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DERBY’S VERY OWN GWEN TAYLOR TO HEADLINE CITY PANTO, AS FULL CAST ANNOUNCED FOR BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

Derby LIVE and Little Wolf Entertainment are delighted to announce that Derby-born Gwen Taylor will be playing the Enchantress in this year’s spectacular family pantomime. The enchanting French musical ‘tale as old as time’, Beauty and the Beast will be staged at Derby Arena from Tuesday 5 to Sunday 31 December 2017.

Gwen has had an extensive career on both stage and screen which is a reflection of the depth of her talent and popularity. Her first professional acting job was in Jack and the Beanstalk at the Derby Playhouse and she is well-known for her sitcom roles during the 1980s such as Duty Free, Only When I Laugh and Yes, Prime Minister. In 1990, she earned a BAFTA TV Award nomination for Best Actress for her role opposite Sir David Jason in A Bit of a Do. During the ‘90s Gwen played lead roles in sitcom Barbara and also in Conjugal Rights, which was first performed as a play and adapted as a sitcom by Granada Television.

Between 2005 and 2009, Gwen played Peggy Armstrong in ITV drama, Heartbeat. In July 2011, it was announced that Gwen Taylor would be joining the cast of Coronation Street, playing Anne, the mother of Frank Foster. In November 2012, she appeared with Don Warrington in the stage version of Driving Miss Daisy on a UK-wide tour. Gwen has also appeared in iconic films such as Monty Python’s Life of Brian in 1979, The Lady in the Van in 2015 and most recently in British war drama, Another Mother’s Son filmed in 2016, and based on a true story from the German occupation of the Channel Islands.

Speaking about her forthcoming role in Beauty and the Beast, Gwen said: “The last panto I did was at Derby Playhouse many years ago playing a Jumping Bean in Jack and the Beanstalk, so it’s satisfying to come back as the Enchantress in Beauty and the Beast in my home town again. I think this production will be splendid and am looking forward immensely to starting work with what looks like a stunning cast.”

Alan Bowles, Co-Producer at Little Wolf Entertainment Ltd, said “We are absolutely delighted that Gwen will be starring in our brand new production this Christmas. She brings a real touch of class as well as being terrific fun and a wonderful actor. Together with the hilarious Ben Faulks, who the kids will adore, not to mention our other incredibly talented actors, we are thrilled at the quality of the cast we have assembled and are looking forward to creating a truly magical Christmas treat for the people of Derby”.

Gwen joins BAFTA-nominated actor and writer Ben Faulks, known to most as Cbeebies’ Mr Bloom in the television show Mr Bloom’s Nursery. Ben is set to star as Idle Jacques in Beauty and the Beast at Derby Arena this December. He is an actor and writer based in the North West of England and works across a variety of disciplines that include Theatre, Childrens Publishing, Street Theatre & Television. Ben grew up in Cornwall before heading North to train at Bretton Hall School of Dance & Drama. After graduating in 2001 in Theatre Acting, he moved to Manchester to set out as an actor and writer. Most recently, Ben has appeared on screen in the new CBeebies series, Spotbots as Pompaloo the Magician & Rock the Merman, CBBC’s Marrying Mum & Dad, as well as performing alongside Adele Silva in HollyOaks as Mark Brown.

Derby-born Morgan Brind will be playing Idle Jacques larger-than-life mother, the hilarious Dame Betty Brioche.  Morgan cut his teeth with Derby Playhouse Youth Theatre prior to training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. In 2009, he co-founded Little Wolf Entertainment Ltd. As Co-Producer at Little Wolf Entertainment, Derby LIVE’s brand new pantomime production partner, Morgan will also be writing this year’s panto. Beauty and the Beast is the twelfth pantomime he has written, designed and co-produced. His credits as writer/Dame include Cinderella, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Jack and the Beanstalk and Robin Hood. He has also written and co-produced Cinderella and Dick Whittington along with a multitude of theatrical roles including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.

Morgan’s TV and Film work includes K.O. Joe in Chop Sooky Chooks (Aardman Animations) pilot, Peak Practice (ITV/Carlton) and a Samsung V5 commercial. He also works with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men theatre company, and has designed ten of their previous productions, including Comedy of Errors which is currently on tour. Other recent/forthcoming designs include Robin Hood for Loughborough, Mother Goose for Sheffield Lyceum and Peter Pan for the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury. 

