"Aladdin" -- John Inman's Christmas Pantomime 2000-2001

In January 2001, fellow fan Laurel MacKenzie and I traveled to England to explore the wilds of London.  While there, we took the opportunity to take a train ride to Plymouth, in Devonshire, where John Inman was performing in pantomime.  Admittedly, we did see the show twice, not because (as some have assumed) we're obsessed, but rather because...

1) We don't find ourselves in the UK very often;

2) Who can possibly pick up all of the details of a show when watching only one performance;

and 3) Shows like this can change from night to night.



This was the huge poster on the side of the Theatre Royal

So, without further adieu, here's what really happened.  The panto was fabulous.  I'd never seen one before, but this was one of the funniest things I've ever seen.  In the afternoon prior to the matinee performance, we left our programs and a note for Mr. Inman with the Front-of-House Manager.  We had heard that he had not been feeling well previously and we felt that at least our best wishes could be sent to him even if we did not get to meet him.  After spending the rest of the day down in the old Elizabethan part of the town (the Barbican), we ended up hoofing it back to the theatre in the rain (since every taxi in the town seemed to have disappeared).  Upon our arrival, we inquired with the manager about the things we'd brought by earlier.  She sent us 'round to the stage door, where the friendly security guard told us that John still had them and that he'd give them to us when he saw us later.  We were instructed to report to the stage door again after the performance that night. 

John as Widow Wanda Twankey with the children who were brought up onstage.

   John descending the stairs for the finale.

After the show, we were welcomed backstage and John's assistant, Ron, came out to greet us.  We were led down the hall to John's dressing room, where he promptly offered us a glass of champagne!  He said, "These are two friends of mine from Plymouth," and introduced us to two local ladies in the sitting room watching the telly.  We spent several minutes chatting, and asked him what it meant when the program mentioned his upcoming trip to Australia for a tour of "Are You Being Served?"  He said that 10 days after the panto's run finished, he would be off to Australia to reprise his role as Mr. Humphries in a stage run of AYBS, starting in Perth and running until sometime in June.   

Meeting with John backstage!

                (Thanks to Ron for taking the photo!)                 

As usual, John was wonderfully gracious and truly seemed appreciative that we'd attended the performances.  We figured that he would be wanting to get back to his hotel, so were preparing to say our goodbyes when he suddenly asked Ron, "Is the bar out front still open for the cast?"  Ron said he thought so and John explained that the cast was having a little get-together that night and would we like to come along?  So we followed him out through the back corridors to the theatre lobby, where the cast were casually seated around some tables, having drinks.  We were able to meet the rest of the cast, including Gary Wilmot (Aladdin) and Malcolm Lord (the Grand Vizier).  We asked Malcolm about the sausage incident (check out Laurel's review for what happened).  He laughed and said he got into a little trouble about it!  As the party closed down for the night, we wished John well and he left to catch his cab.  We immediately headed for the nearest phone booth to call our families to tell them about our experience!  It was the crowning touch on our superb trip to the UK (which was marred only by getting my pocket picked in Picadilly Circus after seeing "The Reduced Shakespeare Company", but that's another story)! 

Austin Reed Deparment Store, to which Captain Peacock threatened to leave Grace Brothers for in "The Old Order Changes."

Turning onto Regent Street.  Could Grace Brothers be just around the corner?