The Face Of North East Panto

Issue 86

This year marks an incredible twelve years in panto for Tyneside legend Steve Walls, as he gets ready to grace the historical Playhouse Whitley Bay stage and entertain hundreds of families once again as Wishee Washee, in festive favourite Aladdin. We caught up with the man himself to discuss his impressive career.

Hi Steve, you are one of the most recognised faces on the North East entertainment circuit, with many flocking to see you every year, tell us where it all started?

I started my career as a Pontins Bluecoat in Blackpool back in 1988! That job really taught me all aspects of entertainment, from being in shows, to hosting them and the technical side of things. It was such a great learning curve. After just one season, I started performing in working men’s clubs around the North East. Again, this was a great apprenticeship which toughens you up quite quickly let me tell you!

Your CV reads like a best-selling novel! Tell us about some of your most memorable and favourite gigs?

Tough one as I have lots of favourite gigs for different reasons. I hosted the Champions League Final at Old Trafford in 2003, which was just incredible. For three years I toured as a support comedian for Freddie Starr, when Freddie was in his prime, again, amazing experience. In recent years, I’ve done a lot of work with Jane McDonald, which I really enjoy. One aspect of my profession is that I have had the opportunity to work with so many of my hero’s like Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson, Steve Davis, and being a massive Only Fools and Horses fan – working with John Challis all spring to mind. I went on to write material for the Boycie & Marlene tour and John mentioned me in his autobiography which I was so chuffed about!

For over 10 years you have wowed hundreds of families in the Playhouse Christmas Panto in Whitley Bay, this is a remarkable achievement, what is it about panto that you can’t get enough of?

I love seeing the excitement and magic in the children’s (and many adults) eyes when I’m on stage. If a panto is written and staged well, it should appeal to everyone from 3 – 100 years old! There’s nothing like creating laughter and seeing an audience love it. I’ve done panto in some beautiful theatres like the Manchester Opera House and Blackpool Grand, but there’s something special about the Playhouse in Whitley Bay. This being my twelfth year, I’m seeing mums who used to watch me when they were kids now bringing their children which is so lovely. I also have a great relationship with Gary Telfer from Blue Genie Productions, the man behind all these wonderful Christmas pantos who has become a friend as well as a boss!

This year sees you performing alongside original X Factor star Chico in Aladdin! How exited are you to be back on stage this Christmas, especially as you and Chico are really good friends?

Yes I’ve known Chico for over ten years. We’ve done many shows and events together. He came to Whitley Bay when we did Peter Pan and told me how much he loved the venue and the area so I know it will be a big deal for him. The Playhouse fans are going to absolutely adore Chico! He is such a talented guy. I always love coming home at Christmas and the fact I’ll be performing at my favourite theatre, with one of my good mates this year makes it extra special. For the first time, my eight year old daughter is dancing in the show, and my wife is the choreographer and company manager! We can’t wait.

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