MUCH-loved actor Andy Gray has confirmed he has withdrawn from Beauty and the Beast at the King’s Theatre following advice from his doctors.
The 58-year-old panto star has been diagnosed with blood cancer, but doctors are confident his condition is treatable, the Evening News has been told.
He had been due to star as Hector Potty in this year’s King’s pantomime, but doctors have advised him not to return to work following his recent operation.
Gray said: “It is with great sadness that I’ll leave the boys, and the incredible pantomime family at the King’s Theatre, to it for this year while I rest up at home in my Batman pyjamas.
“My doctors have advised that it is too soon to undertake a stage role, especially one opposite those dafties Allan and Grant. I’ll miss them all, but will be back out there in next year’s pantomime and look forward to it already.”
In the summer, Gray’s illness forced him to pull out of the next series of TV soap River City and his Edinburgh Fringe show The Junkies at The Gilded Balloon.
Catherine Bromley, head of communications at Capital Theatres, said Gray would not be replaced in his Beauty and the Beast role.
She said: “Andy is irreplaceable, so the producers and ourselves decided his role won’t be filled by anyone else.
“There will be two new roles created and the script will be adjusted to accommodate the change.
“There has been lots of speculation about Andy’s illness. The King’s Theatre would like to thank panto fans getting in touch and wishing him well.”
Gray was due to play alongside panto pals Allan Stewart as Mrs Potty and Grant Stott as Flash Boaby, who both continue in their leading roles when the production opens on December 1. The pantomime runs until January 20.
In a recent interview, Gray estimated he and Stott performed 84 pantos a year on top of Fringe shows, meaning they had shared a stage an astonishing 1,500 times over the years.
Beauty and the Beast is directed by Ed Curtis and also features Gillian Parkhouse, who starred in the title role of last year’s pantomime, Cinderella.
Completing the cast are Daniel Cullen as Dougal, Jacqueline Hughes as the Enchantress and Chris Cowley as the Beast.
In a joint statement Duncan Hendry, chief executive of Capital Theatres, and Michael Harrison, managing director of Qdos Entertainment, the company behind the production of the King’s pantomime, said: “We fully support Andy’s decision to take some time away to rest, and we all wish him a speedy recovery so that he can get back to what he does best; causing mayhem on stage at the King’s, right where he belongs.
“The show must, however, go on, and with Andy’s full support Allan and Grant will continue at the helm of another fantastic show for Edinburgh audiences to enjoy, as they do every year.”
One of Scotland’s most popular stage and screen performers, Gray has starred in a wide range of films and plays stretching back to the early 1980s.
He is best known to UK-wide audiences for his role as Keith Jackson in Matt Lucas’ comedy Boyz Unlimited. He also appeared in the BBC Scotland series Two Thousand Acres of Skye and regularly appeared in comedy series Rab C Nesbitt.
Yesterday, a casting update on Capital Theatres’ website read: “We are sure you will all join us in wishing Andy a speedy recovery so that he can get back to what he does best in next year’s pantomime, causing mayhem on stage at the King’s, right where he belongs.”