Beauty and the Beast cast

The LAOS cast of Beauty and the Beast

Belle: Gemma Durkin

Gemma is delighted to be returning to the Grand with LAOS, having played Tuptim in ‘The King and I’ last year. She trained in singing, acting and dance from an early age and has performed with Manchester Youth Theatre, National Youth Music Theatre and at the Edinburgh Fringe. As a Cambridge University Choral Scholar she has toured throughout the UK, Europe, Singapore and Australia.

Gemma has played various principal roles including Chava ‘Fiddler on the Roof’, Cathy ‘Whistle Down the Wind’, Peggy Sawyer ‘42nd Street’, Bianca ‘Kiss Me, Kate’, Joanne ‘Godspell’, Helen of Troy ‘Agamemnon’, Dorothy ‘The Wizard of Oz’, Miss Dorothy ‘Thoroughly Modern Millie’, Widow Corney ‘Oliver!’, Vicki ‘The Full Monty’, Irene ‘Crazy for You’, Julie Jordan ‘Carousel’, and most recently Louise Gypsy Rose Lee in ‘Gypsy’, for which she was awarded the Wharfedale Festival of Theatre Award for Best Actress in a Musical. Professional credits include Little Cosette in ‘Les Misérables’ at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, ‘We’ll Meet Again’ and ‘Bugsy Malone’ for BBC Radio, and for television ‘Emmerdale’, ‘Smokescreen’ and ‘Blood & Peaches’.

The Beast: Joe Mellor

Joe’s first principal roles were at high school and Sixth Form College, and included Danny in ‘Grease’, Fagin in ‘Oliver!’ and Arial in ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’. He also played the lead role in a film called ‘Expired’ when he was 17. Joe joined LAOS in 2007 for our production of ‘Ragtime’, and since then has appeared as Mr Sowerberry in ‘Oliver!’ (2008), Carmen Ghia in ‘The Producers’ (2009), and Fyedka in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse earlier this year.

Joe is also a regular member of Harrogate St Andrew’s Players, where he has portrayed the Ship’s Purser ‘Anything Goes’, Mark ‘A Chorus Line’, and more recently Chuck ‘Footloose’. This Summer, he appeared as Bernardo in ‘West Side Story’ with Upstagers Theatre Group at Bradford Alhambra. Joe has also played Shrank in ‘West Side Story’, Paul McCartney in ‘We Will Rock You’ and Joe Vegas in ‘Fame’, all at Wakefield Theatre Royal for Wakefield Youth Theatre and for Locked Out Productions.

Mrs Potts: Tracy Ford

Tracy joined LAOS in 1998 as a dancer in our production of Crazy for You here at the Grand. Since then, she has played various principal roles, including Carrie Pipperidge in ‘Carousel’(2002), Lorraine Fleming in ‘42nd Street’ (2003), Irene Molloy in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ (2004), and Evelyn Nesbit in ‘Ragtime’ (2007), all at the Grand Theatre.

Tracy has also appeared with other local societies, her favourite roles being Miss Bell in ‘Fame’, Maggie in ‘42nd Street’ (both Upstagers Theatre Group), and Tessie in ‘Gypsy’ (Potato Room Players). She also appears as a regular leading principal in panto with Yeadon Charities Association.

Madame de la Grande Bouche: Jane Robinson

Jane trained as a dancer from a young age, and her first principal role was Princess Maria in ‘Call Me Madam’ with Leeds Thespians at the Grand Theatre. At the age of 17, Jane went on to train in musical theatre in London. After turning professional, she toured nationally in children’s musical theatre and has various pantomimes, TV and cabaret work to her credit.

Jane first joined LAOS in 1994 for our production of ‘Chess’ here at the Grand. She went on to play Velma in ‘West Side Story’ (1996), Ella in ‘Mack & Mabel’ (2000), and Widow Corney in ‘Oliver!’ (2008), also at the Grand. She is well known for her comedy performances in the Musical Years concerts which we presented at the former Civic Theatre. Jane’s last role was Vicki Nichols in ‘The Full Monty’ at Wakefield Theatre Royal with Locked Out Productions.

Cogsworth: Simon Field

This is Simon’s first show with LAOS, his first stage appearance having been in Leeds 20 years ago with LIDOS. Since then he has performed with several local societies, including Leeds Thespians, Grove & Rawdon Theatre Company, Potato Room Players and STARS. Some of Simon’s favourite musical roles include George in ‘Spend, Spend, Spend’ (Grove & Rawdon), The Tin Man in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ (Potato Room Players), and Mr Sowerberry in ‘Oliver!’ (LIDOS and Potato Room Players). On the production side, Simon directed ‘Oklahoma!’ for LIDOS in 2009, and is delighted to be directing ‘Bad Girls’ for LIDOS in June next year.

Lumiere: Ben Walton

This is Ben’s fourth show with LAOS, having previously appeared in ‘West Side Story’ (2006), ‘Ragtime’ (2007) and ‘The Producers’ (2009), and he is very much looking forward to playing the role of Lumiere. Ben has been performing on the stage since the age of 9, when he appeared in ‘Carousel’ at the Nottingham Playhouse. He performed in over 30 shows in that area including ‘Follies’, ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and ‘South Pacific’, before coming to study at Leeds University in 1995.

