West End star back in Sunderland as panto prince

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A WEST End star from Wearside has returned to his home region to play a panto prince – oh yes he has!

Gary Watson from Plains Farm has forged a glittering career in some of the country’s biggest theatre shows, including Matilda, Mamma Mia, Les Misérables, Cats and Saturday Night Fever.

But a rare Christmas break from being tied in with a national show has given the 30-year-old the chance to appear in a festive spectacular in the North East.

He’s treading the boards as Prince William of Wallsend in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, which means he can return home to Sunderland every night.

The former Thornhill School pupil said: “I’m absolutely loving being in panto. It’s fantastic to be back in the North East for Christmas, being back at my mam’s in Plains Farm, which is the house I grew up in.

“Being able to be in panto has been on my wish list for years, especially this one, as it’s one of the best in the country. However, contracts in the West End mean you often have to bypass Christmas. This year it worked out that I was free for Christmas.

“The Prince and Snow White are the more serious roles in the panto, but it’s still great fun. And Danny Adams (a Theatre Royal panto veteran) keeps us on our toes.”

As well being in the stage spotlight, Gary will also be hitting TV screens over Christmas. He stars in a production of Kiss Me Kate, filmed at Royal Albert Hall earlier in the year, which will be screened on BBC2 on Christmas Day.

He also appears in Victoria Wood’s That Day We Sang, which will be screened on BBC2 on Boxing Day.

Gary honed his skills during his teenage years at the Kathleen Davis Stage School in High Street West, before moving to London aged 18 to study at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts.

He returns to his former Sunderland stage school whenever he can to help inspire performers of the future.

“I was there in a break from panto rehearsals,” he said. “I popped back to do a Matilda workshop, which was lovely. I teach a lot in the North East – I think it’s important to send out the message to kids that if they work hard enough, if they are dedicated enough, they can achieve their dreams, they can get to the West End stage.”