FORMER Eastender Matt Lapinskas is looking forward to calling High Street West home over Christmas. Katy Wheeler spoke to him about donning a Prince’s crown for the Empire panto.
Matt Lapinskas is preparing to swap the swivelling hips of the Pharaoh in Joseph to sweep Snow White off her feet as the Prince in this year’s panto.
He’s been learning his lines for the festive spectacular during intervals in a six-month tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which he will finish at the end of November. Within a couple of days of ditching his Pharaoh Elvis suit, he’ll be in rehearsals with Su Pollard, Andrew Agnew from Balamory and the rest of the Panto cast – and he says Wearside can look forward to a traditional family show.
“People can expect fun, energy, entertainment, maybe get a bit wet, maybe some sweets,” said Matt.
While Joseph plays in Darlington, Matt popped over to the Sunderland Empire to check out the stage he’ll be playing for three weeks this Christmas.
Matt, who shot to fame when he joined the Moon clan as Anthony Moon in Eastenders, said: “It’s a beautiful theatre. I’d not been here before today but everyone I’d spoken to before said it was lovely and that the people are great.
“I tweeted the other day asking if anyone knew of any digs in Sunderland and someone tweeted back saying ‘don’t bother, stay in Newcastle’ which I thought was rude.
“I found a nice house to stay in Sunderland and I’m really looking forward to spending Christmas here. I’m still looking for tips on where to eat though.”
This will be Matt’s second festive season in panto after appearing in Cinderella in Bromley last year.
“That was my first panto and I did it after Dancing on Ice and had a great time,” he said. “When I’d just joined Eastenders I went to see Steve McFadden (aka Phil Mitchell) in panto and it was great to see the kids’ faces, they absolutely love it.
“You’ve got to take it seriously, though. Some people think you can just dilly dally about in panto, but it’s hard work, it’s a great challenge.
“I worked with Andrew last year in panto, so I’m looking forward to working with him again. And I’m really looking forward to meeting Su. I’ve heard loads about her. I’m a bit of a character backstage and I have some great scenes with her where she captures the prince, which should be fun.
“It’s a great script, it’s got some good little puns in there about Dancing on Ice and Eastenders, it’s got some innuendo in there for the parents and some good gags for the kids.”
Matt’s no stranger to hard work after spending a year on the square in hit BBC show Eastenders.
“Early on in Eastenders I was really busy as they’re trying to establish new characters and they only had David Essex (who played Eddie Moon) for a short amount of time so they wanted to make the most of him.
“It was funny because one minute you’d be having breakfast with someone and the next you’d be on set and at each other’s throats. You shoot out of sequence, so there’s a lot of quick costume changes and remembering what’s supposed to have happened in the previous scenes.”
After leaving the soap, Matt wanted to show more of his own personality. Dancing on Ice gave him the opportunity to do just that and he went on to come second in the eighth series, which finished in March last year.
“When you get into Eastenders you get branded as a certain character,” said Matt. “You walk down the street and people shout ‘Anthony’ at you, but that’s not me, I’m Matt.
“Dancing on Ice gave me the chance to show people the real me. I had a great time, it was a new challenge and I worked my socks off.
“It’s just a shame they didn’t ask me back for the last series (which saw past contestants return), I worked really hard for the company, but I heard nothing from them.”
Due to touring, Matt hasn’t had the chance to get his skates on for a while, but he says he’d love to get back on the ice.
“Touring’s a really different experience and you get to go to loads of places you haven’t seen before, like Sunderland,” he said.
His acting stint in Sunderland means he’ll also be able to enjoy his other passion: football.
Matt, who supports Manchester United, is hoping to catch some games at the Stadium of Light in between shows at the Empire. “Sunderland are doing alright. I really like Gus Poyet, he’s a great manager. There are some great players too, they just need to pull it together some- times.
“John O’Shea and Wes Brown are both former Man United players and they’re fantastic. There’s always a great atmosphere at the Stadium of Light too, it’s known for that, so I can’t wait to go down.”
l Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be at Sunderland Empire from December 12 to January 4. Tickets priced £10-£29.50 are on sale from 0844 871 3022 and online at www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.