OLDHAM Coliseum Theatre’s 2019 pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk will see Richard J Fletcher step into the extravagant wardrobe of the Dame as Fine Time Fontayne passes the baton to his long-time co-star.
Fine Time and Richard both joined the Coliseum pantomime family in 2008 for Aladdin, with Fine Time playing Widow Twankey and Richard playing Wishee Washee.
Returning each year in their respective roles as the Pantomime Dame and Comic, who is often the son of the Dame, they are beloved by Oldhamers of all ages.
Fine Time said: “I decided last year that Cinderella would be my last Christmas as Dame, but to be able to hand over to someone I admire and trust is making it easier for me to hang up my padding – top and bottom.
“With a long tradition dating back to Kenneth Alan Taylor and subsequent Dames no one has ever dropped the ball and I think Richard, being a former member of Manchester City’s Youth Squad, will kick the ball even higher.
“It’s like my son has become the daughter I never had.”
Richard is praised year on year for his boundless energy and skilful enticement of audience participation, both on and off stage.
At a recent cast visit to Dr Kershaw’s Hospice in Royton he had patients and staff in fits of laughter as they shouted out his catchphrase from this year’s production of Cinderella.
Richard plays a multi-dimensional Buttons, with a heart-rendering ballad performance of Emeli Sande’s Clown as well as the usual jokes, slapstick and heel-clicking jumps.
Richard commented: “Being an Oldhamer, the Coliseum panto was a big part of my childhood. I couldn’t imagine spending Christmas anywhere else.
“It’s an honour to be asked to play the Dame – it’s as if Buttons is graduating! It’s a big role to fill but I’ve got a good few months to practise walking in heels and dancing in dresses.”
Currently performing as Pumpy Squeezepocket, one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, Fine Time Fontayne has missed only one production in over ten years due to a broken ankle.
Fine Time is also the co-writer of Oldham’s annual festive spectacular and has written more than 20 pantomimes at the Coliseum and in various theatres across the country.
With his wealth of knowledge in the festive theatrical institution he will continue his role as pantomime co-writer, working on Jack and the Beanstalk with Acting Artistic Director of the Coliseum, Chris Lawson.
Chris commented: “I’m sorry to see Fine Time leave as Dame but delighted that we’re still continuing our relationship with him.
“We have a brilliant cast and creative team for our pantomime and I’m excited Richard is graduating to the Dame role.
“I had my first taste of directing panto this year in Doncaster and I can’t wait to bring all that I’ve learnt back here to Oldham for 2019.”
Alongside co-writing with Fine Time, Chris will be working on Jack and the Beanstalk with the Coliseum’s annual Designer Celia Perkins and Musical Director Dave Bintley.
Jack and the Beanstalk runs from Saturday, November 16, 2019 to Saturday, January 11, 2020 at Oldham Coliseum Theatre.
Tickets can be booked by calling the Box Office on 0161 624 2829 or online at www.coliseum.org.uk