End of an era as Lewes panto dame Andy hangs up his bra

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St Mary’s Pantomime isn’t going to let the threat of demolition of its theatre affect plans for the usual colourful, comical and musical offering that’s been part of Lewes life for more than 60 years.

Cinderella is going to be a poignant production for long time director and dame, Andy Freeman, who has been associated with the panto for more than 30 years, 17 as director, and is hanging up his bra at the end of this production.

“We thought about burning it,” he said, “but it proved too much of a fire risk!”

St Mary’s prides itself on its family-orientated approach, not only to its audiences, but also the cast and company, many of whom joined the panto as children, on stage or backstage, and now take principal and other important roles to keep the show on the road.

Joining Andy as an ugly sister will be his son, Tom, and the Freeman family links continue with joint choreographer, Lucy, who plays the title role, 29 years after being born during a matinee of Cinderella and who made her debut in the chorus of the same pantomime six years later.

Co-choreographer Louise Hackett (Prince Charming) maintains the family connections theme appearing with her brother Thomas, playing Buttons for the first time, and dad, David, who plays Baron Hardup and admits to being somewhat confused at times.

“I’m playing a part who is the stage father to two ugly sisters who are really two blokes who are father and son; their real-life daughter and sister is my stage daughter; my real-life daughter is a chap and my son is my servant. I’ve given up trying to make sense of it!” he said.

A chorus of 20 local children have been rehearsing their routines for the last couple of months and there’s a wide mix of tunes and songs from 1930s musicals right up to an Olly Murs number.

Cinderella opens at the Christie Road social centre tomorrow ( Saturday) and runs until January 19, except Monday. Performances are at 2pm and 7pm on Saturdays, 12noon and 5pm on Sunday and 7pm Tuesday to Friday.

Tickets are available from www.stmaryspanto.org or 01273 477733 and start from just £3 for children for the mid-week shows.

But what about the threat that the theatre may be knocked down to make way for housing development? “Let’s just say that it gets a mention!” said Andy.