Ben continued his involvement in theatre whilst at university, taking on principal roles such as Claude in ‘Hair’ and Freddie Eynsford-Hill in ‘My Fair Lady’. Since leaving university, he has appeared as Curly in ‘Oklahoma!’ (Ilkley AOS), and Daddy Brubeck in ‘Sweet Charity’ (Potato Room Players).

Gaston: Richard Blackburn

Richard joined LAOS in 2004 to play Cornelius Hackl in ‘Hello, Dolly!’ here at the Grand, and has played several principal roles with us since, including Tateh in ‘Ragtime’ (2007), Tobias Ragg in ‘Sweeney Todd’ (2008), and Franz Liebkind in ‘The Producers’ (2009). Something of a Sondheim fanatic, Richard has also played the title role in ‘Sweeney Todd’, Carl-Magnus Malcolm in ‘A Little Night Music’, Franklin Sheppard in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’, and has twice played Bobby in ‘Company’ – his favourite musical.

In Richard’s words: “Gaston is a difficult challenge – he expects to be the centre of attention, orders everyone around, and has girls falling at his feet…” – well, the role obviously appeals, as Richard also played Gaston with York Light Opera Company earlier this year!

Lefou: Richard Billings

Playing the role of Lefou suits Richard’s love of comedy down to the ground, and although this will be his first appearance at the Grand Theatre, he is no stranger to LAOS. He will be remembered for his portrayal of Bernardo in our production of ‘West Side Story’ at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2006. He also appeared in our review ‘Jazz It Up’ at the Carriageworks later the same year. Richard has played the role of Britney Spears in ‘We Will Rock You’ three times – with Harrogate St Andrew’s Players at Harrogate Theatre, Locked Out Productions at Wakefield Theatre Royal, and in 2008 with Stage 84 at Bradford Alhambra. Following this, Richard took a short break from active theatre to continue with his studies. He now works as a script writer and director for a Theatre in Education company, involving young people in productions all over the country.

Monsieur D’Arque: Nigel Dixon

Having studied professional singing and voice training, Nigel has accrued a wealth of experience in musical theatre, appearing in more than 60 shows over 28 years, and playing a wide variety of leading roles. Most recently, he twice portrayed Mack Sennett in ‘Mack & Mabel’, in 2009 at the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield, and earlier this year at Bradford Playhouse. He has also appeared twice in ‘La Cage aux Folles’, playing Albin at Bradford Alhambra (1994) and Georges at the Lawrence Batley (2007). Other personal favourites include Harry in ‘Company’ (Leeds City Varieties 2003), Pilate in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (Harrogate Theatre 2005), and Clyde in ‘The Witches of Eastwick’ (Bradford Alhambra 2006).

Nigel joined LAOS in 1984, and the following year played Enoch Snow in ‘Carousel’ here at the Grand. Other principal roles with us have included Pat Denning in ‘42nd Street’ (2003), Doc in ‘West Side Story’ (2006), and Henry Ford in ‘Ragtime’ (2007). Nigel is currently President of Carlinghow Theatre Company in Batley.

Maurice: Michael Johnson

This is Michael’s third production with LAOS, having appeared in ‘The King and I’ last November at the Grand (Captain Orton), and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ earlier this year at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. After gaining a diploma at the East 15 Acting School, Michael has worked in both the professional and amateur network. Roles played include Bill Sikes and Mr Bumble in ‘Oliver!’, Jud Fry in ‘Oklahoma!’, The King in ‘The King and I’, Henry Higgins in ‘My Fair Lady’, Monsieur Dindon in ‘La Cage aux Folles’, The Lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and last year he portrayed Max Bialystock in ‘The Producers’ with Halifax AOS. Play credits include Mr Chewick in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, Sgt Toomey in ‘Biloxi Blues’, Eddie in ‘Entertaining Mr Sloane’, and Jim Cartwright’s ‘Two’. Michael has also appeared on television in ‘Emmerdale’, ‘League of Gentlemen’, ‘Moll Flanders’ and ‘The Search for the Yorkshire Ripper’.

Babette: Cathy Purcell

Cathy first appeared as a dancer in a professional performance at Leeds City Varieties at the age of ten. After training, she later secured the leading role in a BBC film entitled ‘King Girl’, which went on to win an award at the London Film Festival. Cathy has also featured in ‘The Bill’, ‘Casualty’, ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Emmerdale’. On stage, Cathy appeared in ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ with the National Youth Music Theatre and at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, ‘Granny and the Gorilla’ (West Yorkshire Playhouse production), Sondheim’s ‘Into the Woods’ and Gounod’s ‘Faust’ with Leeds Youth Opera, and ‘The Full Monty’ with Locked Out Productions at Wakefield Theatre Royal. Cathy joined LAOS in 2009 and this is her fourth production with us. She dedicates this performance to the memory of her Dad, Gordon Purcell.

Chip: Oscar Thomas-Sanders and Jack Downham

Three Silly Girls: Chloe Proctor, Nicole Quartermain and Emma Greenwood

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Beauty and the Beast cast

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