THERE’S a new face on the stage of The King’s Theatre this panto season, in the title role no less.
Meet Greg Barrowman, and yes, if the name sounds familiar, it’s because the 21-year-old Scot is cousin to Doctor Who and Torchwood star John Barrowman.
Not that the younger Barrowman is any stranger to pantomime. For a number of years he understudied his transatlantic cousin at Glasgow’s SECC, before escaping the West End star’s shadow last year to play Prince Charming in Stafford.
Nevertheless, he is quick to acknowledge, “John has been a big influence throughout my career, but it’s interesting. Everybody thinks I knew who John was when I started out, but the truth is, I didn’t. I got into am-dram theatre at about 14, all by myself.
“Because of there being the US family, while my family were over here, I never really got to meet John until I was about 15. We were at a family karaoke party and my mum and dad said, ‘If you don’t sing for John now, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. So I got up and sang.”
John’s advice was simple: “If you want to take it seriously, go to a theatre school.”
Which is exactly what Barrowman did. “I looked at John and thought, ‘Well, maybe this is something I could do too,’ and went to college. Then I trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland... it has just continued from there.”
Even before Barrowman graduated in 2013, however, he was treading the boards, appearing in panto with his cousin and The Krankies at the SECC, where he recalls he had a baptism of fire.
“It was the first year that Qdos, the company that also produces The King’s panto, were doing the SECC. Now, Glasgow is a big pantomime city, it’s very proud of its panto heritage, so they got in big players, John and The Krankies.
“Then, one day I got a phone call from John asking if I would like to audition to be his understudy. So I went to London, did a quick audition and they said, ‘No problem. Yes we’ll have you’.
“I thought I would literally sit there every night reading the script, making sure everything was going okay. More than anything I expected to be just shadowing John, seeing how he did things.”
In theory, it should have been an easy shift. It turned out to be very different.
“And then, sure enough, John became ill. He took a big hit. It was very sudden and no one expected him to go off - he is a very proud performer and hates being off.
“Suddenly, all eyes were on me and I only had about an hour to prepare. Then the costume arrived and I was on. That was the most nervous I have ever been in my life - knowing that I had to cover with 2000 people waiting in the audience for John.
“It was the biggest thing I have ever done and, I have to give them credit, The Krankies were brilliant. They just said, ‘We’ll pull you through it.’
“When you’re working with people like The Krankies, it’s great, because they do what they do and you just have to fill the void.”
Four years on and Barrowman is delighted to find himself at the King’s Theatre, his first time playing principal boy in Scotland.
“I’m loving it,” he smiles. “Allan Stewart, Andy Gray and Grant Stott are brilliant to work with, so to sit underneath them and see the whole panto experience from a totally different perspective has been great.
“When I was covering John, I had to make myself the main focus - that was the way the role was written. In this one, I have to let Andy, Allan and Grant do their thing... again, I fill the void between them.
“More than anything, though, I’m loving being able to play Aladdin in my own right.”
Given the chance, Barrowman admits he would jump at the chance to return to the Old Lady of Leven Street next year. Before that, however, he laughs, “Here’s to another 70 odd shows..!”
Aladdin, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, until 18 January, various times, £14-£30, 0131-529 6000