Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal has announced the principal performers of this year’s pantomime, Beauty and the Beast, which goes ahead this festive season following the cancellation of the 2020 production.
The seven-strong cast will be led by a new dame, Nick O’Connor.
The Liverpudlian actor is no stranger to the Georgian Theatre having played the evil uncle Abanazar in the most recent production of Aladdin; the unhinged fairy Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, and Elvis as the ‘not so cowardly’ lion in The Wizard of Oz.
The transition from baddy to Dame is a road well-trodden and the same path was taken by the theatre’s previous Dame, Gary ‘Gacko’ Bridgens, who bowed out in 2019 after ten fantastic years, with the first four of these playing the bad guy followed by a six-year run as Dame.
“Being given the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of panto legends Dominic Goodwin – the theatre’s first dame from 2010-2012 – and Gary Bridgens is both exciting and daunting in equal measure,” said Nick.
“All dames are played differently and this presents an exciting opportunity for a complete shift in style.
“However, I now understand how David Moyes must have felt taking over from Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.
“But unlike David Moyes, I know I will have the warmth and support of the Georgian audiences to help me along the way.”
The handover was announced at the very last show of Aladdin when the audience witnessed a Doctor Who-style transition scene whereby Bridgens morphed into O’Connor in a video projection.
The new Dame was due to have his first outing in December 2020 until the pandemic put a stop to most pantomimes across the land.
Another Richmond pantomime actor returning to the Beauty and the Beast line-up is Alex Moran who played the part of the genie (aka Freddie Mercury) in the 2019 production of Aladdin.
He will be taking on the role of Lumiere, Cogsworth and Ridgeley.
Alex is a multi-award-winning stage actor who has performed around the world for the last ten years, several of those in the National Theatre’s global smash hit War Horse and Volcano’s London run of A Clockwork Orange.
Taking the role of Belle is Lucy Carne who has plenty of pantomime experience under her belt, including recent roles in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and A Christmas Carol.
She has also appeared in Coronation Street and the Emma Baggott film Still Life.
Lucy will be playing opposite Ben Andrew who is taking the part of the Beast and Prince.
Ben has toured in numerous musicals and plays including, The Capeman and Little Shop of Horrors, as well as taking the leading role in a production of Macbeth. He is also the lead singer of UK rock band Never A Hero, and their songs and videos play on numerous TV and radio stations around the world.
Completing the acting line-up is Marcus Jones as Gaston. Marcus recently trained at Mountview Academy of Theatre and has a degree in Music from Royal Holloway.
He has toured with a production of Cinderella so is looking forward to getting his teeth into another fairy tale favourite.
Finally, providing the all-important musical accompaniment is musical director Daniel Bowater and musician Alistair James – reprising their roles from the most recent Richmond production of Aladdin.
Clare Allen, writer and director of this year’s pantomime, is confident that this year’s festive line-up will create a show that equals if not betters previous productions.
“Getting the right actors for the parts is crucial”, she said. “The Richmond pantomime is well-known for its spectacular scenery, captivating costumes and sensational special effects but the ultimate success of the show relies on the quality of the performers and the appeal of their characters to the audience. This year’s production of Beauty and the Beast will be no exception.
“We ask such a lot of our actors. Because of the size of the stage, we have a relatively small cast so each person has to be nothing short of brilliant. They also have to be multi-talented – so not only in possession of fine acting skills but also able to sing, dance and play several musical instruments.”
The chorus is made up of three groups of talented young performers recruited locally that have become a mainstay of this popular family pantomime.
Beauty and the Beast runs at the Georgian Theatre Royal from 3 December 2021 to 9 January 2022.
Tickets cost from £12 to £22 and are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service on the theatre’s website: www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk