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St Helens Theatre Royal manager steps in to save the show after star falls ill

2 months ago

St Helens Theatre Royal manager steps in to save the show after star falls ill
Chantelle Nolan steps in to save the day - and the show

Panto’s Wicked Witch of the West is used to getting booed – but there were nothing but cheers for St Helens theatre manager Chantelle Nolan after she took on the role to save the show.

Chantelle, who has produced and directed The Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal this half-term, stepped in after both original actress Abigail Middleton and her understudy fell ill on Wednesday.

“Abigail didn’t feel well when she did the matinee, but she got through it and she was hoping she would be able to go back on in the evening,” reveals Chantelle.

“We kept checking how she was but at half past three I said we had to make a decision – and she didn’t think she could do it.”

Chantelle Nolan and the rest of The Wizard of Oz cast
Chantelle Nolan and the rest of The Wizard of Oz cast

While Abigail nursed a kidney infection and sought antibiotics, it looked like the show might have to be cancelled.

But that was until Chantelle stepped in and decided to go on herself.

“There was no-one else who could do it. Having produced and directed it, I knew the role well enough and I sort of knew the lines, so it was me or close the show,” says Chantelle. “And that wasn’t an option – the show must go on and all that.

“We’d sold so many tickets but it wasn’t just that, I hated the thought of disappointing all the kids who were looking forward to coming to see it. I couldn’t let them down.

“The rest of the cast have been brilliant because they appreciate I was thrown in at the deep end, and they’ve been doing lines with me in their breaks, they’ve been really supportive.

“They were actually made up when they knew I was going to go on because I’d done panto before and they were dying to share the stage with me.  But that was 10 years ago.”

St Helens Theatre Royal manager Chantelle Nolan steps in
St Helens Theatre Royal manager Chantelle Nolan steps in

It’s the determination Chantelle showed to save the show which has actually saved the theatre favourite.

After managing the venue for many years Regal Entertainments, of which Chantelle and producer mum, Jane Joseph, are directors, bought the theatre to ensure its future.

“It’s the family business so I couldn’t let it down,” says Chantelle.  “This is what we do.

“I had my first taste of theatre when I was four and my mum was assistant director of the Liverpool Empire panto.

“One day she couldn’t get childcare and had to take me in, so I sat under the director’s table after mum promised I’d be quiet. And I was mesmerised.

“I was the best-behaved child but apparently when dad came to take my home I threw the biggest tantrum and kicked off.

Chantelle Nolan with Dorothy, Maddie Hope Coelho
Chantelle Nolan with Dorothy, Maddie Hope Coelho

“The next year I was in the panto – and every year after until 10 years ago when I started a family and had my son Jensen.”

It was first thought it might just be one show Chantelle would appear in but performances up to and including Friday night mean she will at least notch up five!

“I did naively think it would just one night and went to bed thinking ‘well that was different’, but I had to go on yesterday and today too.

“I’m hoping Abigail might be back again for weekend, but we’ll see,” laughs Chantelle. “I’m too old for this.

“Mind you, I did joke to my family that if any role came naturally it was the Wicked Witch of the West!”

To book tickets for The Wizard of Oz at St Helens Theatre Royal click here. For the latest news in Liverpool click here.

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