Since moving from Australia at the end of 2019, Phoebe Panaretos is set to play Inez when Zorro opens at Charing Cross Theatre, with the musical currently booking from 2nd April until 28th May, and she will be performing alongside a cast including her best friend Alex Gibson-Giorgio (who will be playing Ramon). Last year, Phoebe was part of the MT Fest production Cake, and she has previously performed as Elly in Lazarus, Whatsername in American Idiot, and Fran in the original Australian cast and world premiere of Strictly Ballroom. Phoebe answers our questions about returning to live theatre as Inez in Zorro at Charing Cross Theatre, her time as Whatsername in American Idiot and being part of the original Australian cast of Strictly Ballroom as Fran.
What are you most looking forward to for your run in Zorro as Inez and can you tell us about your character?
I am very much looking forward to returning to the stage. COVID has kept many of us away from doing what we love and I am grateful to be back with such a strong and feisty character in Inez. She is bold and brave, getting to know her over the past couple weeks has been a joy and I look forward to walking in her shoes every night.
Who do you think the musical will appeal to and why would you recommend booking tickets?
It’s a story of triumph and the fight for justice. I believe audiences everywhere could be reminded of unity right now. The Gypsy Kings music also conjures passion and joy which I’ve witnessed our cast embodying these past weeks, I have no doubt this will translate to our audiences as well.
How was it meeting the rest of the cast and reading the script for the first time?
Absolutely thrilling, the piece has been cast so brilliantly, I am indeed in good company.
How has it been rehearsing for the show and preparing to open at Charing Cross Theatre?
It’s not been without its challenges, for many of us this is our first project back post the pandemic so naturally things like show stamina and fitness have been put to the test. We have had a solid month, however, and I can feel us all as a company getting stronger. The show doesn’t stop, most of our company too are not only active storytellers, but further play instruments, sing and dance as well. It is rather remarkable how they do it all!
Had you seen the show previously and what encouraged you to be part of the production?
I have not seen the show previously however my oldest and best friend Alex Gibson-Giorgio, who is playing Ramon, was part of it last time, it’s always been a dream of ours to work together. We moved over together from Aus at the end of 2019. After what’s been a challenging couple of years living abroad during a pandemic away from family and friends, it feels as though we were waiting for this very project.
What’s the experience like being part of a production like Zorro?
Mostly it’s been a complete joy, everybody is so incredibly talented and committed. I can’t wait for audiences to see what we have been creating.
Last year, you were part of the cast of Cake at MT Fest, what was this like?
I always find it to be a gift to be part of a new development. Every creative loves to feel a sense of ownership over their work and when nobody has done it before there’s an even greater sense of exploration. I loved every second. It was also my first time performing over here on a London stage which was exciting.
Do you have any stand-out memories from playing Elly in Lazarus?
Getting to sing the stunning orchestral arrangement of David Bowie’s Changes will forever be a career highlight. The piece was a minefield in itself and I loved challenging audiences and especially hearing what they took away from it. Bowie really left us with something special with that piece.
Can you tell us about performing in American Idiot as Whatsername?
Whatsername was kickass! I loved being her over a couple of years, she really stood in her power and kicked around a fairly problematic male character. The best part of playing her was how ugly she allowed me to be, there was nothing pretty about her final disposal of Johnny and that was delicious to play as an actor.
You played Fran in the original Australian cast of Strictly Ballroom, can you tell us about your time playing the character?
Fran was a joy, she is the truth and heart of Strictly Ballroom. I consider it a real gift to have played a role where I got to speak in my own accent and be part of an original Aussie-made musical.
How was it being part of the world premiere of the show?
It was incredible, the producers at Global Creatures put absolutely everything into that show. I knew it was special when there was a billboard of myself and leading man Thomas Lacey in Times Square, NYC. I felt proud that Australia was making their mark on the musical theatre industry and that I was a part of that.
What is it like being nominated for awards for your performances in musicals?
It’s an honour to be acknowledged for your hard work. I love what I do so much despite the many ups and downs that come with it, the recognition softens the inevitable losses and reaffirms that I am where I need to be.
Where does your love of acting come from and how did you start?
I grew up part of a passionate and loud Greek family who love to tell a story, there’s often a few people telling different ones at once yelling over one another. I guess I caught the bug from them, it’s in the Panaretos culture.
Do you have any favourite theatre shows to watch?
In 2018 I was last in New York and I saw The Band’s Visit – the piece lingered with me for days, I couldn’t get the music out of my head. I adored it.
How do you like to spend your time away from your career?
I love to travel, it’s a big reason I moved over to Europe. It’s still not lost on me how incredible it is to be in another country by lunchtime! I plan to continue to make the most of that while I’m living over here in the UK!
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