Beauty and the Beast pantomime cast members in town
PUBLISHED: 11:11 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 11:29 08 October 2019
Cast members were out and about in Stevenage for the launch of this year's Gordon Craig Theatre pantomime Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast opens at the Stevenage theatre next month, and performers from the panto visited Knebworth House, the Cromwell Hotel and the Gordon Craig Theatre on Wednesday for the show's press launch.
The GCT's festive production will once again star Stevenage's favourite pantomime Dame, Paul Laidlaw.
Having appeared in panto at the theatre for over 30 years, he will play Dame Dotty Derriere in the family show this Christmas.
Beauty and the Beast is produced by Jordan Productions, the same team behind last year's award-winning production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which won best panto in its category nationally.
"It's always nice to get prizes and recognition, especially when it's from within the industry," said Paul.
As for this winter's production, Paul said: "Beauty and the Beast is becoming more popular as a panto since the Disney movie.
"It's got all the elements of a panto. It's got a love story, it's got a goodie, it's got a baddie, it's got comedy.
"It's got all the things that you need."
He added: "I don't doubt that because it's in Chris Jordan's hands it will be a very lavish and very spectacular, and a very funny piece."
Comedian Aidan O'Neill is also back by popular demand.
He will play Dame Derriere's son, Potty Pierre, who will cause chaos at the chateau.
"Collectively, me and Paul have probably done close to 40 years in panto at the Gordon Craig," said Aidan.
"He's done the lion's share, obviously!"
Aidan, who also appeared at this summer's Todd in the Hole Festival on the outskirts of Stevenage, loves spending Christmas in the town.
Rehearsals start next month and Beauty and the Beast promises to be a family panto full of oh là là-ughs!
"We want people to walk away from the show and think, 'oh, that was a good show', but also there were set pieces that they really laughed hard at," said Aidan.
"We want mums and dads to laugh as well as the kids."
He added: "I think parents enjoy looking at the kids laughing, and the kids enjoy looking at their mums and dads laughing.
"I think the dads come expecting they will just be the chauffeur, driving everybody to the panto, and they enjoy it more than most people."
Former EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Holby City actress Carli Norris will be this year's panto villain, Malevolent.
Soap star Carli, who played Belinda Peacock in EastEnders, said: "I'm obviously the evil part of the pantomime.
"I am the person that turns the handsome Prince into the Beast, and I'm wickedly jealous and don't want anyone to have a nice time.
"So I spend the entire time basically making people's lives hell."
Carli met her fellow cast members for the first time this week.
She said: "From what I've seen, I love them all. We are all making each other laugh.
"It's a nice, small tight company and we're all very different and we all get on very, very well.
"So I'm looking forward to the panto."
Rebecca Vere will play the good fairy, Fairy Formidable.
Of her part, Rebecca said: "She's French and she's kind of crazy, a bit mad and speaks in a very good French accent."
This will be her first appearance at the Gordon Craig in panto, but Rebecca added: "I've done Jordan Productions before, this will be my fifth one for this company, so I'm familiar with their shows."
Appearing as Beauty will be Grace Lancaster, with Alex Scott Fairley as Prince Gallant.
With choreography once again by Britain's Got Talent sensations Twist & Pulse, Beauty and the Beast will open at the theatre in Lytton Way on Friday, November 29 with the show running until Sunday, January 26, 2020.
Tickets for Beauty and the Beast are on sale now, with some performances already sold out.
For tickets, call the box office on 01438 363200 or visit www.gordon-craig.co.uk/beauty-and-the-beast-i2119