Love was in the air for panto stars Craig and Sarah
IT has been a fantastic year for Wonder Productions, a South Devon-based touring pantomime company who have celebrated their 10th anniversary.
This year has also been special for newlyweds Craig and Sarah Northway who became company directors in January, along with Rob Luke and Nicola Samuel-Stevens.
This winter will see Wonder Productions tour the majority of the UK, stopping at many different towns along their way, finishing up in their home county of Devon.
The company believes it is the closest thing you will get to a full scale theatre production, in the comfort of your own venue. With a set which is able to adapt to almost any space, it's no wonder this year has seen a record amount of shows added to their annual tour.
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Craig Northway joined the company in 2005 as a cast member, and became a business partner to Wonder Productions in 2009.
In 2010 he met Sarah Louise Caplan as an audition candidate for the company. As that year's tour grew, so did love between the couple, leading to their marriage in September this year.
Craig said: "It was really quite the fantasy fairytale, we were falling in love on stage every day as Aladdin and Princess Yasmin, as well as falling in love off stage in real life."
This year saw Craig taking a step back from the footlights as he took on the challenge of director for this year's production of Dick Whittington, while Sarah has moved away from playing principle girl and has undertaken her own challenge of playing her first ever 'baddie' in the role of Queen Rat.
"Pantomime is something very close to our hearts, for the reason it is generally the first time children will come into contact with live theatre.
"If we make that encounter special and as magical as possible, we hope they will return to the theatre as they grow older, and learn to love it as much as we do. Then of course, the cycle starts again. Live theatre is starting to become less appealing to people, with theatre productions becoming fewer, we need to start instilling the love and passion of theatre in the younger generation to secure its future, and that is what pantomime tries to enable.
"It wouldn't be Christmas without going to see a traditional family pantomime, and that is what Wonder Productions strives to offer".
From Easter this year, Wonder Productions will be adding 'Murder Mysteries' to their productions, and will offer a bespoke package, enabling clients to tailor their murder mystery party.
Next Christmas is already being planned, and Wonder Productions will be bringing 'Jack and The Beanstalk' to the stage.
The ultimate dream is to secure productions into static venues, as well as offering their UK tours. One thing Wonder Productions pride themselves on is their roots.
Craig added: "I learnt all I know about pantomime from the previous company directors, Dean and Lisa Winter, and even though they have grown to be some of my closest friends, when we socialise, we still always end up discussing the logistics of pantomime."
In their anniversary year, Wonder Productions has seen some new faces join its cast for their 2012/13 tour of Dick Whittington, one of them being Danny Rodgers (Dick Whittington), son of the late Ted Rodgers from ITV's '3-2-1'.
Danny, who was named after his father's idol Danny Kaye, has very fond memories of his father, who encouraged him to go into show business. And Danny has done just that by following in his father's footsteps and sharing his great love of performance and pantomime.
Danny said: "I've always had a passion for pantomime, and that came from my dad. I used to stay in the wings when he was on stage, and he would sometimes ask me to help him with some effects for his comedy spots.
"I think one of my favourite memories has to be when he called me on stage to be a part of 'The Song Sheet' at the end of the show.
"As you know the comic always selects a few children, and my dad was asking me all these questions, as he had done with the other children standing with me, to which I answered 'you should know, you're my father!' that got a big laugh from the audience."
Danny trained at Chichester University and has enjoyed starting out in his career incorporating his love of stand up and presenting.
This year sees Danny in his first professional pantomime and he hopes it to be the start of many more.
Wonder Productions will be performing Dick Whittington at the Palace Theatre, Paignton, on Sunday at 3pm.
Box office: 01803 665800