Wednesday, 30 November 2011

'Beast' of a show ready to provide festive panto fun in Leeds

Caption: Denise Nolan as 'Witch Hazel' posing with fellow cast members Jez Edwards (crouching) as 'Pierre' and left to right Ben Palmer as 'The Beast', Abigail Welford as 'Beauty' and Paul Leno (standing behind Abigail) as 'Madam Fifi' at the panto launch in the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey

The magic of pantomime comes to Leeds this week as the festive show ‘Beauty and the Beast’ begins at The Carriageworks theatre.

Starting on Friday 2 December and running until Saturday 7 January 2012 at the venue off Millennium Square, the production starring Denise Nolan of ‘The Nolan Sisters’ and CBBC favourite Jez Edwards offers a traditional fairytale pantomime guaranteed to leave people of all ages full of the Christmas feelgood spirit.

Denise, who shot to fame performing with her sisters in the 1970s before forging a successful solo performing career in music and acting, will play the role of the evil ‘Witch Hazel’ in the show being produced by London-based pantomime experts Paul Holman Associates.

Looking ahead to the first performance, Denise Nolan said:

“I adore Yorkshire with its history and stunning countryside. And Leeds is a really great city. I really enjoy going to places like Roundhay Park and of course the shopping – Leeds will be a great place to do my Christmas shopping this year!

“I’ve been doing panto now for 28 years and most of them have been in the ‘nice’ roles so it is a still a bit odd to be playing the wicked queen. I don’t have children of my own but my nephew used to think I actually was Snow White as from the age of two he had grown up watching me play the role!

“I love traditional pantomime and I love performing. The thing about a panto cast is that you are surrounded by such talented performers – everyone in the cast is really talented and you quickly become like a family. I am really looking forward to the show and getting started.”

Starring alongside Denise will be CBBC favourite Jez Edwards, returning to The Carriageworks for a third successive year to play ‘Pierre’, the pantomime comic who brings chaos and calamities to proceedings.

Jez is eager to return to the venue as it has already proven lucky for him in more ways than one, as he explained:

“I’m back in Leeds for the third straight year because I love the city and I love doing panto here. The people in Leeds are tremendously friendly, have a great warmth and they really enjoy panto – we had over 16,500 people come to last year’s show which was fantastic.

“I think of The Carriageworks as my lucky venue as I was in my dressing room here two years ago when I got a phone call offering me a part in Coronation Street and last year the same thing happened and I was offered a part in my first major play ‘Busybody’ which was a real breakthrough for me and meant I could fulfil a boyhood dream of mine and appear at The Grand in Blackpool. So I’m hoping to get another phone call like that here this year!

“The Carriageworks is a great venue. It’s small and intimate, the reception from the audience is fantastic and you are close enough to hear all the banter too which is fun.

“I hadn’t really been to Leeds much at all really before three years ago but now it is one of my favourite cities. Everything is within walking distance in the city centre – the shops, restaurants, theatres which is perfect. And with the German market here too, with the lights, the food smells and the atmosphere coming from the bierkeller – that makes you smile before you even set foot through the door.

“I have never done Beauty and the Beast before so this is a new panto for me and I’m sure it will be another slapstick role. I can’t wait to get started and I am looking forward to another great run.”

The title roles in the story are played by Abigail Welford as ‘Beauty’ and Ben Palmer as the ‘Count of Christi Monto’ hoping to be rescued from the curse which turned him into ‘the Beast’, with Paul Leno adding to the fun as the eccentric ‘Madam Fifi’.

General manager at The Carriageworks Martin McInulty said:

"Everyone here is really excited about Beauty and the Beast starting at The Carriageworks this week – none of us can believe how quickly opening night has come round!

“The whole cast are buzzing and from the rehearsals it is clear it is going to be another fantastic traditional pantomime for the whole family to enjoy. We are thrilled to welcome Denise Nolan and the rest of the cast to Leeds and it is great to see Jez Edwards back once again as our audiences love having him here, so the stage is well and truly set for another great show this Christmas.”

Beauty and the Beast opens on Friday 2 December and runs until Saturday 7 January 2012. Tickets are available from The Carriageworks’ Box Office on 0113 224 3801 or online at

Press tickets for the opening show on Friday night are available by calling The Carriageworks on 0113 247 4746.

For further information about The Carriageworks visit the website at


For media enquiries please contact:
Roger Boyde, Leeds City Council,
Senior communications officer,
Tel: 0113 247 5472

For further information on PHA please contact:
Ali Cook, PR & Marketing Manager,
Paul Holman Associates

Statement regarding industrial action 30 November 2011

Tom Riordan, chief executive of Leeds City Council said:

"The impact of the strike in Leeds today is broadly as we expected. Our most up-to-date information suggests that around 60% of our staff are not in work today. This includes staff in the city's schools, 95% of which are closed or partially closed.

"Picket lines at council buildings have been peaceful and good natured.

"We have worked closely with the trade unions over the last week to make sure that the impact of this strike on our most vulnerable residents and service users is kept to a minimum. The trade unions took a very responsible position and agreed to provide a limited number of exemptions to staff in critical services based on protecting vulnerable people in life threatening situations.

"We have planned carefully for today, and fully respect the decisions of each individual member of staff as to whether they strike or come into work.

"I would like to acknowledge those staff that are in work today for their help in maintaining essential frontline services for the people of Leeds."


For media enquiries please contact
Claire Macklam, Leeds City Council press office
0113 395 1578 or email