Now in its third year, the Springboard Charity Panto is there to start your year off laughing and dancing.
During the hustle and bustle of the festive period, over 40 industry professionals volunteered their time to audition and rehearse the Springboard version of the classic tale of Dick Whittington. A tale completely rewritten and packed with hospitality jokes (and a few cooking innuendos) as our hero Dick travels to London to start his journey as a chef.
The cast compromised of Springboard Panto veterans (Bob Silk, Barclays & David Cowdery, Cavalry & Guards Club) as our panto dames and hero (and alcoholic) giant talking cat named Cat (Amy Stopher, Blanchette) with some exciting new faces. This year we had the pleasure of Katherine Price (The Caterer) as Alice and Shana Pope (Johnsons Stalbridge) as Springboard Susan also joining the cast. From Chefs to General Managers, you couldn’t get a better mix of our industry than on that stage in Leicester Square Theatre. Other notable faces included Liam Wood (New World Trading) as our title character Dick, Becky Lown (Marussia Beverages) as Vernon, the sidekick to Rat Man played by Barry O’Brien (The Ritz).
In under three months we went from auditioning at the Springboard offices to taking our final bows on the final night. We had many rehearsals over the weeks leading up to the show with our fantastic returning Choreographer Ellie Coote (CUMTS) and Director Hannah Sands (CUMTS) and Producer Geoffrey Roe (Springboard). All songs were rehearsed a few times as were the scenes before we brought everything together in six full cast rehearsals in January. In total there were 65 rehearsals which is hardly anything when doing a west end show and it is truly heart-warming to see us come together and put this show on.
I have always been a keen supporter of charity, especially within our own industry. Last September I set up a charity football tournament for EventWell, a charity specialising in mental wellbeing within the events industry. So, auditioning for the Springboard Panto was an easy choice. Well it was easy to sign up however acting is something I have never done before so auditioning, rehearsing and performing was something completely out of my comfort zone! Some people skydive, I chose to get on stage to sing, dance and act! There were many moments where I felt like dropping out, but I’m not a quitter and with the support and camaraderie of my fellow cast members all nerves disappeared and we were soon taking to the stage.
Our panto followed the story of Dick who has come to London to escape his evil step father (lover of steps, hater of lifts) and find a job to make his fortune in the city. A job, yes! But where will he find one of those in panto town? Discouraged and down he heads to a bar for a drink before returning home. Here we meet Barman (David Marchbanks, Mitchell’s & Butlers) who encourages Dick to head to the careers fair across town and speak to Springboard – they help anyone!
This year I played Alliterative Amy, an eccentric villager at the careers fair shamelessly plugging Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, a main sponsor of the show. We had a whole host of wacky characters in this scene and ensuing dance cheering on Dick to take a chance on Springboard and do some work experience in a kitchen. Another costume change and I am back to being a cook as in the opening number. This time I am skipping down the auditorium whilst singing Be Our Guest, led by head chef Crooner (Martin Dibben, Searcy’s) and a very frantic Maria (Louise Gallant, Gallant Recruitment).
Of course this is panto wouldn’t be complete with our Panto villain, the Rat Man and his Rat Army wreaking havoc on Maria and Alice’s restaurant kitchen. Additional singing and dancing chefs played by Ben Dalton (The Ritz), Nicole Harvey (Gilbert Scott), Amy Henthorne (The Landmark) and Arletty Janoon (Cavalry & Guards Club). In panto land everything does work out to be ok, even with some scandalous reporting by Fiona Silverton (Monica Or, Start Quality Hospitality Consultancy) and threats by food critic Hugh Hubris (Simon Lewis, HIT Training) and food inspector Cindy Bang (Aida Blaauw, Andaz). Turns out the Rat Man is really just Dick’s step father in need of some love (aww).
With the restaurant and day saved, what was this all for?
We didn’t all volunteer our time and efforts for the fun of it (although it very much was fun) but did this in aid of the Springboard Charity. The aim of the panto was to raise funds for the Springboard “Hospitality Futures” programme helping people into careers in the hospitality industry. Springboard specialise in helping people that are long term employed, come from disadvantaged backgrounds or have barriers facing them from gaining employment into careers in the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry. “We equip people with the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to achieve their potential.”
Anne Pierce, CEO of Springboard added “Springboard works to inspire young people and unemployed adults and those facing barriers to work, through innovative and memorable programmes and resources. It uses the same approach with its fundraising and panto encapsulates all that is brilliant about hospitality, its array of awesome talent and raises funds that make a real difference to people’s lives.”
I never thought I would have a career in the hospitality industry, I wanted to be an astrophysicist then aeronautical engineer then a journalist… The only constant in my life was working part time in the industry the whole time. This is the same industry that took me in and helped me build my career after a few setbacks. This is an amazing and welcoming industry to work in, so it is only fair to give back and help others into this world…or dare I say family!
For more information about Springboard and their charitable work, please visit their website here https://charity.springboard.uk.net/