"Music is my first love and Ill always write and perform, but I'll do panto for as long as I enjoy it."
Ahead of his performance, we caught up with Andy to chat to him about rehearsing his lines, getting into character and his favourite panto moments from yesteryear.
What do you love about doing panto?
I love the uniqueness of panto. It’s quintessentially British and you can’t get that anywhere else in the world. Every show has a new comedy feel to it, and you get to revel in over-the-top characters. There’s always a little bit of you in there, but it’s really an opportunity to go outside your comfort zone and do something new, which is exciting to me.
Panto stars are notorious for getting a fit of the giggles. Has anything like that ever happened to you?
I remember a scene with all the main characters in Aladdin. The dame was being asked for her hand in marriage by Abanazar, and she was wearing this over-the-top Arabian costume. As part of it, her belly was so big that Abanazar slapped the mid-section so hard it left a handprint! We all were laughing hysterically.
Those are the sort of moments where you just have to laugh and take it in your stride. You find it usually adds to the performances anyway and gives the audience something to laugh along with and take home as a memory.
Have you noticed any change in the popularity of panto over the time you’ve been involved?
Not for me, all the pantos I’ve been involved in have been successful one way or another.
The audience always sees it as feel-good family fun. At the end of the day everyone is there to have a good time and because it’s around Christmas, everyone is in good spirits. It’s a great time of year!
How was your first experience doing panto?
I had a fun time - I played King Crumble in Jack and the Beanstalk in Weymouth. It’s a really lovely place by the sea and the Pavilion where we performed is really historic.
I also spent a fair bit of time with the cast prior to rehearsal, so it was a good way to relax any nerves and get to grips with what I was doing. I love audience interaction, singing and performing, so once I got on stage I was fine!
Did you undertake any acting lessons beforehand?
No. I try to place a little of me into the character, and that’s having fun while trying to be cool. So for example if my character is evil, I try to make evil cool, and that’s when I enjoy goading the audience. It’s nice to break free from convention and do something you wouldn’t normally do.
Do you spend much time with the cast and crew outside of the performances and rehearsals?
Yes, when possible, but we’re with each other so much during the pantomime run anyway that you really get to know one another. It’s important because it makes it all the easier to move on, say if something goes wrong, or if there’s a chance for a bit of ad-libbing. It adds to the fun.
Obviously singing is a great asset but what other skills have you transferred over from your day job?
I would say stage positioning, speaking with confidence, and really connecting with the audience.
When you’re singing, you might get the odd opportunity between songs to interact with the crowd and tell stories, but with acting and panto, you get to really pause and dig out those moments for an extra laugh or moment of tension. I’ve really enjoyed taking those extra few moments to soak up the spirit of panto.
Do you get much time to see the cities/towns you perform in?
At times, yes. I remember when I performed in Lincoln, it has a lovely market around Christmas. I’ve not been to Rotherham before so I’m looking forward to taking in all the sights. Most of all, I’m looking forward to having fun and being silly!
Any tips for those thinking of getting involved in panto?
I’d say do it - it’s fun, you make great friends, and you learn so much about the stage and entertainment. It’s much more than just being silly on stage for a few hours, which of course is fun, but you also get to experience a new side of yourself and learn some great skills along the way.
Do you hope to continue panto for the future?
Music is my first love and I’ll always write and perform, but I’ll do panto for as long as I enjoy it. Right now I’m having a blast, so I certainly imagine myself doing it for the foreseeable future.
Sleeping Beauty runs from Friday, November 29th, 2019 until January 5th, 2020 at the Rotherham Civic Theatre.
Tickets are available on 01709 823621 or from www.rotherhamtheatres.co.uk
For more information on Andy and bookings, visit http://www.andyabraham.co.uk/