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Pushing the Buttons

Lyceum Cinderella  . Prince Charming  Jonathan Ansell with  Ben Faulks (Dandini ) Damian Williams (buttons), David Westbrook (Baron Hardup) and Ugly sisters  Michael Batchelor and Ian Smith

Lyceum Cinderella . Prince Charming Jonathan Ansell with Ben Faulks (Dandini ) Damian Williams (buttons), David Westbrook (Baron Hardup) and Ugly sisters Michael Batchelor and Ian Smith

SHEFFIELD’S favourite dame is back in the Lyceum pantomime again but Damian Williams has hung up his frocks this year.

In Cinderella he has been cast as Buttons rather than one of the Ugly Sisters.

“I didn’t want to an Ugly Sister because she’s a villain,” he explains. “I love to be everyone’s mate, you couldn’t do that as an Ugly Sister.

“I haven’t done Buttons before but I will do what I always do, take the mickey out of everyone on stage. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great script and there’s some great comedy.”

He points out that Buttons is invariably played by a comedian, with Norman Wisdom, Des O’Connor, Brian Conley among the memorable ones.

“One other great thing is I don’t have to keep changing costume every time I come off stage,” he reflects. “ I think there are three changes as opposed to about 12 as the Dame.”

The Evolution panto is a good show with some special effects, he says, especially a spectacular ending to Act 1. “I saw it in Canterbury last year after we finished here and was really impressed. But we always have to try and top it from the previous year.”

From that production come Kate Quinnell in the title role and Dinnerladies’ Sue Devaney as the Good Fairy. Joining them in Sheffield will be children’s favourite Ben Faulks (CBeebies’ Mr Bloom) and singer Jonathan Ansell, founder member of pop-opera boy band G4. It is written and directed by Paul Hendy and produced by the same team from last year’s Sleeping Beauty.

Earlier this year Damian Williams appeared in the title role in a new play, Being Tommy Cooper, at the Old Red Lion theatre pub in Islington, London.

“It’s a three-hander set in Las Vegas in 1954 where he bombed and was stuck with a manager he hated. It’s more about his dark side and his drinking rather than a tribute.”

It would seem dream casting since Williams’ panto persona is sometimes reminiscent of Tommy Cooper in his mannerisms. “I’ve had it all my life,” he says. “I’m either Tommy Cooper or Les Dawson.”

His performance earned some rave reviews and a nomination for an Offie (Off West End stage award) and there’s talk of it going on tour.

But for now he’s back in panto mode. “I love Sheffield, it has a real buzz of Christmas,” he says. “Audiences are so in to panto, more than anywhere else I have played and when you get a full house you can’t beat it.”

Cinderella opens at the Lyceum on Friday, December 7, and continues until January 6.

 

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