Take a TV star, a sprinkling of fairy dust and a very romantic gesture, and you have a very magic night at the panto.
Pantomime’s Fairy Sugarsnap, alias former EastEnders star Nina Wadia, waved her wand at York Theatre Royal and turned a marriage proposal into a magical moment with a little help from the ‘Drone of Love’.
Hundreds of theatregoers witnessed Sam Knowles propose to Nina’s niece Ally Wadia at the end of a performance of Jack and the Beanstalk.
The Drone of Love is used in the show by the Dame to find a date from among the men in the audience. The drone roams the auditorium, projecting images of potential dates on to a screen suspended on stage.
Sam was seen on screen getting on one knee to propose to Ally, whom he met while both were students at the University of York, as her family and the audience watched on screen.
The idea for the proposal was said half-jokingly to Sam by Nina. “She said, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if you made a proposal part of the pantomime?’,” explains Sam, 32.
“Initially I thought that’s too much and didn’t know how it would go down with everyone.
“Then I thought about it some more – the fact that a proposal would involve her family, which is very important to Ally, and also the mutual friends who introduced us would be in the audience.
“It seemed the perfect opportunity to propose.”
‘I was in shock’
Just before the curtain call as the cast were doing shout-outs to audience members, they said there was a very special message. Nina came onstage in her Fairy Sugarsnap costume and read out a message written in rhyme.
Sam got down on one knee and completed the rhyme with the proposal “Will you marry me?”.
Just as in pantomime there was a happy ending – Ally said “Yes”.
Ally, 31, said: “I was pretty much in shock when it happened.
“I wasn’t expecting a proposal although there were a few things in the run-up that made me think something weird was happening.
“We knew we wanted to get married although Sam hadn’t proposed yet.”
The couple, who are both ecological surveyors, haven’t yet set a date for the wedding.