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Jackson The Rescue Dog Leads Panto Cast Into Town!
Wednesday - November 15, 2017
The cast of Richmond’s celebrated pantomime arrives at The Georgian Theatre Royal this week led by a four-legged star who is sure to gain celebratory status over the festive period.

Jackson, a three-year-old cockapoo from Leeds, is taking the role of Toto in The Wizard of Oz and joins a talented human cast for what has become one of the region’s favourite Christmas shows.

Jackson is making his acting debut on the Georgian stage and audiences will find it hard to believe that this happy and confident little performer is actually a rescue dog that just a couple of years ago was really down on his luck. After being airlifted out of a very unsuitable home, he found a new owner in actress Sarah Kearsley who also happens to be a professional dog trainer.

Like the best of pantomime scripts, the rest of the story fell into place and when Sarah was cast in The Wizard of Oz as Alfalfa, the Wicked Witch of the West, Jackson found that he also had a leading role to play.

Clare Allen, writer and director of this year’s pantomime, explains: “We were intending to hold separate auditions for Toto but when we got talking to Sarah we realised that the show’s canine star was actually sitting right under our noses! Not only is Jackson incredibly cute but he is also highly talented and can perform a wide range of clever tricks. He is also very friendly and has already become a firm favourite with the cast and crew. We are sure that our audiences will love him!”

Sarah who starred in The Georgian Theatre Royal’s 2012 pantomime Babes in the Wood is delighted to be returning to Richmond in the company of Jackson. “Jackson was re-homed with me the day before his first birthday and we are now each other’s best friends. I teach dog training at Walkabout Hounds in Leeds and, during his time with me in classes, Jackson had already excelled at advanced obedience training and intermediate agility. It has not been difficult to get him to learn how to do some extra tricks and we even get to share a dressing room!

“We are both looking forward to being in Richmond over the festive period and Jackson is particularly excited by the prospect of the river which we will be visiting pretty often when we are not on stage!” she added.

The rest of the cast includes several well-known faces from previous productions at The Georgian Theatre Royal, including Gary ‘Gacko’ Bridgens as Glinda who is starring in his eighth Richmond pantomime and his fourth outing as Dame. 

He is joined by Freya Mawhinney who is taking time out of her final year of actor training at the School of Arts, University of Northampton to play Dorothy. This is Freya’s first professional role at The Georgian Theatre Royal but she has spent much of her younger years performing at the Theatre with local societies and The Georgian’s esteemed Youth Theatre.  

Nick O’Connor as the Lion is back on the Richmond stage for the second time having performed earlier this year in his one-man show Being Brel – a theatre piece detailing the life of the legendary troubadour Jacques Brel. He is joined by Ross Dean as the Tin Man and Edward Cole as the Scarecrow, who both have plenty of pantomime experience under their belts in theatres across the country.

Daniel Bowater is returning as Musical Director for his eighth pantomime at The Georgian. He is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer and arranger, and will provide the important musical dimension to the production, together with accomplished musician Kerrin Tatman.

The chorus is made up of three groups of talented young performers that have become a mainstay of this popular family-style of pantomime.

The Wizard of Oz follows the phenomenal success of Mother Goose, The Adventures of Sinbad, Babes in the Wood, Cinderella, Puss in Boots, Jack and the Beanstalk and last year’s box office record-breaker Snow White. 

The Wizard of Oz runs from Thursday 7 December 2017 until Sunday 7th January 2018. Tickets are priced from £8 and are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service on the Theatre’s website:

PHOTO: Jackson (Toto) and Freya Mawhinney (Dorothy) team up for this year’s production of The Wizard of Oz at Richmond’s The Georgian Theatre Royal.
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