Derby audiences are set for a real treat, given that Little Wolf Entertainment were shortlisted for a trio of awards at last season’s Great British Pantomime Awards - for Best Panto, Best Script and Best Staging and Set. Based locally in Little Eaton, Little Wolf Entertainment are widely considered to be the most exciting and innovative pantomime producers to have emerged in the UK in recent years. They are able to combine all the traditional elements of panto with a script that is both contemporary and hilarious. Featuring shimmering sets, outrageous costumes, magic, mayhem and monstrous fun, this brand new production of Beauty and the Beast promises to be Derby LIVE’s most spectacular panto yet!

Louise Olley will be playing Belle in Beauty and the Beast at Derby Arena. Louise has a Master’s degree from the Guildford School of Acting and has numerous theatre credits to her name, including the role of Doralee in 9 to 5 The Musical, Sue in Dreamboats and Petticoats (UK Tour) and Jill in the much-loved panto Jack and the Beanstalk.

This year, the role of the Beast will be played by Nathan Turner who originally studied Music Theatre at UCLan before training as an actor at LAMDA. His theatre credits include Othello (Stafford Shakespeare Festival), Back to the Future, Abigail’s Party and Thoroughly Modern Millie.

Back by popular demand, following his appearance as Prince Charming, in last year’s panto Cinderella, Aston Dobson will be playing the handsome but not too bright local heartthrob Gaston in this year’s production. Aston began performing at an early age and appeared in his first professional production at the age of 14. He trained at the Lincoln College of Performing Arts and has since performed at venues all across the globe, from New York to New Zealand. As a member of 'The Twelve Tenors', an international operatic group, Aston toured all over the world, including a year touring the USA. In 2007 Aston made the transition from the indie rock scene into the world of musical theatre and opera. Aston's theatrical credits include leading roles in FAME, Les Miserables, Songs For A New World, Dancing Queen, as well as performing at various Pantomimes all over the UK.

Robert Turner is appearing as Belle’s inventor father, Marcel. The villagers see him as insane for crafting devices believed impossible to construct in reality, but his loyal daughter believes he will be famous one day. Robert is a graduate of both Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Birmingham Conservatoire. He can currently be seen in the short film Osteopathy, which has won a Platinum Remi Award at the 50th Annual Worldfest - Houston Film Festival. No stranger to panto-land, last Christmas he played Arachnio in Sleeping Beauty and has worked extensively with several major pantomime companies.

Last year Robert was part of The Go Between at the Apollo Theatre, West End, with Michael Crawford, in which he covered and played both Colston – the lead – and Mr Maudsley. No stranger to musicals at the Apollo, he has also played Emile de Becque in South Pacific. He has been part of many fabulous shows during his career, including Chichester Festival Theatre’s Sweeney Todd, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the Palladium, national tours of Singin’ in the Rain and South Pacific, Jean Valjean in the European tour of Les Miserables and Oliver! at the Trinity Theatre.

Thomas Bird will be appearing as Le Fool, Gaston’s often abused yet loyal sidekick. Thomas is an English born actor who trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His theatre credits include Skinner in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years, Topper/Dick Wilkins in Scrooge! , Frank in Merrily We Roll Along and Socrates in The Unexamined Life. He has also featured in a film called, Redwineteeth. 

Beauty and the Beast will be on stage at Derby Arena from Tuesday 5 December 2017 until Sunday 31 December 2017, tickets priced from £11.50 with concessions, group, school and family tickets available. Save £2 when you book before 31 Oct, with other savings available.

We have a limited number of VIP tickets for our Fri 15 Dec, 7pm performance. VIP tickets include a top price seat, complimentary programme and your chance to meet the cast in an after-show drinks reception. Tickets are £45.50 (£35.50 for concessions and under 16s) or £43.50 (£33.50 concessions and under 16s). 

Tickets are selling faster than for any previous Derby LIVE panto, so don’t miss out on the best seats in the house. It’s never too early to book for this fantastic festive treat. Get your tickets now by calling the Sales and Information Centre on 01332 255800, pick seats online at derbylive.co.uk, or book in person at the Assembly Rooms, Market Place, Derby.

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