A tale as old as time promised for Gravesham panto this year

PUBLISHED: 14:11 24 September 2019

EastEnders star Aaron Sidwell is the Beast, with Belle, played by Ashley Cavanagh. Picture: Gravesham Council

EastEnders star Aaron Sidwell is the Beast, with Belle, played by Ashley Cavanagh. Picture: Gravesham Council


It is a classic that has its roots going back to 1740 – but over the centuries, Beauty and the Beast has gone through a few iterations.

The cast of this year's Beauty and the Beast gather on the lawns of Knowle Country House. Picture: Gravesham CouncilThe cast of this year's Beauty and the Beast gather on the lawns of Knowle Country House. Picture: Gravesham Council

But it was surely when Disney took up the gauntlet that it became wildly popular again, sparking stories like Frozen that turned into a monster of its own.

It has also become a panto mainstay along with a few more classics.

And so it is that the The Woodville's cast of Beauty and The Beast, produced by Wicked Productions, visited the Knowle Country House, Higham, to take a first look at the script on Monday, September 23.

The cast includes EastEnders and Broadway star Aaron Sidwell who will be playing the Beast, Olivier award winning Leanne Jones as Fairy Ooh La La, hilarious magician and ventriloquist Nicky Trix and Gravesend favourites Rob Cummings as dastardly Clarence Casanova, and Robert Pearce who will play Dame Darcy Deriere.

Aaron, who has played lead roles in West End musicals American Idiot and Loserville since playing bad boy Steven Beale in EastEnders, said: "I love pantomime. This show is going to be fantastic, there's some great songs and some of the scenes are absolutely hilarious. I can't wait for rehearsals to start.

"I have been in lots of pantomimes before and often played a prince, but apart from Aladdin where you get to be a bit cheeky, the role of the prince is quite serious. Playing the Beast is going to be great because I get to play a baddie and a goodie in the same role."

Also joining the cast this year will be Ashley Cavanagh as Belle. Ashley, 26, who auditioned for the role in Wicked Productions recent Search for Belle, has worked for Disney and has had lots of experience at playing a princess, but this is her first pantomime.

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She said: "I am so excited, I cannot wait. I have had a bucket list for as long as I can remember. Number one on the list was go to drama school, which I did, and number two was to be in a pantomime, so I'll be able to tick that off now too."

She added: "I've heard so many great things about the Gravesend audiences from the other cast members and I can't wait to join in with the slapstick humour and magic of panto. Belle is a character that has a vulnerable side but she is also a very strong woman and I hope that I'll be able to portray that strong character for the audience."

Beauty and the Beast will whisk you away to the sleepy French town of Chateau de Toilet where audiences will join in a race against time, filled with fun adventure and laughter. The show will bring fantastic scenery, fun, laughter and even a flying car.

Leanne Jones, who found fame rising to stardom from working in a bank to landing a lead role in Hairspray - The Musical alongside Michael Ball, said: "I have been working alongside young people in Gravesham for quite some time now and also live in the borough so I'm proud to be a part of this production.

"Making sure that panto is fun and entertaining is also accompanied with creating positive role models and influences for young people, and that's something that Wicked Productions are really good at.

"There has been a lot of press recently surrounding bullying on social media, especially based on how people look. Beauty and The Beast is a lovely story about looking beyond people's appearance and seeing the good in everyone.

"I hope that this really superb show will be great entertainment for families but also reinforce a really positive message."

Beauty and The Beast at The Woodville has tickets at or the box office on 01474 337 500.

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