Understudy steps into Dick Whittington's boots as panto lead gets Covid

Nicholas Jones has stepped into the role of Dick Whittington (pictured) after Gyasi Sheppy tested positive for Covid. 

Nicholas Jones has stepped into the role of Dick Whittington (pictured) after Gyasi Sheppy tested positive for Covid. - Credit: Nicholas Jones

When the lead in your pantomime has to self isolate part way through its run, it is surely a case of having to bring down the curtain early.... Oh no it isn't.

Norwich Theatre Royal's panto has managed to continue without a hitch after the actor playing Dick Whittington tested positive for Covid.

CBeebies presenter Gyasi Sheppy has been playing the title role in Dick Whittington and his Cat since December 11, but he now has to isolate. 

Gyasi Sheppy who will be playing Dick Whittington in this year's Theatre Royal panto, Dick Whittingt

Gyasi Sheppy is currently isolating after getting Covid. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

However, one of the dancers, understudy Nicholas Jones, 23, has been on hand to fill the character's famous boots.

Mr Jones, who lives in London, first played the role on New Year's Eve and will continue until at least Thursday, January 6, with the panto's run ending on Sunday, January 9. 

Dick Whittington and his Cat is Mr Jones' first professional job and he graduated from the Urdang Academy in London in 2020 during the first lockdown. 

Jarnéia Richard-Noel, Joe Tracini and Gyasi Sheppy in Dick Whittington and his Cat. 

Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Alice Fitzwarren, Joe Tracini as Tommy the Cat and Gyasi Sheppy as the title role in Dick Whittington and his Cat. - Credit: Laura Francis

He said: "I found out I was going on as Dick the night before, it was a very quick turn around with only hours to rehearse on stage and learn extra bits of material. 

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"It felt incredible to make my debut, especially after graduating in such crazy times and auditioning has been very tough as theatre has been affected most during the pandemic.

Nicholas Jones as Dick Whittington with his castmates.

Nicholas Jones (front) as Dick Whittington with (back L-R) Shakeel Kimotho as Beau Bells, Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Alice Fitzwarren and dancer Lucia Valentino. - Credit: Nicholas Jones

"I was very overwhelmed and proud to have had the chance to play Dick.

"The audience were amazing - the interactions with the audience were priceless and they were super loud which is what we all love." 

The panto has received rave reviews since opening last month and it tells the rags to riches tale of a young man leaving home with only his cat and a spotted handkerchief on a quest for fame and fortune.

Gyasi Sheppy who will be playing Dick Whittington in this year's Theatre Royal panto, Dick Whittingt

Gyasi Sheppy hopes to return on January 7. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

Mr Sheppy said: “I am devastated to have to isolate into the last week of performances at Norwich Theatre Royal but am astounded by the absolute resilience of the cast and crew of this year’s pantomime.

“I would like to mention Stephen Crocker who from the beginning of rehearsals reassured the whole team that the show would go on and it has.

“I hope to return to performances on Friday to close the show and perform for my family and friends”

Tickets are still available at norwichtheatre.org