

This week will mark 50 years of amateur dramatics in the village when Youlgreave Village Hall presents the traditional family pantomime Aladdin, which will be performed from Tuesday January 24 until Saturday February 4.

The pantomime is written and produced by self-proclaimed panto-maniac Jan Wilson; this is the 33rd Youlgreave production she has been involved with.

For Jan, that association started back in 1966 when she travelled to see the renowned pantomime and met her late husband, the producer Norman Wilson, a former chairman of Derbyshire county council.

“Fifty years ago, Norman wrote the first of three Youlgreave pantomimes and went on to produce two more,” she explained.

“He was the one who started all of this, and who set the standards for the rest of us to follow. Sadly he died last year, and I was asked if I would produce this panto as a tribute to him and also to celebrate the 50th anniversary.”

Jan continued: “I think it’s a wonderful record for an amateur group to be celebrating 50 years, our own Golden Jubilee. I’m pretty sure we are the longest-running pantomime in the county, in that we do two weeks of performances.

“It is a wonderful thing to be part of. Each year it’s a lovely get-together, not just for the village but for the wider community as well. It brings the community together, and it doesn’t matter how big or small a contribution you make, it will always be equally valued.”

With high production values and sparkling scripts, Youlgreave’s pantomimes have been seen by thousands of people over the years, attracting panto fans from around the country.

During one recent production of Cinderella, the fully-working fairy godmother carriage was so perfect, decked out in gold and lights, that Jan reckoned: “If Walt Disney would have been there, he would have had it. The people who produced the stage furniture really excelled themselves that time.”

So it’s no surprise that, following the same tradition, audiences are being advised to keep their eyes peeled for Wishee Washee’s specially-designed working washing machine in the latest production of Aladdin!

A company of around 70 cast members and back-stage staff has been assembled for this show-stopping spectacle.

The role of the main protagonist is played by Sophie Dillon, with Camila Parker as the Princess and Pauline Dinsdale, a lay preacher on the Methodist circuit, playing the evil villain (Aunt) Abanazar.

Making his first appearance as comedy panto dame is Bakewell’s Nic Wilson as Widow Twankey. A seasoned actor and performer, Nic’s background in Gilbert and Sullivan has prompted the inclusion of a special patter song in the performance.

Jan added: “The pantomime is aimed at the whole family, and is full of fun and frolics. We are extremely well-known for our costumes, and this year is no exception. They really are strikingly beautiful. And there’ll also be plenty of musical numbers and audience participation.”

Aladdin is presented at Youlgreave Village Hall from Tuesday January 24 until Saturday February 4 (excluding Monday January 30), with Saturday matinees on January 28 and February 4.

Tickets, priced £6 for adults and £3 for children (£3 and £1.50 for the opening night’s performance), are available on 01629 636084.