Ugly is no insult in the wacky world of panto

Behind the scenes at the Cinderella pantomime at the Grand Theatre. Jamie Morris and Taz Joseph get their Ugly Sister makeup on.

Behind the scenes at the Cinderella pantomime at the Grand Theatre. Jamie Morris and Taz Joseph get their Ugly Sister makeup on.

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The Gazette’s new entertainment writer STEVE CANAVAN goes backstage with the stars of The Grand Theatre’s festive spectacular

JAMIE Morris and Taz Joseph are an unusual breed – two people happy to be labelled ugly.

They’re not actually ugly, you understand, indeed they’re both handsome fellas.

But being unattractive is how they make a living, for the pair specialise in playing the Ugly Sisters and are among the stars of this year’s hugely successful Cinderella pantomime at The Grand Theatre – a panto there is still time to go and see.

“It is my 17th Cinders,” says Jamie proudly. “Is being chosen to play an Ugly Sister an insult? Maybe, but it’s important to point out there is a lot of make up!”

Jamie, a Blackpool lad who grew up on Devonshire Road, loves pantomime season.

He and Taz, who are as close off-stage as on it (they tied the knot a year ago), spend every Christmas at a theatre in the UK.

The rest of the year is spent working in Funny Girls and in cabaret shows abroad.

But it’s the panto they particularly adore and given the pair have a home in Blackpool (Taz is originally from up the road Lancaster), being at The Grand this year is ideal.

“It is my favourite theatre and this is my hometown so it is fantastic,” added Jamie.

“It gives me an extra buzz playing at the Grand because there are people I know in the audience and the atmosphere just feels extra special.”

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While pantomime is old hat for Jamie, that’s not the case for his on-stage sister.

“I’d never done any theatre work in my life before I met Jamie,” said Taz. “I was drag DJ-ing in Preston, that’s how we met. Then Jamie’s Ugly Sister partner left and he asked me to do it. The rest is history and I love it.”

This year’s Grand production has been more enjoyable than most. The cast, which includes former Emmerdale star Danny Miller, children’s TV presenter Amy Thompson and radio stars Steve Royle and Hayley Kay, have had a ball (no Cinderella pun intended) and that closeness off set, has meant memorable performances on stage.

“We’ve had so much fun,” said Amy, the Hull-born star of Channel 5’s Milkshake.

“We’re obviously professional when we tell the story but we’re having so much fun at the same time because we all get on so well and I have absolutely loved it.

“It’s my second time at The Grand and I stay in an apartment in Blackpool throughout the whole of the run.

“I love the place and I’d come here every year if I could. It gets some bad press but the people are great, some terrific characters, and I feel at home because I’m a northern girl anyway.

“I’ve also got some good memories of the resort from when I was younger. I competed in a dance championship at the ballroom. I didn’t win but I cam second. That’s not too bad is it?”

The Grand has been packed out twice a day, every day, since the Cinderella panto kicked off at the start of last month.

It’s generally agreed it is one of the best panto’s yet at the theatre, a statement backed up by the fact business is still booming even in the production’s final week.

Company manager Lorraine Hill said: “We’re delighted with how it has gone and it is the cast that has made it.

“They’ve worked together superbly, they’ve all got on so well, and the results are there for everyone to see.

“I think everyone who has seen it would agree it has been a brilliant pantomime.”

Cinderella runs at The Grand until Sunday and there is still time to book.

Tickets are available from £12.50 with children’s prices, concessions, family tickets, schools and group discounts available.

Book your seats by calling The Grand Theatre Box Office on 01253 290190, online at www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk or at the Grand Theatre information sales point in the Houndshill Shopping Centre.