Thursday, 27 December 2012, 9:00PM – 10:30PM

Devised and co-written by comedian John Bishop with acclaimed Coronation Street and theatre writer Jonathan Harvey, Panto! is a single film starring Bishop alongside Sheridan Smith (Mrs Biggs, Gavin & Stacey), Samantha Spiro (Grandma’s House, Cor Blimey), Mark Benton (Waterloo Road, Early Doors) and 1990s pop star Chesney Hawkes.

It’s the first night of pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’ at the Grand Theatre Lancaster. Lewis Loud (John Bishop), Morecambe FM’s cheeky DJ, is preparing for his stage debut as Jack the Lad. During rehearsals, romance has blossomed between him and Dick Whittington, namely token celebrity Tamsin (Sheridan Smith), better know to her fans as ‘Mad Mindy The Axe Murderer’ from the nation’s favourite soap.

A full dress rehearsal has been called and tensions are beginning to show. Producer Di (Sam Spiro) is keen for the show to be a success – it’s a tough job doing regional theatre and, by taking the part of the fairy, she is anxious to realise her lofty ambitions. Director Francis (Mark Benton) tries valiantly to pull the show together in spite of Di’s constant interfering.

When Lewis’s son, Paul (Daniel Bishop) is unexpectedly delivered to the stage door by ex-wife Gina (Kaye Wragg), Lewis realises he must take his fatherly duties seriously. Not easy when you’re surrounded by chaos and egos, most notably faded theatrical actor Johnny Darby (Michael Cochrane) doing a reluctant turn as a pantomime dame, Di’s nervous daughter Chantelle (Ami Metcalf), the woefully miscast love interest of Dick, and a very accident prone Chesney Hawkes, desperately trying to prove he has more to his musical repertoire than ‘The One and Only’.

John Bishop said: “In 2006 I left my job – that Christmas I appeared in a local panto. It was there I fell in love with that world and came up with the idea of a comedy drama, which has now evolved into Panto! To be making this six years later for ITV1 is really very exciting. The script I’ve written with Jonathan Harvey is something I’m immensely proud of, and the cast are all brilliant – and we’ve even got Chesney Hawkes! What more could anyone wish for this Christmas.”

ITV Comedy Commissioner Myfanwy Moore added: “We’re delighted that the very talented John Bishop and company are going to entertain our audience at Christmas, with such a glittery and heart warming treat of a show.”

Panto! is co-written by John Bishop and Jonathan Harvey (Coronation Street, Beautiful Thing, Gimme Gimme Gimme and Corrie!, Canary and Mohair for the stage), directed by Christine Gernon (Hebburn, Gavin & Stacey, Grandma’s House) and produced by John Rushton (Hunderby, The Royle Family, Early Doors, Sunshine). Executive Producers are John Bishop, Lisa Thomas, Lindsay Hughes and Henry Normal.

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