Derby City Council's panto proves to be the cat's whiskers after hit opening night
OH no they didn't! Oh yes they did! The first-ever pantomime put on by Derby City Council was a "fantastic" success on its first night last night, according to its leading actress.
About 40 of the authority's staff are taking part in the production of DiCC Whittington at Derby's Guildhall Theatre, with 25 on stage and the rest behind the scenes.
Council chief executive Adam Wilkinson, who previously appeared in Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council's panto, is performing a starring role as the dame.
And Dick Whittington is being played by communications assistant Natasha Cartwright.
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Speaking after last night's performance, the 19-year-old she said: "It was fantastic, so much fun to do, everyone thrived and the audience really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was buzzing."
The production has been directed by Derby Live's creative producer, Pete Meakin, and tells the story of orphan Dick, who journeys to Derby in search of his fortune but ends up trading on the rat-catching abilities of his cat as he aims to become the mayor of the city.
It is a twist on the original story – an English folk tale which tells of a poor boy in the 14th century who becomes a wealthy merchant and eventually lord mayor of London because of the ratting abilities of his cat.
The show is being staged five times, including last night's performance.
Money raised through ticket sales will go to Rainbows Hospice, which cares for children with life-limiting illnesses, and the baby unit at Royal Derby Hospital.
And 400 free tickets have been given to some of Derby's disadvantaged children and their families, who may otherwise not be able to afford a trip to the theatre.
Mr Meakin said that most of the 800 paid-for seats for the five shows had been sold.
He said: "That's pleasing, I must say. With a new show nothing is ever certain."
And he explained that part of the funding to put on the show would come from ticket sales but that help had also come from pantomime producers Paul Holman Associates, which provided free costumes and scenery.
Asked if, given the financial difficulties faced by the city council, it was the right time to have the pantomime, Mr Meakin said: "People said they want to come together as a team from all areas of the council and do this."
And leader of the council, Councillor Paul Bayliss, said: "Even at a time of tremendous challenge, council staff and councillors are able to give up their spare time for the benefit of the less fortunate in our community."