The support of the National Lottery will make it possible to stage certain pantomimes this Christmas, including a starred show at the London Palladium.
Julian Clary, Nigel Havers and Beverley Knight are among the stars of the Pantoland at the Palladium, which runs from December 12 to January 3.
The National Lottery will buy seats at the theater which must be left empty to ensure social distancing.
He’s working with panto producer Qdos to expand the program to other venues.
Qdos is the UK’s biggest pantomime producer and had planned to put on 34 shows in UK venues over the Christmas period.
Many of his pantomimes have been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Ashley Banjo and her Diversity dance troupe will also appear in the Palladium show, which will feature stars and scenes from previous party productions.
Up to 250,000 tickets are expected to be available, with over 20,000 free tickets for National Lottery players.
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “Operation Sleeping Beauty” would help “bring panto back to Christmas” in a “very difficult context”.
Nigel Railton, managing director of national lottery operator Camelot, admitted there would be “challenges” but said the initiative was “definitely worth a try”.
Michael Harrison, the director and producer of Pantoland at the Palladium, admitted that the ploy was “a sticky bandage over a very large theatrical wound”.
“This is not a long-term solution, nor a solution to the tragic situation in which our industry finds itself,” he added, saying that production would create more than 200 jobs.
Nick Thomas, president of Qdos Entertainment, said the program would give “tens of thousands of theatergoers … much needed theatrical magic.”
Harrison, who is also the chief executive of Qdos, said the initiative would be “a lifeline” for theaters and a “live performance industry in crisis.”
“Christmas 2020 needs a pantomime, and this one … has never meant more to our industry,” said Palladium owner Andrew Lloyd Webber.
He said he hoped this would provide “a much needed moment of festive joy as we continue to strive for the rebirth of our wonderful and vital theater industry.”
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