Ready to appear in the panto are (from left) Matthew Madigan from Clonee, Katie O'Connor from Dunboyne and Shannon Russell from Ashbourne, with fellow cast members from Beauty and the Beast. Photo: Conor McCabe
Three local schoolchildren are getting ready to make their dream theatrical breakthroughs in 'Beauty and the Beast' at the Helix on 30 November, having survived the rigours of Ireland's only Panto Boot Camp.
Katie O'Connor (10) from Dunboyne, Shannon Russell (7) from Ashbourne and Matthew Madigan (9) of Clonee, have beat the competition to become panto performers.
200 young hopefuls were put through their paces at Ireland and the UK's only panto boot camp in Dublin this summer - organised by Beauty and the Beast's writer and producer Claire Tighe from Dunboyne.
Their lessons included singing, dancing and the art of pantomime but only the top talent made it through for a place to perform in the Helix, home of the capital's best produced traditional pantomime.
"It's been amazing and really good fun. We've learned loads of new dances and songs," says Katie O'Connor, who is in fifth class at Mary Help of Christians national school, Navan Road. The Meath-based youngsters are among a talented bunch of 32 children aged seven to 12, and 12 teenagers, who have made the grade from panto boot camp.
They will take to the stage for a six-week run at the Helix starting on 30th November and finishing on 13th January. "There is a limit to the amount of time children can perform on stage. So our child star crew of 44 is divided into teams of four and eight. All of them will appear in a selection of shows over the six week period," explained the panto's creator Claire Tighe. Claire organised the panto boot camp at the Helix aimed at sourcing the kids with the best pantomime panache.
This is Claire's fifth panto at the Dublin theatre following on from her hugely-successful productions of Aladdin, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Jack and the Beanstalk - seen by over 25,000 people per year.
Also from Dunboyne and performing in Beauty and the Beast is Claire's fiancé Aidan Mannion. Playing Gastoff, comedian Aidan is back for his 300th comic panto performance at the Helix - setting a record for the theatre.
Meanwhile Meath's own panto boot camp kids can't wait to get out there on stage and show off what they've learned. "It's been the best experience ever. Yes we've put in a lot of hard work but it's been so much fun. We know the audience is just going to love it," says Katie.
The show stars Voice of Ireland finalist Kyle Kennedy as The Beast, and the lovely Lauren Nevin (The Tudors, Fair City) as the beautiful Belle.
Eoin Cannon, who plays Gaston, has previously starred in Disney's worldwide musical production of Beauty and the Beast.
Tickets to the show are priced at €16.50, family tickets are €69. For more info see www.helix.ie or call (01) 7007000