Revealed: Stevenage pantomime cast members announced for Aladdin at the Gordon Craig Theatre
- Credit: Martin Smith / Origin8 Photography
Principal cast members for this year's Stevenage pantomime Aladdin at the Gordon Craig Theatre have been announced.
From the team behind 2019's award-winning production of Beauty & the Beast, 2021-2022 show Aladdin will open in Stevenage on Friday, November 26.
While Gordon Craig panto legend Paul Laidlaw has finally 'hung up the frocks' after 35 years at the venue, the hugely popular Aidan O’Neill will be back at the GCT this Christmas as Wishee Washee.
The Jordan Productions festive treat will also include West End performers Steven Serlin, Alexandra Wright, who is currently appearing in musical Anything Goes at the Barbican Theatre in London, and Claire-Marie Hall, as well as vastly experienced panto star Stuart Nurse.
Speaking to this paper via Zoom, panto favourite Aidan said: "Every time we come back to these press launches, I always go 'are we back already? Wow, it seems like it's been hardly any time'.
"This is the first time I've ever come back and thought, 'oh, it's a long time since I've been here!'
"It's so nice to see everybody that we usually see when I come here.
"I'm excited to get started at rehearsals and start messing around again."
Aladdin will be Aidan's seventh Gordon Craig panto and he's looking forward to finally getting back on stage in front of an expectant audience in Stevenage after last year's show was cancelled due to the pandemic.
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"I don't think I realised until it was cancelled last year how much people rely on it and how much people feel like it's a part of their actual Christmas," said Aidan.
"So many people contacted me or sent me emails saying how much they are going to miss it.
"I think it means a lot to people to come back and to feel normal.
"The actors on stage and people in the audience will all feel a sense of relief and a sense camaraderie because we are all back in this together."
This will be the Irishman's second time in Aladdin at the Stevenage theatre, his GCT debut coming seven years ago.
"We did Aladdin here when I first arrived at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage in 2014, so it seems like a while ago," said the panto star in our Zoom chat.
"So this is the first one I've done for the second time around. It will be totally different, obviously, but I'm looking forward to getting stuck into it.
"It's the same part. I always play the comic, the fool... the one that doesn't get the girl!
"I'm happy to play the idiot with the big hair!"
Taking on the role of the evil Abanazaar is West End performer Steven Serlin, who this summer appeared in hit musical Heathers at the Theatre Royal Haymarket, London.
After playing comedy roles, Steven loves being the villain at Christmastime, so much so he has previously been nominated as 'Best Baddie' at The Great British Pantomime Awards.
"From someone who does a lot of comedy characters in other things, it's brilliant that I don't have to try and get laughs," Steven tells me in our Zoom chat from the Lytton Way theatre's Green Room.
"Even though I am 'comedy baddie', there's no pressure because you are just going to get booed all the time, and that's what I love. You're never gonna win!
"So I make sure that I tell the audience as soon as I come on stage that you must boo me. Otherwise I just don't think I'm doing my job if I don't get booed."
Playing the title role of Aladdin will be another West End performer, Alexandra Wright.
Aladdin will be her first Gordon Craig panto and she'll arrive in town having appeared alongside theatre royalty in the current Barbican production of Anything Goes.
"I'm so excited to be part of the panto here in Stevenage," said the talented singer, dancer and actress.
"I'm really excited to take on the challenge.
"It's very different from what I'm doing at the moment. I can't wait!"
In the revival of Cole Porter's musical currently playing at the Barbican, Alexandra is one of Reno Sweeney's Angels, Chastity, alongside award-winning Broadway superstar Sutton Foster as Reno. The London cast also includes Robert Lindsay, Felicity Kendal and Gary Wilmot.
Playing Widow Twankey in Stevenage this Christmas will be St Albans resident Stuart Nurse.
Stuart has appeared in Hertfordshire pantos in St Albans, Potters Bar and Radlett over the years. He also directed the 2019-2020 Potters Bar production of Sleeping Beauty for Jordan Productions at the Wyllyotts Theatre.
He's ready for the challenge of following in Paul Laidlaw's footsteps as the Dame in Stevenage.
"It's very exciting. I have been wanting to work here [at the Gordon Craig] for a long time and the opportunity has now come and I'm delighted to be able to take it on," said Stuart.
"I'm really looking forward to working with the team here at the theatre, some of whom I've got to know over the years coming to see the show, as I've been working with Jordan Productions for some time.
"I'm very excited to be working with Alex [Wright] and the rest of the team."
From Newport, South Wales, Claire-Marie Hall will appear as Princess So Shi, having previously played the role for Jordan Productions in 2018 at the Lighthouse Theatre in Kettering alongside Twist & Pulse.
Also an accomplished singer with a number of function bands, Claire made her West End debut in Les Misérables as Cosette, and played Gabriella Montez in High School Musical at Hammersmith Apollo.
Aladdin runs at the Gordon Craig Theatre in Stevenage from Friday, November 26, 2021 to Sunday, January 23, 2022.
Book your favourite seats at www.gordon-craig.co.uk or call the box office on 01438 363200.