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Oklahoma! starring Gary Wilmot and Belinda Lang at Dartford's Orchard Theatre and Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre

Gary Wilmot has mastered some huge West End roles, including Caractacus Potts, Fagin and Billy Flynn, but many still remember him best for BBC’s Showstoppers in the 1990s.

It featured Londoner Gary performing songs from the musicals alongside special guests including Twiggy, Bonnie Langford and the cast of Les Miserables.

But musical theatre took over where comedy had left off, for it was with his early comedy partner Judy McPhee that a young Gary has reached the final of New Faces in 1978.

Oklahoma, starring Gary Wilmot
Oklahoma, starring Gary Wilmot

It’s a superb character match then that brings Gary together with the fictional funnyman Ali Hakim in the touring production of Oklahoma! coming to Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre this week after having been in Dartford last week.

“Ali is the comic character of the piece, he flits in and out,” says Gary of ‘that ole Persian peddler’ he plays, whose first set line is, ‘All right, all right, if the eggbeater don’t work, I give you something just as good!’

Gary says: “We suspect he’s using the Persian element of his sales pitch to make it more exotic. He woos the women and charms them, he’s a very good salesman.”

The opportunity to return to Kent is a welcome one for Gary, who says: “I remember going to Margate camping with the lads when I was in my teens, and I worked at Margate Winter Gardens a few times, supporting the comedian Mike Reid.”

The Oklahoma! cast, which includes Belinda Lang of TV’s 2point4 Children and Second Thoughts, has already bonded having been on the tour now for three months.

Belinda Lang as aunt Eller in Oklahoma!
Belinda Lang as aunt Eller in Oklahoma!

“It’s like a travelling circus,” says Gary, 61, who nowadays lives in Bletchley, near Milton Keynes.

He says: “We are a little bit of a family, but if I could get 1,000 people a night to come to my house, I’d work from home.”

If you hope to spot Gary wandering around Canterbury during his down time between performances, then listen out for him humming his favourite show tune of them all, Who Needs to Dream from Copacabana, or keep your eyes peeled for him reading a book in a quiet corner or getting some ideas down on paper.

Oklahoma!
Oklahoma!

There really is no business like showbusiness for this enduring entertainer: “I don’t do very much away from the industry,” he says. “It’s a great life.”

Oklahoma! is at Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre from Tuesday, June 16, until Saturday, June 20. Tickets cost from £16. Visit www.marlowetheatre.com or call 01227 787787.


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