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A Fabulous Fantasy World crack

Walking into Showcase in Montpellier is like entering some fabulous fantasy world. I don’t know where to look first. Upstairs is an array of gifts to match any speciality store and the walls are lined with a huge range of the most beautiful cards, as well as RUSS and Gund soft toys and Enesco gifts for ladies and children. Showcase also specialises in music gifts and Cheltenham souvenirs.

The first person I meet is John Pannett, the co-owner. Showcase has been here for 19 years he tells me. John was a buyer for the Co-op until he was made redundant and having decided he was fed up working for someone else, he set up his own venture Showcase with his wife Heather.

Heather was teaching at the time at her mother’s dance school – the Patricia Newman School of Dance in Priory Street. As proprietors of Showcase, John and Heather have both been involved with amateur theatrical groups for many years such as Promenade Productions, Cotswold Savoyards and Cheltenham Opera and Dramatic Society as members, directing, choreographing and participating in various roles within these and other societies in the area. Many local dancers who have been to college and are now dance teachers and performers in West End shows were taught by Heather.

Showcase started with dancewear and theatrical gifts, using Heather’s expertise, before expanding into fancy dress and costume hire. Heather is also an excellent seamstress and used to make many of the costumes. They still wash all the costumes themselves. “Monday night is ‘Twankey’ night”, John jokes.

Eleven years ago, the fancy dress department expanded into next door’s basement and it now houses over 2,500 costumes. Many are used by theatre groups and schools, but themed parties or weddings such as ‘medieval’ or ‘1920s’ are also a speciality. There are racks and racks of costumes and prices for a weekend’s hire range from around £25 to £40. This includes everything you need including wigs, accessories and footwear to create the total look.

Every era is catered for – Victorian, Edwardian, 1920s flapper and gangster, 30s, 40s and 50s, characters from film and TV, 60s, 70s and 80s, pirates, cowboys, burlesque, authentic uniforms, around the world, the list is endless. Party ideas include everyone dressing up in the year or decade of their birth or using their initials.

I almost forgot the dancewear, which is where it all started in 1992. Showcase sells everything from leotards, tutus and tights for ballet, to dancewear and shoes for Modern, Jazz, Tap, Irish, Scottish, Zumba, Salsa, Ceroc and Ballroom, plus everything else that girls and boys or adults will need for every style of dance. Showcase is a major stockist of brands including Freed, Bloch, Capezio, Topline and Supadance.

But my favourite item in the shop is a purple medieval dress which Heather made a few years ago. I am pretty sure it will fit me. So if anyone is having a medieval themed party soon....

Showcase is located at 13 – 15 Montpellier Arcade, Montpellier Street, Cheltenham GL50 1SU and is open Monday to Saturday 10.00am to 5.00pm.

Tel: 01242 224144