Drew is loving being green and mean as Bognor's panto wicked witch

Drew Donnell returns to Bognor’s Regis Centre this Christmas as the Wicked Witch for their panto production of The Wizard of Oz.

Sunday, 22nd December 2019, 1:13 pm

In fact, he’s thinking of renaming it.

“I think it should be The Wicked Witch of Oz! Never mind the Wizard. Or Dorothy. Who’s Dorothy anyway!” he laughs.

The Wizard of Oz is in the Alexandra Theatre from Wednesday, December 11-Saturday, January 4.

Last year, Drew was Cruella in the venue’s Cinderella, a great experience all round.

“That was just so good. The audience were great and the company and the people were all fantastic. And the volunteers too… It just felt like home!

“The volunteers are so important. They play their part in the theatre and add that extra something. It really is like a family. And everybody does anything for anybody else. It was my first big panto part in a theatre and I just loved it.”

The Alexandra Theatre is pretty much the perfect pantomime venue.

“What is so good about the stage is that it is quite a big theatre, but it is also very intimate. You really feel like you are in the audience. The back row is like the front row, and you just don’t feel disconnected, and that is great. You grab the audience at the start and you take them on this exciting journey with it.

“And you get to read the audience. My entrance last year was through the audience, literally through the middle of them, and you feel like you are on top of them. You just have got to keep the ball rolling, and that’s the great thing about Bognor. It still feels like it is an intimate venue.

“And I love that thing of being the baddie. It’s exciting. The adrenaline takes over. You are being the baddie but you have still got to win the audience over. Every show is different, but you have got to get the audience on your side. That’s the thing about the baddie. Everybody loves to hate the baddie, but they actually love you. The booing goes deep but you have got to make them love you as well as hate you.

“And you can have fun. You can be a little bit sarcastic. And you can have fun with the dads who have been dragged along by their wives. And you know deep down it’s the baddie that they all love!”

To an extent, which particular panto it is is less important than the way you do it: “Cinderella is the traditional one. But really it is all about what you do with it, and with The Wizard of Oz, the great thing is that we are doing the pantomime.

“You have got the film and you have got the musical, but this is the pantomime, and we need to make it all come alive.”

As for what the whole story is all about, well, you can go as deeply into it as you wish, but Drew is happy to see it as being about the different friends that we make at different stages in our lives, the fact that we go through school and then we go through university – and we pick up different friends along the way, much as Dorothy does on her magical, fantasy travels.

“It is about those different friends at different points as you grow up…”

As for the children in the audience, the excitement for the performers is in remembering that for many of them it will be their first time in the theatre.

“And you have got to make them love the theatre and want to come back. This is the first time they are being introduced to it and it is just so important that you make them love the whole experience of being there.”

Tickets for The Wizard of Ox at Bognor’s Alexandra Theatre are available on alexandratheatre.co.uk and 01243 861010.

Bognor’s Wizard of Oz also features Kevin Short as The Wizard and Vicky Edwards as the Good Witch. The show also introduces Katie Bennett as Dorothy.