IMAGINE the scene. The poor drama student in her first year of training goes along to an audition hoping for a bit of experience and maybe a background cameo…and ends up landing the lead role!
The fact that the production is Cinderella just adds to the irony.
The fairytale story has come true for Alice Baker this year, as the Performance Preparation Academy student has landed the role of Cinders in the upcoming panto at Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud Theatre.
Alice is now in rehearsals alongside stars like Bonnie Langford, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Robert Maskell – even though she had not even stepped foot on the Yvonne Arnaud stage before.
“Our head of year suggested some of us audition, I went along, I was put forward for the role and was successful!” says Alice simply – even though her achievement is almost as remarkable as creating a stagecoach and horses from a pumpkin and few mice.
“Obviously it’s very nerve-racking going into my first professional theatre role with people like Bonnie Langford who are so experienced,” she adds.
“But I’m going to be able to learn from them and get great experience.
“I’ve done lots of amateur shows and few professional things but not in the lead role. I’ve watched quite a lot at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre but not been on stage.”
That’s not to say Alice is inexperienced. “I can’t remember a day where I haven’t wanted to do this as a career,” she says. “My first stage performance was at the age of three – I was a baby munchkin in the Wizard of Oz.
“I’ve appeared in lots of stuff at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon, which was my local theatre growing up.
“I’ve done about 10 am-dram pantos, usually with my dance school, but I don’t think I’ve ever done Cinderella.”
She says this year’s Yvonne Arnaud panto will be very traditional. “The script and is quite similar to the Disney version. It’s a beautiful role because all throughout the audience will be on her side – and (spoiler alert – Ed) of course she gets the prince!”
As rehearsals take hold, Alice says: “The challenge of rehearsal and line-learning is part of the wonderful experience of performing.
“I’ve met Bonnie now and it will be really exciting to work with her.
“I’ll definitely be asking her for tips, not just about performing but about the industry. I’m just excited to be getting to know her.”
Alice still has two further years to go on her PPA course but says: “I hope to be able to get an agent and start working in the industry whether it’s singing, dancing, acting on stage or screen. I’d be very happy performing in any of those areas.
“I haven’t honestly thought about it – I’m a bit greedy so I’d love a bit of variety and try everything.”
She says she won’t be missing out on a family panto trip this year because she’s never done it. “Because I was always dancing in them, we never did the whole family outing to the panto,” she explains.
“But I know they appeal to so many people because they’re lots of fun and very light-hearted. Also there’s lots of ways for the audience to get involved, and of course it’s Christmas time.”
One downside to landing a lead panto role is that she will get only one day off for Christmas – the day itself.
“My mum will come and pick me up on Christmas Eve after our performance and I said I’m going to play Driving Home For Christmas in the car!” she laughs.
“I’ll have Christmas Day at home and then come back to Guildford on Boxing Day morning ready for our performance.”
As for a Christmas present, Alice says: “After this, I’ve already got more than I could have dreamed of in my first year of training.”
Alice Baker will star in Cinderella at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, which opens on Friday, December 6 and runs into the New Year until Sunday, January 12.