Next week, Wade Lewin starts his run as the Beast in Lighthouse Poole’s pantomime Beauty and the Beast alongside a cast including Alice Rose Fletcher, Chris Jarvis and Michelle Collins, with performances until 31st December. Amongst Wade’s other projects, he made his West End debut in 2010 in The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre, performed at the London 2012 Olympic Games Ceremony and, on screen, he’s filmed for Rocketman, Bridgerton and worked with Will Smith on Disney’s Aladdin. We chatted to Wade about playing the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, his West End debut in The Lion King and working on screen.
In this year’s pantomime of Beauty and the Beast at Lighthouse Poole, you will be playing the Beast, what are you looking forward to for playing the role and getting into character?
The Beast is such a fun and diverse character to play. It’s a really physically demanding role which I can’t wait to get my teeth stuck into, but it’s also the emotional journey he goes through from where he starts to how and where he ends the show. Getting to play that emotional range through the Beast’s massive physicality is very exciting to me as a performer.
What do you feel you will bring to the role of Beast?
As I said, really getting stuck into the physicality of the character is something that I think I can bring a lot to. My background predominately is through dance and movement plus when you add in all 6’5 of me to that, I think I can bring something you won’t find in many other Christmas shows.
How was it meeting the rest of the cast for the first time and how will you prepare to play your character?
Meeting the cast was SO much fun. It’s one of the early indicators of how a contract will go and so I can’t wait for this! I think when we first met on the photoshoot though, it was extra special, it was the first (in person at least) work many of us had had since the pandemic, so there was an extra air of appreciation about it.
Why would you recommend booking tickets to see Beauty and the Beast and what can audiences expect from the pantomime?
I would highly recommend booking yourself a ticket, theatres are back open and what better way to celebrate the festive season than leaving all the Christmas stress outside and having the most amount of laughs! I’m learning the script at the moment and I can’t tell you everything, but we have something for everyone! Music, dancing, costumes, magic, and more laughs than you’ll know what to do with.
Having worked in pantomime previously, how do you think you’ll feel getting back to performing in pantomime and interacting with audience members?
This is probably my eighth or ninth panto, but my first time doing Beauty and the Beast though and I always say, if I’m free over Christmas I’ll do panto because it’s just so much fun! I have nieces and nephews and I also teach kids from three upwards, so for me, panto is the perfect mash up of those two worlds performing and teaching. The rule I’ve found with panto is the more fun we’re having, the more fun the audience has too.
Do you have a favourite aspect of being a performer over the pantomime season?
I love panto. The arts are so important and for the majority of people in the UK, it’s their introduction to live theatre. I think there’s a real responsibility to making that experience one the audience remembers, seeing that sense of wonderment in action is 100% my favourite thing about panto.
What are some of your favourite memories from making your West End debut in The Lion King in 2010?
The Lion King will forever hold a special place in my heart. Not only was it my West End debut, but when I got the job I was taking over from someone who unfortunately had got injured, so I was asked to start earlier than the cast change. Normally, for a West End show you get six to eight weeks to learn everything. I, on the other hand, started rehearsals on a Thursday, and was on stage in front of 2,000 people the following Thursday. An absolute whirlwind of an experience and one that taught me more than any other one job I’ve done.
How was the experience performing at the London 2012 Olympic Games?
The 2012 Olympics were fantastic! What a way to get involved in history. It was the most amazing time, I got to meet so many of the Olympians and what fantastic role models they were. I was even lucky enough to get to try on one of the Bronze medals!
Can you tell us about some of the highlights of your career so far which has seen you work on films Rocketman and Aladdin and appear in Bridgerton?
The last few years have given me the opportunity to do more work in TV and film. And much like with theatre, it’s opened up another avenue of endless possibilities, from fantasy semi-autographical dramas, to a blockbuster Disney film to Regency period drama to reality TV shows, every job is a new character and a new challenge.
The work from the last two years though has been so “explode-y head emoji” that at times I’ve really had to pinch myself. Bridgerton being Netflix’s most streamed show ever has been pretty cool, but my number one has to be working with Will Smith on Aladdin. My brothers and I grew up watching Fresh Prince, Men in Black, Independence Day and all Will Smith’s early work, and so that was super special and what a consummate professional. The next goal I’m determined to get onto my CV is a Marvel film. #goals
Had you always wanted a performing career and how did you start?
This has just never been something I haven’t done. If anything, I wish I had started earlier, or at least that I knew it was a career option when I was younger. I went to performing arts college at 19 instead of 16, but ultimately I have no complaints, if you make your favourite thing the thing you do for a living, then you’re winning.
How do you like to spend your time away from screen and theatre work?
I would say I’m a little bit of a homebody but that may have just been the knock-on effect of the pandemic. I do love cooking up a big meal, sitting down and getting lost in a really good TV show or film, but just socialising and catching up with friends, a cuppa and a catch up, that’s the perfect day off for me.
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