SLIDESHOW: Atomic Kitten's Liz McClarnon and 911's Lee Brennan talk panto in Chesterfield
High-flying pop pin-ups Liz McClarnon and Lee Brennan swooped into Chesterfield to launch a pantomime in which they will be starring.'¨
The multi-million record-selling singers from Atomic Kitten and 911 swopped the magic carpet of Aladdin for the red carpet to make a grand entrance at the Winding Wheel. Liz was smitten by the town’s sights. She said: “How gorgeous is it walking through Chesterfield - I’m going to be doing a lot of tourism stuff while I’m here.” The Celebrity Masterchef winner will play Princess Jasmine in Aladdin at the Pomegranate Theatre, which opens on December 2. She said: “I love the fun element of panto. There’s no better audience than children - they enjoy it so much and they react to you.” Liz played Cinderella in Liverpool in 2012.
Lee is well-versed in panto and will play Aladdin for the second year, after appearing in the title role in Leeds last year. He has played Peter Pan four consecutive times which included a run in Derby. He said: “It’s a magical time of the year. Panto is not hard; you may be a bit tired after doing two or three shows a day but when you get out on stage, you have a buzz.”
Between them, Liz and Lee have clocked up 20 million record sales with their groups thanks to hits like Whole Again and More Than A Woman. Both Atomic Kitten and 911 enjoyed a resurgence in fame through the ITV2 programme The Big Reunion in 2013 which sparked an arena tour where they were watched by 200,000 fans.
Liz said: “The Kittens still do lots of summer shows. We get to hang out together and have a laugh. We’re not making any new music - it’s not really on the cards for us.”
Lee, who co-wrote Blue’s chart-topper If You Come Back, said that 911 have recorded a new video for their song I Do and are doing the occasional live show. He said: “It’s more relaxed as we don’t have huge schedules. We get together, have a drink and a laugh - it’s what we love doing.”
He is currently starring in Footloose in Aberystwyth while Liz is preparing for the musical Shout! which opens in Blackpool in October.
Anthony Radford, arts and venue manager for Chesterfield Borough Council, said: “We’ve tried to develop a contemporary feel to the cast. People in Chesterfield really respond to people who are modern and up to date.
“We’re absolutely delighted to have Liz and Lee. They’ve not only had a successful pop career but they’ve had great success on stage. Liz has been in Legally Blonde and Lee has been in countless pantomimes.”
Aladdin will be the fifth panto to be produced in Chesterfield by Paul Holman Associates.
Father and son Keith and Ben Simmons are writing the script, directing the show and playing comical policemen.
Keith, 69, said: “We’ve been a comedy double act for twelve years together. I used to work with my brother Alan and we did our cabaret act at the Aquarius nightclub in Chesterfield many years ago. When Alan packed up performing in 2002, I talked Ben into joining forces with me because he’d grown up with the stuff that I’d been doing.”
This will be father and son’s 12th panto together and Keith’s 48th production.
Keith said: “We worked with Lee (Brennan) in panto in Derby ten years ago when he was Peter Pan and we were two of the pirates. He doesn’t look any different now.”
They hope to include a scene in Aladdin which capitalises on Liz’s win on Celebrity Masterchef in 2008. Ben said: “You have to tailor things for the performers who are in it. It’s important that the audience gets to see people do what they’re known for.”
Booking is now open for Aladdin which runs from December 2 to January 3. Contact 01246 345222 or www.chesterfieldtheatres.co.uk