Shane Richie reckons he has the legs for a frock.
The actor, who plays conman-barman extraordinaire Alfie Moon on EastEnders, is to take over the dual role of dress hire shop owner Hugo Battersby — who by night becomes drag queen Loco Chanel — in the West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.
Richie told me how Nica Burns, the show’s producer, had called his agent to offer him the part.
Richie was driving on the M25 when he received the call from his representative. ‘He said: ‘You’ll think I’m drunk or on drugs . . .’ Richie recalled, with a laugh.
Shane Ritchie is to take over the role of dress hire shop owner Hugo Battersby — who by night becomes drag queen Loco Chane
He told me he was aware of the show because his son, Jake Roche, frontman of pop group Rixton, had been to see it and urged his father to go to the Apollo Theatre to catch the award-winning piece by Dan Gillespie Sells, Tom Macrae and director Jonathan Butterell.
Richie loved what he saw and told his wife: ‘I need you to start looking for old dresses for me. I’m looking to be the most gorgeous drag queen in the West End. I have got the legs for it,’ he added.
The EastEnders star will be appearing in the West End musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
And the acting chops, too. I’ve been watching Richie for most of his career and given the opportunity, he can take on anything.
Plus, he does have some knowledge of the world of drag queens, having fronted Shane Richie’s Ladies Night, featuring two drag queens, back in the early Eighties. ‘Those were lock-ins above pubs,’ he said.
The actor has what he called some ‘heavy scenes’ coming up in EastEnders, but meanwhile he’s playing the title role of Robin Hood in Milton Keynes.
Richie takes over as Loco from Lee Ross on January 28 — the same day Layton Williams replaces John McCrea, who created the role of Jamie.
IT’S A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE FOR LLOYD WEBBER
It was the shortest run ever for an Andrew Lloyd Webber show — but Unmasked will definitely return.
The piece ran for a handful of workshop performances at The Other Palace in Victoria. I was lucky enough to catch the Saturday matinee and was completely won over.
Despite being the shortest run ever for an Andrew Lloyd Webber show, Unmasked will definitely return
Lloyd Webber and director Laurence Connor brought together a cracking company of top singers — Hollie Aires, Siobhan Dillon, Tyrone Huntley, Michael Xavier, Ria Jones, Stephen Leask, John Owen Jones, Anna O’Byrne, Ben Forster and Rosanna Hyland. The composer introduced numbers he had created over the years (with a variety of lyricists) through a series of short films, in which he explained their origin. The witty dialogue was written by Richard Curtis.
Lloyd Webber said one of the great joys of working at The Other Palace ‘is that you can walk around in the interval and at the end and get feedback’. He and his colleagues are looking for the right theatre to transfer a polished show into the West End within the next year or two.
SNOW WHITE’S £8M FESTIVE BONANZA
The UK’s premier panto — Snow White at the London Palladium — will open tomorrow having sold a record £8 million worth of tickets.
Oh, yes it has!
The show stars Dawn French as the scheming Queen Dragonella, alongside Palladium panto repeat offenders Julian Clary, Paul Zerdin, Nigel Havers, Charlie Stemp (pictured right with showgirls) and Gary Wilmot.
Top-price tickets are an eye-watering £140.
Snow White at the London Palladium will open tomorrow having sold a record £8 million worth of tickets
But Michael Harrison, the show’s director, noted that ‘the world’s miserable, and people are feeling gloomy, and the panto is escapism.
Come in for two-and-a-half hours, and have a laugh and see something spectacular.’
He also made the point that ‘spectacular’ costs money.
Nick Thomas, chairman of Qdos Entertainment which stages pantos nationwide including at the Palladium, said no expense had been spared. ‘We’ve spent on sets, costumes, the stars . . . everything is up there on stage.’
I spent a couple of hours watching a Winter Wonderland number and I can’t deny it looked impressive.
Ms French did a sight gag with Danielle Hope (Snow White) and Stemp, and it was a comic masterclass.
Harrison explained that French and Clary started working on their scripts months ago. ‘They both write lots of gags and we go through them at rehearsal and get them on their feet.’
And he’s already thinking up ideas for next year’s panto.