Pantomime fun at Rugby Theatre

Steve Bradnam (Mrs Twankey), Josefina Achaval (Princess Say-Wen) and Michele Marsella (Aladdin)
Steve Bradnam (Mrs Twankey), Josefina Achaval (Princess Say-Wen) and Michele Marsella (Aladdin)

It is panto time at Rugby Theatre – ‘Oh, yet it is!’ And director Mike Allen reckons he’s put together one of the best casts he’s ever had for his annual family extravaganza.

And among those on stage will be a young performer making her debut at Rugby Theatre who has sung her country’s national anthem in front of thousands of people at an international sporting event at Twickenham.

Josefina Achaval is playing Princess Say-Wen in Aladdin which opens at the Henry Street venue this week for a 13-performance run.

Josefina is the partner of Argentinian rugby international Gonzalo Camacho, who plays for Leicester Tigers.

She is a big name in Argentina, where she found fame in her country’s equivalent of The X Factor.

Josefina, who now lives down the road in Market Harborough, was chosen to sing her country’s national anthem at the clash between the Pumas and England in November 2013.

She said it was a great honour, and a great occasion for her as well as for the players and supporters.

Josefina admits she hadn’t even heard of pantomime, let alone seen one, before she came to England a couple of years ago.

She said: “I heard about Rugby Theatre through a friend, who said they were a lovely, friendly group of people and that I would have a good time if I was able to join.

“She was absolutely right. Everyone has been so kind and generous, and I have had a fantastic time in rehearsals.

“I can’t wait for first night – though I know I will be very nervous. I’ve sung in front of thousands at big sporting occasions, but I will still get butterflies.”

Mike Allen, who wrote and devised the panto, as well as directing the show, said it was a real treat to have Josefina among the cast.

“Aladdin is one of my very favourite pantos,” said Mike, “and to have a big star like Josefina in the show has made it even more special.

“And she’s joined by some real Rugby favourites too, like Michele Marsella who plays Aladdin, Mark Baird who is the evil Abanazer, and one of our regular ‘dames’ Steve Bradnam as Mrs Twankey.

“It really should be a wonderful show, and we can’t wait for the fun to start on Friday.”

Tickets cost £10 and £11 and are available from the Rugby Theatre box office on 01788 541234, or the website, http://www.rugbytheatre.co.uk/aladdin/