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Chelmsford’s Young Panto Company provides theatre opportunities for children

Young Panto Company Children 2023 (5)

Chelmsford Theatre’s Young Panto Company is supporting young children with aspirations to join the theatre industry. The scheme is run by Chelmsford Theatre in association with One From The Heart, who have co-produced this year’s panto alongside the theatre, and provides exciting opportunities for children aged 11 to 16 to be cast in the annual panto.  

This year’s panto, Jack and the Beanstalk, features a talented line up of ten local children, who were cast via the scheme. Aged between 12 and 14, the young ensemble plays Queen Fussybutt’s posse of courtiers. 

Young Panto Company Children 2023 (6)

Auditions process to cast ten talented children 

The Young Panto Company gives young people a taste of what it’s like to work in the theatre industry, beginning with rehearsals, which took place for Jack and the Beanstalk in May 2023.  

This year’s call for applications saw many gifted children hoping to be cast, with just ten spaces to be filled.  

Producer Daryl Back from One From The Heart oversaw the casting process. During auditions, the children were given warm up games to boost their confidence before showcasing their dancing and singing skills. Some of the children also displayed other exceptional skills such as juggling and gymnastics! 

Young Panto Company Children 2023 (7)

Chloe, who was chosen to appear in Jack and the Beanstalk, explains why they decided to apply for the opportunity:  

“I’ve always loved performing arts and musical theatre. I’ve been in lots of shows before and I’ve always wanted to be in a pantomime, but I’ve always been too young. When I saw this opportunity for people my age, I decided to go for it and luckily I was cast.”

Chloe, 12

Children learn varied theatre and life skills during rehearsals  

From mid-November, the ten selected children returned to the theatre to begin rehearsals alongside the cast and crew. To allow them to continue attending school during this time, the children rehearsed during evenings and weekends only. 

The children were split into two teams of five, to perform in together throughout the panto run. During rehearsals they learnt complex choreography routines with Director and Choreographer Ryan-Lee Seagar, and honed their singing skills alongside the Musical Director, Henry Brennan.  

As well as getting an introduction to theatre life and improving their creative skills, the children also gained valuable life skills. Through theatre timekeeping routines, their interactions with industry professionals, and repetitive scene rehearsals, they’ve boosted their communication and concentration skills, their self-discipline, and their confidence levels. 

One of the Young Panto Company ensemble, Ariel, says they’ve had so much fun being part of the show: 

“It’s been so amazing, the cast is like a tight-knit family. Everyone is so into what we’re doing and we’re all trying to give the best show possible. As a child in the cast, it’s not like you feel babied, everyone just wants you to be your very best. We all work very hard, learning vigorous routines on and off stage, stage etiquette, and some life lessons. It’s been so much fun.”

Ariel, 14
Young Panto Company Children 2023 (3)
Young Panto Company Children 2023 (4)

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council, highlights why it’s so important to provide pathways for young children into the creative sector: 

“It is so important to inspire children to be involved in the creative world. Such opportunities to perform on stage alongside professional actors can play a huge part in building their confidence and skills, helping set them up for success later in life – regardless of their future career choices.”

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford

Theatre Director Lee Henderson says this year’s young ensemble have been outstanding: 

“We’ve been so pleased with this year’s accomplished young ensemble. They’ve all been absolutely incredible, showing a level of maturity and dedication which has just been astonishing. They’ve picked up their roles incredibly quickly and really given it their all at every performance so far.

“I’ve seen first-hand how much the children have enjoyed this process since rehearsals started – the whole experience is a brilliant step for them to take on their journey into theatre.”

Lee Henderson, Theatre Director, Chelmsford Theatre

Book your tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk  

It’s not too late to secure your tickets for Jack and the Beanstalk at Chelmsford Theatre this season. There are limited tickets remaining for December performances, but still good availability for the first week in January.  

Tickets can be booked via Chelmsford Theatre’s website. Keep up to date with the theatre’s panto antics this Christmas via Facebook and Instagram

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.