Published: 10:17, 24 September 2019
| Updated: 11:20, 24 September 2019
Get ready for flamboyant costumes, wild wigs and plenty of laughter - the Gravesend pantomime has officially launched.
EastEnders and West End star Aaron Sidwell will perform in all-time classic Beauty and the Beast at the The Woodville Theatre this Christmas.
Aaron Sidwell is Price Marius or the Beast
Having worked on popular stage shows including Wicked and Loservill, the Musical, Aaron has returned to his home town playing the part of Prince Marius or the Beast.
Born in Maidstone, he now lives in Gravesend with his fiancée Tricia Adele-Turner and is looking forward to both her and his daughters Isla and Matilda watching the panto.
He said: "My two children, who are seven and 10, will be able to come along and watch the show. I'm excited because they don't really get to see much of my work as a lot of it has quite adult themes.
"I live just round the corner and fund a theatre school at The Woodville so I hope we can get some of the kids involved in the performance too."
Aaron played Steven Beale in long-running soap opera EastEnders until 2017 and so has experience with both theatre and television.
Robert Pearce will play the Dame and Leanne Jones is Fairy Oh La La
He added: "It's completely different working on stage compared to a TV show.
"With TV you can be shooting throughout the night and at all different times whereas with theatre there tends to be a set schedule once it's up and running.
"I think I might prefer theatre, and the more intimate it is, the better. I have performed in a theatre with a 3,500-strong audience before and those in the back corner can hardly see you and you can't really connect with them."
Alongside Aaron, Belle will be played by ex-Disneyland Paris dancer and cruise ship singer, Ashleigh Cavanagh.
This is her first pantomime and she is "excited and nervous at the same time" but happy to be working with an experienced, supportive cast.
She said: "Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite films and I'm really looking forward to playing Belle - I can't wait."
The cast also includes Olivier Award-winning Hairspray star Leanne Jones as Fairy Ohh La La, and familiar faces in the Gravesend panto world, Rob Cummings as Clarence Casenova and Robert Pearce as the Dame.
Producer Tom Swift, who wrote the Beauty and the Beast adaptation with friend Elinor Lawless, said he can't wait to watch the show come together.
He added: "Before I wrote my first panto, I was solely acting but I've realised I prefer production.
"I love being creative and it's just such a great moment when you see a performance you have written and worked so hard on come to life on the stage and the audience laughing and enjoying it."
The show will run from Friday, December 6, to Wednesday, January 1.
You can buy tickets on The Woodville website or call the box office on 01474 337500.