TEARS of emotion flowed when panto legend and River City star Andy Gray made a brief and unexpected return to the King’s stage on Saturday to catch up with showbiz pals Allan Stewart and Grant Stott.
After watching the evening performance of Beauty and the Beast, the popular star, who is battling blood cancer, received a rapturous standing ovation when he took to the stage during the curtain call.
Talking exclusively to the Evening News Andy, who just 24 hours earlier had been released from an overnight stay in hospital for a blood transfusion, admitted, “I was nervous to say the least last week.
“We had arranged my visit to see Beauty and the Beast on Saturday night.
“Unfortunately, because I’m so well looked after by everyone at Ward 34 in Ninewells Hospital I found myself being treated to a sojourn on the ward.
“I was discharged on Friday and the treat was on.
“And.... what a treat. I saw all my extended family at the wonderful Kings and got lost in the magic of the show.”
Addressing Saturday’s audience, Andy opened with his famous panto catchphrase, “I’m no very well”.
He continued, “Thank you, I watched it [the panto] tonight, is it always that blooming good? It’s absolutely wonderful...”
Becoming visibly emotional, he added, “I’m a bit like Andy Murray now, so I’m going to stop. I love you all. I love you all. Thank you”.
Before the performance Andy had caught up with the his two co-stars backstage.
Resident King’s panto dame Allan Stewart revealed, “It was very emotional from the minute he arrived at six o’clock. And it was just like it always was before the shows - we sat in Andy’s dressing room, which Grant is keeping warm for him this year, laughing and joking, and this time crying a bit too.
“Three grown men sitting there crying together. But really, it was a magical night - just the most fantastic night for all of us.”
After the performance, Grant Stott shared an image of the three in the dressing room on social media.
The BBC Radio Scotland broadcaster told the News, “Allan and I were hoping all throughout the run that Andy would be well enough to come along and see the show at some point, but were never really sure if he’d manage to get there, let alone join us on stage.
“I’ve had many special moments on that stage with Andy and Allan - but that one will live with me forever.”
Perth-born Andy, who was diagnosed with blood cancer last August, has become an integral part of the King’s panto over the last two decades.
Each performance of this year’s production has ended with Grant and Allan filming the audience shouting, ‘We love you Andy’.
King’s Theatre Head of Press and Communications Catherine Bromley said, “I spoke to Andy last week about receiving a video message after every single performance and he was loving every single one of them - and not getting sick of them at all.
“He told me: ‘Every message I get from the King’s gives me such a thrill and it’s the best medicine for me right now’.”
Last month the Evening News revealed that Andy would return to The King’s panto in 2019 as The Ringmaster in a brand new production of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Commenting at the time, Andy revealed, “I have been experimenting with my porridge making skills and I’m so delighted to say I’ll be back with Goldilocks, Allan and Grant next year.”
Adding, “Producer Michael Harrison and director Ed Curtis have told me I’m playing the handsome, heathy and extremely talented young ringmaster. Can’t wait.”
By the reaction to his appearance on Saturday, neither can Edinburgh’s audiences.