Prince of actors Parsons knows he’s on to a regal good thing at the Lyceum

PANTO Prince Joe Parsons
PANTO Prince Joe Parsons
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FRESH-faced Jo Parsons may have graduated only last year but already he is theatre royalty.

OK, he’s actually playing the Prince in Sleeping Beauty at Sheffield’s Lyceum, but the West Country wanderer is more than happy to be up north.

Sleeping Beauty panto Prince Jo Parsons - pic by Robert Day

Sleeping Beauty panto Prince Jo Parsons - pic by Robert Day

“Never been up here before,” he says. “It’s a lovely theatre – I checked it out online. It’s a good city and nice environment to be around.”

While most of us know the story, pint-sized Jo says his Prince isn’t the standard regal romp in a production also starring Margi Clarke and returning uber-dame Damian Williams.

“We’re going for a bit of a twist, because I’m not your standard six-foot prince,” says Jo, who for some reason speaks with an American accent in the role.

“He’s a bit quirky and a bit comedy. He’s not a standard Prince and he’ll have a giggle along the way.”

Sleeping Beauty cast - pic by Robert Day

Sleeping Beauty cast - pic by Robert Day

But Jo, originally from Plymouth by way of Bristol, is under no illusion he’ll have to work hard to earn his corn during the run between now and January 8.

“I fancied doing pantomime because I’m a musical theatre actor – a straight actor as well – but panto looks like so much fun.

“I’ve had great fun in past years doing different shows but this year I really felt like doing it. It’s such a family environment and I love working with children in entertainment. It’ll be great seeing them enjoying it, being part of it.

“It’s a testimony to any actor who does pantomime because it’s really hard work. I’ve done stuff that’s close, but in the West End you don’t do two shows a day.

“In panto you do two shows a day for four weeks. You fit in so many.

“And it’s harder to entertain people while keeping a serious undertone of a story. It can’t just be everyone having a free for all on stage. But I know we’ll have a laugh and it’ll be great fun.”

And thanks to panto production company Evolution’s track record for putting on great shows here and elsewhere in the country, a panto is now something many actors want on their CV.

When we spoke Jo had been appearing in Cockney musical Things Ain’t What This Used To Be, by Oliver writer Lionel Bart. And he had just finished workshopping a new musical called Lost Boys, based on Peter Pan when he returns from Neverland.

But it seems Jo’s mum is most excited about his Lyceum employment, having found out who his fellow cast members were.

“She’s been stalking the internet since I was cast,” says Jo, whose three-year-old cousin will get to see him do a show for the first time.

“Sheffield is really well regarded in London at the moment. Everyone wants to work up here. This is fresh territory, something I’m really excited about.

“Whenever you’re telling a story and working with people on stage you want it to be as slick as possible.

“In rehearsals we laughed at the jokes on the first day but come the sixth day we’re bored of them. You’re up there doing your thing without a reaction because we haven’t got an audience.

“So that first night, with an audience... it’s great.”