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Unwrapping a Christmas presence

At one time, he was the man of my dreams. Now Paul Nicholas was sitting before me dressed in slippers, a dressing gown and a night cap. Photographer Jill and I exchanged uneasy glances…. where had cheeky chappie Vince gone?

Then Paul offered us his trademark twinkling smile and the years melted away. Beneath that decidedly unflattering Scrooge costume was the heart throb that we ladies of a certain age had grown to know and love.

Paul Nicholas as Vince and Jan Francis as Penny in Just Good Friends
Paul Nicholas and Jan Francis in Just Good Friend

Let’s give younger readers a quick recap of the guy’s career thus far. Back in the late 1960s and early 70s, Paul was a star of such stage musicals as Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar and Grease. He also made the pop charts with a couple of top ten appearances and in the early 1980s he found a horde of new fans when he appeared on prime time telly as Vince Pinner in the romantic sitcom Just Good Friends. More high profile theatre work followed and, as well as starring in shows, Nicholas and fellow actor David Ian set up their own production company.

Which leads us to today, and a little office in the Winter Gardens, where Jill and I sit opposite our idol. Paul is in town to appear in And Then There Were None at the Grand, and is using his downtime between shows to talk about two further Blackpool visits to come. He will be directing Joe McElderry in Tommy this autumn, and then will take to the Opera House stage himself in the musical version of A Christmas Carol in the leading role of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (hence the attire – we really hadn’t got him out of bed!).

We have months until that happens, but Paul is already looking forward to it: “As you get older, you focus on parts you’d like to do,” he said. “Scrooge is one of them. It ticks all the boxes for me – great story and good songs too. It’s a part I know I will really enjoy playing and when I was asked to do it, I jumped at the chance!”

The Opera House holds special memories for the actor, who will turn 70 a day before A Christmas Carol opens. “My business partner Ian and I met when we were both in The Pirates of Penzance in the early 1980s and started our own production company,” he recalled. “And the first production we put on was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Jesus Christ Superstar – with a Sunday concert at the Opera House as our first ever show, so this place means a a lot to me. It is a great stage and a beautiful theatre which will be a great venue for A Christmas Carol.

“This is a big show that will appeal to both adults and children alike. The songs are brilliant and the combination of big production numbers and a classic story is hugely appealing – the show ran for ten years at Madison Square Garden in New York so it has to be pretty special. I am really looking forward to bringing it to Blackpool.”

A Christmas Carol: The Musical, starring Paul Nicholas, runs at the Blackpool Opera House from December 4 2015 to January 3, 2016.

Tommy, directed by Paul Nicholas and starring Joe McElderry, is at the Opera House from September 11 to 26.

For ticket information and to book, visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk, call 0844 856 1111 or call into the theatre box office.

 

 

Images by Jill Reidy of Two Old Birds Photography.

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