Fascinating images show Manchester’s panto stars, crew and worn years

Halloween is over, the nights are drawing in, and the temperature has plummeted, which can only mean one thing – Christmas is just around the corner, and that means it’s time for a panto.

Fantastic images excavated by the MEN archive shed light on some of the city’s best pantomime performances over the years, with a wealth of images reflecting on the Manchester Thespians that have given us some family-friendly Christmas fun over the years.

From incredible images of behind-the-scenes actors at a production of Aladdin and Cinderella at the Palace Theater, to iconic images of a 1964 Coronation Street pantomime, these images capture some of the best festive stage shows from across the city.

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These images span the 1950s to 1990s – capturing memorable costumes, pantomime ladies, women dressed as men and, of course, a wide variety of stage animals.

Read Dawson and The Roly Polys dance troupe starring Dick Whittington at The Palace Theater, Manchester, December 1990

Perhaps the most iconic images are of an incredibly young-looking Bruce Forsyth, who starred in a 1961 production of Turn Again Whittington.

The TV personality would go on to become one of Britain’s most famous stars, still presenting, performing and entertaining 50 years after the picture was taken.

Take a look at these amazing panto images in the gallery below:

Another stunning image shows the comic duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise enjoying a quick drink behind the scenes before the curtain falls on a 1965 production of Sleeping Beauty at the Palace.

Comedian Norman Wisdom starred in his 1956 pantomime The Wonderful Lamp
Comedian Norman Wisdom starred in his 1956 pantomime The Wonderful Lamp

Meanwhile, a 1990s picture shows Jimmy Cricket with Dana Cricket, ready to star in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

Another picture shows the legendary Arthur Askey, getting ready for a performance of Babes in the Wood, at the palace in 1976.

Pantomimes has long been a cornerstone of British theater, originally derived from the European Comedia Dell’arte form, which would inspire people like William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson.

In the early 19th century, pantomimes were a popular Christmas, New Year, and Easter tradition for most children to attend.

Often, the early plays were centered around the usual harlequin character, the slapstick, over-the-top comic character.

Pop star Des O'Connor shows off the real pumpkin he was supposed to use in a 1967 production of Cinderella in Manchester
Pop star Des O’Connor shows off the real pumpkin he was supposed to use in a 1967 production of Cinderella in Manchester

But during the Victorian era, fairy tales began to displace European fables when it came to pantomime performances, until the so-called harlequinade game was surpassed.

The last harlequinade was performed in 1939, and since then acting has centered on our traditional fables such as Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Robin Hood and Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

We would like to hear your favorite Manchester panto memories, did you recognize the panto stars in these photos? Tell us in the comments.

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