Tony Newman, until last October the leader of the council, is to take the lead in Croydon again later this year when he plays a starring role in the 2021 pantomime production at the Fairfield Halls.
In a massive career change for someone more used to repeating barely credible lines before a jeering audience in the Town Hall chamber, Newman has been taking acting lessons in order to deliver barely credible lines before a cheering audience on the Ashcroft Theatre stage.
The discredited third-rate politician who bankrupted Croydon is to star in the role of Baron Hardup in this year’s production of Cinderella at the Halls in late December.
“It’s a role that was just made for Tony,” according to a close personal friend.
After a 12-month coronavirus lockdown, the management of the Fairfield Halls has been keeping its re-opening plans under tight wraps.
But Inside Croydon has discovered that the town centre arts venue was subject of a malicious ransomware hack attack over the weekend, when key documents, including the artwork for the pantomime poster, were stolen. Inside Croydon has received some of these documents from a third party and, as required by the law, handed them over to the police and anti-cyber crime fraud squad, together with a full statement.
But we did keep a copy of the lovely poster.
There has been no statement from Fairfield Halls about the hack attack, but according to digital crime experts, it is suggested to have been the work of Faro Lip Lo, a notoriously tricky group of hackers based in southern Europe.
The poster reveals Newman’s key role in the Croydon pantomime, which is being specially written for the 2021 era of post-covid, post-council financial collapse.
“To be honest, it’s probably not exactly what the Fairfields management was hoping for,” a source told Inside Croydon. “But money’s tight at the moment, and real crowd-pleasing stars such as Phil off Eastenders, Amanda Holden or Gemma Collins were well out of our league. We just have to make the best with what we’ve got.”
In an early version of the script, which we have also seen, Baron Hardup has a much larger role than in usual versions of Cinderella, including an entire scene where Newman, the former keyboard player in a failed New Romantics band from the 1980s, gets to play a large throbbing organ on stage.
As with previous, community-led pantos in Croydon, the cast will be made up of some experienced professional performers from stage and screen, with a chorus line provided by talented local schoolchildren, plus a handful of enthusiastic amateurs, keen to try their luck with songs, gags and a bit of slapstick.
“It’s the sort of thing that should be familiar to anyone who has seen any meetings at Croydon Town Hall,” said our source.
Hamida Ali, the former protégé of Newman on the council, will be taking time out of her onerous duties for a walk-on part as Cinderella. Whether her fairy godmother is able to sprinkle enough magic dust over the Whitgift Centre to transform it into a shiny new town centre is considered to be a plot spoiler, which we cannot divulge.
Alison Butler and Paul Scott get the chance to play their well-rehearsed panto villain double act as the ugly sisters.
And making a surprise return to Croydon, as the money-grabbing wicked stepmother, is Jo Negrini. According to sources who witnessed the secret casting sessions held last month, Negrini was at first reluctant, apparently concerned that she risked being type-cast.
Inside Croydon has been unable to confirm whether Negrini will be co-producing the show, using some of her £440,000 council pay-off.
In a break with usual theatre policy, the producers are considering making special arrangements to actively encourage their panto audiences to throw things at the stage during the performances. Rotten tomatoes and old eggs will be on sale in the so-called “Arnhem Foyer” before the curtain goes up each night, with proceeds raised going towards the £60million cost of the unfinished and incomplete refurbishment of the Halls.
As yet uncast is the role of Buttons, though it is believed that this may be earmarked for the council’s new deputy leader Stuart King, who after the Town Hall’s financial collapse is now trying to work with budgets worth… well… buttons.
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