Performer returns to panto in tribute to grandad

Tommy Jones, who plays Carabosse, and Gavin Ward, who plays the dame Nanny Biscuit in Dronfield Musical Theatre Company's production of  Sleeping Beauty from January 13 to 21.
Tommy Jones, who plays Carabosse, and Gavin Ward, who plays the dame Nanny Biscuit in Dronfield Musical Theatre Company's production of Sleeping Beauty from January 13 to 21.

A pantomime performer is returning to the theatre spotlight after 20 years in tribute to his grandad who showed him the ropes.

Tommy Jones said: “My grandad gave me my first speaking part and vocal solo at the age of eleven.

“When I went on to play Buttons at the age of 15 he took the time to show me how to act on stage, how to work with the other actors and helped me find my voice again. I have never forgotten that.

“I remember going to see Puss in Boots at the age of seven or eight, one of the shows my grandad had produced, and I was blown away - the music, the lights, the smoke was such an incredible experience to see as a kid.”

Tommy’s grandfather, Norman Jones, wrote and produced shows for Dronfield Light Opera Group. His grandmother, Barbara, has been the group’s prompt for the last 40 years.

That dedication has spurred Tommy’s return to the amateur theatre stage. He said: “It is 20 years since my grandad passed away and I thought it would be a nice tribute to him.”

He is playing the wicked fairy godmother Carabosse in Sleeping Beauty for the company which is now called Dronfield Musical Theatre Group.

Tommy said: “I have never played a baddie before - I absolutely love it. I am a woman baddie which makes it even more fun. Any excuse to wear make-up and put on a dress and I am there!

“I have a little sidekick called Herman (played by Matthew Humpage) and have based my character on a cross between Jack Sparrow, Gandalf, Mumraa from ThunderCats and Hyacinth Bucket. Playing a baddie, you can be evil and silly at the same time.

“I’m working alongside some fantastic talents. The incredible sweet voice from the likes of Rachel Bricklebank, who is playing Sleeping Beauty, the energy and comedy coming from Gavin Ward who is playing dame Nanny Biscuit, not to mention having to work with another seven fairies and the producer Andrea Powell.”

Tommy grew up in Dronfield and was educated at Gorsey Brigg, Gosforth and Henry Fanshawe schools. He said: “I always loved being on stage. I just liked making people laugh, even from an early age playing Mike TV at the age of eight in junior school’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, then onto terrible Tom ‘king of the cats’.

“I mainly did pantos. I have great memories of being Buttons in Cinderella, playing alongside David Allen and David Pierce as the ugly sisters. I learned a lot from those two of how to act on stage (although I still can’t dance).

“When I got to senior school I joined the Dronfield Parish Church Choir until my voice went from that of an angel to Brian Blessed with the flu.”

Tommy stepped away from the amateur theatre stage to concentrate on music. He said: “I have played in various bands over the years, the main one being funk outfit Bigwilliam - we have been together for years and have recently got back together to play some cover gigs and record some new original material. I am currently playing with Bigwilliam, recording with singer songwriter Joey Hearnshaw and with my three brothers in the All Kestrels.

“I also fronted Stonerun; we toured all over the country and were described by rock magazine Kerrang! as like being on the end of a Mike Tyson haymaker.

“Before that, I played bass in prog pop band Gilt Cage/Machines. I have also played piano and drums in various bands around Sheffield as well as writing and performing my own material supporting acts like David Gray and Hugh Cornwell (The Stranglers).

Tommy, 38, lives in Woodseats, Sheffield, with his wife Bridget and their children William, who is three, and one-year-old Magdalena. He works as a master scheduler for an aerospace company.

n Puss in Boots runs at Dronfield Civic Theatre from January 13 to 15 and January 19 to 21. Tickets £8.50 and £7.50 (concessions). Contact 01246 416364.