INTERVIEW: Cast of Beauty and the Beast

The Christmas panto at The Lyceum is a legendary show, bringing fun-filled festive fun to Sheffield every December. We caught up with the stars of this year’s show ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Blue’s Duncan James, CBeebies’ Jennie Dale and, of course, Sheffield legend Damian Williams to find out what audiences can expect ahead of opening night.

Damian, this is your sixteenth year at the Lyceum Panto! How does it feel to be back in Sheffield?
Damian: It feels amazing to be back in Sheffield at Christmastime. I love a Sheffield Christmas, it’s an amazing city to be in, they do Christmas very well with the Christmas markets, the Peace Gardens and also the panto! The people of Sheffield love the panto and the atmosphere in the theatre is always really good – everyone seems to enjoy the show and we always have a great time, so really looking forward to it.

Beauty and the Beast

Pictured: Damien Williams (credit: Vox Multimedia)

Welcome, Jennie and Duncan, to Sheffield Theatres – this will be your first panto with us! Have either of you ever been to or worked in Sheffield before? Do you have any memories here?
Duncan: This is my first time doing panto here in Sheffield, but I have been to Sheffield with Blue many times performing. It’s a really lovely place and I’ve got some family just down the road in Leeds, so I’m really excited to be spending Christmas up here.

Jennie: I have never been to Sheffield before, I’ve heard some wonderful things about your beautiful theatre and the amazing productions that you put on, but I have never visited the city before and I’ve never performed in the theatres – so I’m incredibly excited!

Beauty and the Beast is such a well-known story. What will be in store for audiences to look forward to with this show
Jennie: I think it’s lovely that a pantomime is a familiar story for families because it means that even the little-ies know a version of it, so they’re able to relate to it. And pantomime always brings colour, joy and family fun. There’ll be lots of incredible singing, wonderful dancing and – judging by meeting Damian – an awful lot of laughter! He’s made my sides ache having met him for the first time, so a lot of laughter backstage as well as onstage.

Beauty and the Beast

Pictured: Jennie Dale (credit: Vox Multimedia)

Duncan, can audiences look forward to a few musical numbers from you?
Duncan: There will definitely be a lot of singing!

Damian, we are always treated by the Dame and her fabulous costumes and outrageous antics. Who will you be playing this year and does she have any tricks up her sleeve?
Damian: This year I will be playing Madame Bellie Fillip and I have got some fantastic costumes! I haven’t tried any of them on yet because they are being made at the moment. I think I will have about thirteen changes during the show and there will definitely be some surprises – but I don’t want to give anything away!

What does Panto mean to you, Duncan? Have you performed in many pantos before this one?
Duncan: I think this is my eighth panto! I worked with Evolution Pantomimes two years ago at The Marlowe Theatre (Canterbury) where I performed in Jack and the Beanstalk, so I’m really excited to be doing Beauty and the Beast in Sheffield this year.

Beauty and the Beast

Pictured: Duncan James (credit: Vox Multimedia)

Jennie, we know you from CBeebies’ Swashbuckle – are you excited to swap your pirate hat for a fairy wand?
Jennie: Ha ha! Now don’t get me wrong, I love playing a baddie, but at Christmas it’s so nice to play a fairy! And being on telly, I don’t get to see the little ones’ faces, so to be able to see our little CBeebies family and our Swashbucklers out in the audience and at Stage Door is such a special thing.  I’m looking forward to being able to say ‘Hello’ and to perform for them in real life, not just through the telly.

What would you say to someone who has never been to the Lyceum Panto before?
Damian: ‘Where have you been?!’ is what I would say. If you live in Sheffield or in the area, you need to get down here to see the panto. It’s such a great show, very spectacular, very funny. It’s not what you expect it to be and people always book for the following year. It’s a great night out and will be the start of your Christmas – so what I’d say is: ‘Come along, book some tickets!’

Finally, can you all sum up Beauty and the Beast in one word?
Duncan: Spectacular!

Damian: Absolute rubb…  no, no! Yes I can. Magical!

Jennie: … Christmasspirit! One word – can you add that bit together?!

Beauty and the Beast will be showing at The Lyceum from 8th December – 7th January, including a run of accessible performances. Tickets can be purchased here.

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