IT'S behind you! At least that's what Joanne Malin thought about her panto career, until she was persuaded to come out of retirement for one last time - to play the villain.
And the BBC Midlands newsreader is taking the commitment seriously, having singing and dancing lessons and losing a stone in weight, ready for the 54 shows at the Lichfield Garrick Theatre.
She is playing wicked Queen Evilene in Snow White and the Magic Mirror. It's her third recent pantomime, but she's used to performing on stage, as she studied at the Italia Conti Theatre School in London.
Jo worked as a dancer on the QE2 and on stage, appearing in 42nd Street, a UK tour of Grease and Jack and the Beanstalk at the Birmingham Hippodrome with Russ Abbot. Then she switched careers and took a course in broadcast journalism.
She says: "Apparently I mentioned in conversation a year ago that if I ever were to be persuaded to do another panto, it would have to be as the baddie.
"I don't remember saying it, but it was noted and I was offered the part of the Queen.
"It's quite a challenge. I've just been reading my script and my first line is the famous one, 'Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?' "I'm 46 so I have to prepare myself, or I won't be able to keep up with the young ones.
"I have a big dance number, so I've been going to tap and ballet classes every week in Moseley.
"I love dancing. Singing makes me more nervous, so I've been having singing lessons for several months. And I've joined Slimming World and have already lost a stone.
"I'm looking forward to being a baddie, being booed and hissed, and having all the interaction with the audience. I'm used to talking to a camera and not having people shout things out!
"It's a traditional pantomime but an original one, written just for us - it's not the Disney version. So while we have dwarves, they are called Pugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cuthbert Joanne Malin is playing the evil queen in panto. She is better known for reading the news on TV and is pictured, left, broadcasting on Children In Need.
Dibble and Grubb, after the Trumpton firemen. And they will be puppets.'Joanne adds: "It's my third panto at Lichfield Garrick. I played the fairy six years ago and I only ever planned to do it once, but I enjoyed it so much that I went back five years ago.
"Then I moved from Central to Radio WM and I didn't have the time. It's hard work, doing shows twice a day.
"I'm not that busy at the BBC now, so why not? "Rehearsals started on November 18 so I have already done most of my Christmas shopping. I'll be very busy once the panto starts, as I have a 70- mile round trip from my home in Alvechurch to Lichfield.
"The Garrick is lovely, with 500 seats which means everyone gets a good view. It has a nice friendly feel to it.
"I am getting four beautiful frocks made for me and we're getting brand new sets. It's great that a small theatre is investing in such a good quality production.
"I'm a massive fan of Christmas and usually go all out, with a huge tree and so on. Last year I had 17 family members round the table, but this time it will be much quieter."
So is this really her panto swansong? "Well, it would have to be a Hollywood blockbuster to get me out next year. But never say never...."
Snow White and the Magic Mirror plays Lichfield Garrick from December 5 to January 5. For tickets, ring 01543 412121 or go www.lichfieldgarrick.com
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