Alex Spencer catches up with the Headmaster earlier than the beginning of Cambridge Arts Theater’s new pantomime.
West End star Luke Baker is able to don main man Dick Whittington’s tights in this 12 months’s Cambridge Arts Theater panto and may’t wait to get on stage.
He’s no stranger to pantomime after 4 different productions, however this 12 months he feels he has it a bit of simpler as he does not play the notoriously troublesome function of pantomime, which is at all times tiring and injury-prone.
“About six years ago I played Buttons, the Silly Billy character, and it’s really hard work physically,” he says.
“But you’re also basically like a stand-up comedian and you have to be the kids’ best pal. And you fancy Cinderella, which isn’t always like buttons, right?
“It’s very nice this time as a result of I’m not playing this foolish billy function that takes a lot power. The roles are evenly cut up between Alice, the lead, the prepare dinner and my cat, so it is also not like in a musical the place it is fairly arduous for this major character. It’s additionally a terrific script and there are some very nice musical numbers.”
As the lead, he’ll additionally keep away from the notorious “slosh” scene, the place characters slide throughout the stage and stroll away with various bruises. But he has to endure in one other method – there will probably be tights.
“I think there might be some tights in the final,” he says sheepishly.
“Actually, I have a really nice costume. It’s like an old classic panto style. I also have a backpack with a fairly large stick and a sack on the back. The costumes are incredible. They are really well made and these pantos look very classy.”
Luke has acted in many West End and regional reveals. He was final seen as Tony in a manufacturing of Billy Elliot on the Leicester Curve Theatre. It’s a job he is wished to play for years, he explains.
“It was the first time the show had been reimagined outside of the West End. It just won an award and it’s always been a dream of mine because I’ve always wanted to play Tony, that’s Billy’s older brother who’s a miner. I used to never be there when they audition. I was always busy or busy and thought that part of my career would have passed me by. And then I heard they were doing it in Leicester, so I got on there. Everyone would always say, ‘I could see you play Tony’. I was like – ‘Me too!’”
Luke, who grew up in Wakefield, explained he was drawn to the story for a number of reasons – including how it represented his northern roots.
He stated: “Some folks have requested how you are feeling playing a villain? I assumed he wasn’t a villain; He’s only a younger lad who has seen his trade decimated and he needs to battle for what he loves, his household and his neighborhood. And we did plenty of analysis on Billy Elliot by means of all these mining communities the place the mine was the heartbeat of each neighborhood and everybody’s coronary heart is ripped out and they will die.
“The show I was on before Billy Elliot was Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which I think is the second greatest British musical written after Billy Elliot. And this is set in a working-class area of Sheffield and revolves around Jeremy growing up to be a drag queen.
“But the show was actually more about the relationship between a mother and son and how he navigated his way through school and life and how he’s 16 in this area where you don’t get a chance.
“Personally, it was hard for me as a working-class kid to get into this whole business because there really weren’t that many northern working-class shows. You would have to be either Londoner or American to perform. So I was really lucky to do those two shows. But yes, I think it’s important. I always see my family react differently when they see me in these stories.”
Luke recently appeared in Star Wars spin-off Andor on Disney+, although he admits it was only a small role.
“If you see really well, you can see me in Andor,” he laughs.
“They had a huge cast and I have a few friends who all did it. As I watched it, I discovered myself and stopped the show to say, “That’s me.” I was hired as a “running soldier” so they didn’t even bother naming my character because I was literally a soldier running across this massive bridge, obviously late for something. But that was amazing. I got the role during lockdown which was a bit of a breath of fresh air and I went and shot it in the Oban Highlands. So we stayed there for a week just to shoot one scene, which was very nice.
“There were four of us. We flew up and then we all stayed at the hotel. I had a bit of a laugh and we were all pulled in at different times to film our bits.
“One of my best friends was in it and also in another scene. It’s cool to be a part of this Star Wars family in a tiny way. I’m not an obsessive Star Wars fan, but I’ve seen them all and it was exciting to be a part of it.”
Luke’s other recent film role was in Masters of the Air, a sequel to Band of Brothers for Apple TV, with Austin Butler. Production is being directed by Tom Hanks and Spielberg. It is set in World War II and is about the B17 bombers.
Luke says, “Basically, the Americans came over and helped us win WWII by conducting targeted bombing, rather than what the British were doing was just carpet bombing of sorts and ruining whole towns and cities. They did it at night because it was safer for the soldiers, but they didn’t necessarily hit their targets. And the Americans said very boldly, we do it during the day and in formation. And we will target locations. But the survival rate was dismal, because if 10 planes took off, only three were likely not to come back. And the soldiers agreed to 25 sorties. When you complete 25 missions you can go home.
“My character survived because he was captured and taken to a POW camp. I’m more visible this time as I’m in some scenes with Austin, but I was wearing a gas mask in places so who knows if you’ll be able to see me!”
Luke believes that if he had listened to career advice at school, he would never have become an actor.
“In my careers counseling session, they asked me what I wanted to do and I said I didn’t know,” says Luke.
“And then they just gave me an army leaflet. I spoke to one of the military supervisors about this when I was filming Masters of the Air and he said if I had joined the army at that point I would have been sent to Afghanistan. So I’m glad that didn’t happen.”
Instead, a teacher suggested he do a BTEC in musical theater, and after that he went to drama school on a scholarship.
“When I found out people were getting paid to sing, dance and act, I thought I could.”
My family has always supported me. My dad just told me, ‘If you’re going to do it, make sure you’re really good!’”
Dick Whittington and his cat might be seen on the Cambridge Arts Theater from December 1st to January eighth. Tickets from £19 can be found from the field workplace at cambridgeartstheatre.com.