THE star-studded cast of Jack and the Beanstalk have met each other for the first time, in the region, ahead of their opening show at Darlington’s Hippodrome in December.

Strictly Come Dancing’s Shirley Ballas and Britain’s Got Talent’s George Sampson joined stand-up comedian Phil Walker and comedy writer / actor Daniel Taylor, in the town on Monday, September 23.

Between December 5 and January 6, one of the “best cast at the Hippodrome yet” will take up their roles in the English fairytale and hope to impress the region with their “spectacular extravaganza."

Strictly Come Dancing’s head judge, Shirley Ballas, who is playing Mother Nature told The Northern Echo: “I am very excited to be here in Darlington to be in Jack and the Beanstalk opposite Danny Taylor playing Freshcreep and all the other cast.”

“It’s going to be the most spectacular 3D extravaganza that you could possibly imagine, and I’m very excited to be here.”

The Northern Echo:


Ms Ballas, who is starring alongside her boyfriend Daniel, said the idea to perform had been suggested by another Strictly judge during filming of the BBC One show.

She said: “I was sitting with Craig Revell Horwood and he said to me ‘I think you would actually be very good in panto’ but I had no acting, no singing or stage experience although my son has appeared on Broadway.

“I’ve followed him all of his life and I’ve been around it, so I thought ‘Ok let’s set that challenge’ and it was possibly the hardest thing of my entire life, and the scariest. If you think people get scared on Strictly, this is nothing to how scared I was going into panto – it was terrifying.”

Comedy writer and actor, Daniel Taylor, said: "I basically insult everyone for two hours, so I have the best job.

"At the moment I’m on a show called Blood Brothers, which I’ve done in Darlington and across the North-East.

“I’m really excited because Darlington will be your typical Northern crowd and it’s what makes us who we are.

"I expect there will be so much warmth and what they’ve done with this theatre is just completely transformed it, it’s a real credit to Darlington.”

The performance, which has been months in the planning, formally announced it’s well-known cast in June.

But for dancing legend George Sampson, who is playing Jack, the chance to come to the North-East to perform was a “no-brainer.”

The Northern Echo:

He said: “I’m always fussy as to where I want to do panto and as soon as Darlington came up it was a no-brainer, I’ve wanted to do the North-East for a long time.

"I get more laughs down South because of the whole Northern Charm, which is a novelty to them, but I get more appreciation up here because people appreciate the work you’re putting in.

"Although I enjoy them both, I love a Northern audience – you can’t beat it – it’s going to be spectacular.

Mr Sampson, who appears on Britain's Got Talent: Champions, said he was looking forward to working with Ms Ballas owing to her dance expertise.

He said: "We’ve got Shirley now and have dance expertise all around the clock, which is nice as it mean’s I get to come out of my shell and do a bit more of what I do, I’m hearing there’s going to be dance-offs.

"I am most probably, going to be doing Singing in the Rain at some point in the show, but that's not confirmed."

Executive producer for Qdos Entertainment, Jake Hine, said: "We’ve assembled one of the best cast that we’ve ever had at the Darlington Hippodrome.

The Northern Echo:

"This cast has come together – it’s very current, everybody loves Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent, so combining the dance skills with Phil’s comedy and Daniel’s acting, I think it’s all going to come together and be the best ensemble that we’ve had the Darlington Hippodrome for a long time."

Ms Ballas told The Northern Echo that the BBC One show was going "absolutely amazing" after it resumed for this year's latest series.

She said: “Strictly is going absolutely amazing we’ve just had our first live show and it’s going to be the most unpredictable season ever because there are so many great dancers, I mean – it’s hard to tell, even I can’t tell.

"I think we’re going to get to week three and I’ll still be able to tell who’s going to make the final.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult to be sending somebody home as from next week, that part I don’t like at all – just don’t troll me on Twitter if I have to send someone home.

“The opening show had one of the best sets of marks ever because the performances reflected that, and of course let’s remember they only have two weeks to get ready for the live show, as from now they only have one week and often they don’t only have one dance, they have two or team dances, so it’s going to be interesting from week two, what happens."