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Mozart to festive mayhem – Sleeping Beauty star Stephen Godward on swapping opera for panto

PUBLISHED: 16:51 18 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:51 18 December 2017

Stephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge in Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Richard Jarmy

Stephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge in Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Richard Jarmy

Richard Jarmy Photography

Opera singer Stephen Godward has played Figaro and sung parts in La Boheme, Aida, Turandot, Carmen and all 13 of Gilbert and Sullivan operas, but this Christmas he is taking on a very different challenge in the Norwich pantomime.

Glenn Adamson as the Hon. Timothy Norbridge, Elizabeth Carter as Patience Midges ( Sleeping Beauty) and Stephen Godward as Lord Norbridge. 
Photo: Simon FinlayGlenn Adamson as the Hon. Timothy Norbridge, Elizabeth Carter as Patience Midges ( Sleeping Beauty) and Stephen Godward as Lord Norbridge. Photo: Simon Finlay

Music, comedy, spectacle and lots of over-the-top fun are all elements of pantomime much loved by the audiences who will head to Norwich Theatre Royal to see Sleeping Beauty this Christmas.

They are elements shared with another much-loved theatre genre, Gilbert and Sullivan light operettas, and very much part of the attraction for opera singer Stephen Godward who is part of the panto cast as the Lord of the Manor Lord Teddy Norbridge.

Stephen started out studying music at The Guildhall Shool of Music and Drama and went on to perform in everything from the Mozart buffo roles of Figaro, Papageno, Leporello and Don Alfonso to parts in La Boheme, Aida, Turandot, The Bartered Bride, Carmen and L’Elisir d’Amore, as well as countless musicals and a busy concert schedule.

He has also performed in all 13 of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas in many different venues around the country, as well as in Canada, the USA and Spain, and has appeared with Gilbert and Sullivan For All and The Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company.

Read our review of Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime Sleeping Beauty

Most recently the later toured to Norwich Theatre Royal in September this year, where he alongside Norwich panto stalwart Richard Gauntlett in The Mikado, Pirates of Penzance and HMS Pinafore.

Stephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge in Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Richard JarmyStephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge in Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Richard Jarmy

Coming from such a strong background in the light opera world, Stephen has been looking forward to ringing the changes and stepping into panto for the very first time.

So this is your first time performing in a panto?

This is my very first panto in Norwich or anywhere and I am really looking forward to it. I have always loved panto and I have loved the diversity of the characters and the over the top-ness of what panto is. It is really the fun and the music and watching how much the audience enjoy it and come back year after ear to see the comedy and the singing and the humour and spectacle. Looking at my costume, it certainly is a spectacle! It’s very smart and colourful.

Glenn Adamson as the Hon. Timothy Norbridge, Elizabeth Carter as Patience Midges (Sleeping Beauty) and Stephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge. Photo: Richard JarmyGlenn Adamson as the Hon. Timothy Norbridge, Elizabeth Carter as Patience Midges (Sleeping Beauty) and Stephen Godward as Lord Teddy Norbridge. Photo: Richard Jarmy

What can you tell us about your role in Sleeping Beauty?

I am the head of a large country house at the beginning of the 20th century in the times of servants and high living and weekend parties. I think he is a bit of a crusty old Lord. He is definitely the head of his household and into his hunting, shooting and fishing.

Are there characters from Gilbert and Sullivan that you can draw on for this role?

There are quite a few Gilbert and Sullivan influences in my character. Richard Gauntlett said to me ‘think about Sir Marmaduke in The Sorcerer’. He is the same sort of character as he is the feudal Lord of the Manor and he is the one who everyone has to bow down to and he has lots of servants and a big household and a big house. So there are certain characters in that I can draw from.

Stephen with the cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto Sleeping Beauty.
 Photo: Simon FinlayStephen with the cast of Norwich Theatre Royal panto Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Simon Finlay

How did you get started in theatre?

Well I started at school with Gilbert and Sullivan and then I went into the amateur field and did lots of amateur shows and progressed to doing professional ones and with The National Gilbert and Sullivan Company over the last five or six years.. I just recently did the tour which brought me to Norwich. I have done a lot of opera as well, that was my main thing alongside Gilbert and Sullivan as well.

How many times have you been to Norwich and the Theatre Royal before?

Richard Gauntlett and Stephen Godward in Norwich Theatre Royal's Sleeping Beauty: SubmittedRichard Gauntlett and Stephen Godward in Norwich Theatre Royal's Sleeping Beauty: Submitted

I have seen the panto three times before. I saw Robin Hood. I saw Charlotte Baptie in Peter Pan as I have known her a long time and I saw the one last year. I have been three times and always marvelled at scenes like the water scenes which are absolutely marvellous.

So you know a little of out panto audience in Norwich?

I do. I know that you sell out quickly. As soon as tickets go on sale for certain performances, they are snapped up. Friends of mine who are coming from Nottingham say for certain performances, they are hard to get in to as they are quite full. I am encouraging people to book fast so they don’t miss out.

What are you looking forward to about spending the festive season here?

I’m looking forward to investigating the city more and I shall be spending Christmas Day in Cambridge because I have relations in Cambridge so it I not so far to go home at Christmas.

• Sleeping Beauty, Norwich Theatre Royal, until January 14, various dates/times, £24.50-£7, under-3s free, 01603 630000, theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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