EastEnders and Dancing on Ice star Matt Lapinskas revels in playing the prince in Beauty and The Beast at Ferneham Hall, Fareham
Last year Matt Lapinskas played the prince in Snow White in Stevenage – the show went on to win Pantomime of The Year, Under 750 Seats.
This year, the former EastEnders star and Dancing on Ice runner-up, has joined the cast of Beauty and The Beast at Ferneham Hall, Fareham, where he is playing the dual role of Prince Gallant and The Beast.
When The Guide sat down with Matt, he initially feigns surprise when asked about being in an award-winning show.
‘Did it? I don’t like to go on about it…’ he laughs. ‘That panto, it's really cheesy to say, but it was a magical year. And the cast…
‘Working with Paul Laidlaw, who's been there for like 31 years or something, he's fantastic, he's a veteran and what he does is brilliant, Aidan O'Neill is a very funny comic, Hannah Jane Fox, she won Best Villain, she's a phenomenal lady.
‘Then Hannah Boyce played my Snow White. That was our second year together, so that was great and the rest of the cast and the backstage crew – it was just such a lovely venue to be in.
‘That's why I think last last year won that best panto award because everybody was involved. Everybody was contributing, so it was a real team effort.
‘Luckily enough, I got to go back there. I’ve just toured a play and we opened there, so it was like being back home.’
But this will be Matt’s first visit to this part of the world, where he’s joined by Eurovision favourite Nicki French as the evil Malevolent, Charlotte Christensen as Beauty, Kevin James as Potty Pierre and Michael Neilson as Dame Dotty.
Although he has never been in a show here, as a huge football fan, he has a soft spot for Portsmouth.
‘They've got the best away fans in the world,’ he gushes. ‘I'm a Man United fan, and my first ever Man United game was back when I was like 16, about 15 years ago. It was Portsmouth-United, and we beat them 2-1, but their fans were just amazing. They never stopped singing the whole time, and it was just phenomenal.’
He’s looking forward to teaming up with Jordan Productions again, who were the team behind last year’s triumphant Snow White.
‘This will be my eighth panto, and my fourth with Jordans.
‘I did the Beauty and The Beast as an Easter panto this year as well, so I'm doing two Beauty and The Beasts in one year. I played Gaston in Wrexham and now I’m playing the prince and The Beast.
‘It was nice to play Gaston, but this is even better.
‘Jordan Productions are a fantastic company – they're true to real pantomime scripts. I do go and watch a lot of pantos, if I get some time off, and some of them focus more on the visual side and the special effects aspects of it – 3D this and blah, blah, blah, that. Jordan have some of that too, but they’re more the traditional pantomime, and I think that's the right way to do it.’
While many will know Matt’s got the acting chops – he can also sing and dance. He’s played Tony Manero on stage in Saturday Night Fever and Pharoah in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.
‘I think some people get surprised about that because I love to sing and I love to dance as well – I used to dance when I was younger
‘Last year, [street dance duo] Twist and Pulse choreographed the show. Sometimes you get bits where the choreographer’s like, you don't have to do this bit, and I was there going: “No, I want to do this bit!”’
As Matt talks about being in panto, his puppyish enthusiasm for his work shines through: ‘I love pantos, I love Christmas, it’s my favourite time of year. I love the build up – it’s all about family. It’s all about friends – and it's just nice!
‘And what I love about it are the kids’ faces. A lot of times it's the first time they have ever been to the theatre. They love singing the songs, they just enjoy it, and you get that response from the audience immediately, which is great. You don't have to wait around for weeks or months to find out what everyone thought, like in TV or film.
‘This is my passion. I love doing TV, film, I love doing straight plays as well. I love doing musicals. I just love to work. I just love it.
‘It's one of those jobs that, when you get a job like this, for the whole of Christmas I can say: “I'm going to work every day to do something that I love”.’
Speaking of which, Matt has been busy filming lately. He starred in a horror film, The Seven, which was released in October. And then Red Devil, which came out on November 18, ‘that's the big one by Sony Pictures. That's a Leicester Square premiere, red carpets, all that.
‘That was a great part, and Sav Michael, who was the writer and director, is just a genius and a pleasure to work with. Fingers crossed, there's another one just after Christmas that I'll be doing as well.’
Probably his best known role though was as Anthony Moon in the BBC’s long-running soap, EastEnders. He arrived in 2011 with his brother Tyler, and father Eddie, played by David Essex.
Although Anthony wasn’t killed off on his departure, Matt doesn’t think he’ll be rejoining the show any time soon.
‘I must admit, I haven’t seen it much lately, but there are no Moons there, so technically there is no reason for my character to go back
‘If they wanted to bring the Moons back, then there’d be a reason for them to relocate there, if they wanted to come back and take the Queen Vic over or something like that, but I think we'd have to go back as a full family, it would be too random just for Anthony Moon to turn up on his own out of nowhere.’
Beauty and The Beast is at Ferneham Hall, Fareham, from today to January 5. Tickets £11-21. Go to fernehamhall.co.uk.