Former student stars in fairest Panto in the land

13th December 2022

A former student is performing amongst a whole host of stars this Christmas in the classic Panto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Jonny Weston, who studied Musical Theatre at the College from 2011-2013 is playing the lead dwarf at the New Wimbledon Theatre alongside industry legends such as Ruthie Henshall, Lee Mead, Matthew Kelly and Dick & Dom.

Jonny Weston (pictured left) will be playing the lead dwarf in Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs alongside a whole host of stars

Jonny has always loved performing. In fact, it was watching a pantomime that got him hooked: “It was the magic of pantomime at the Birmingham Hippodrome that made me want to be a performer – I got the chance age six when Brian Connolly pulled me up from the audience to sing “old McDonald had a farm” – that was a tiny taste of what I wanted to do. Plus, the Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber searches for BBC, seeing ordinary folk fight to be in the west end – including Lee Mead who I’m now working with – that was a real drive for me. I was inspired just sitting in my own living room in Solihull by watching those programmes – it opened a whole new world for me.”

To achieve his dream, Jonny chose to study at the College: “Getting offered a place was elating, truly, a window of opportunity had opened to do what I loved.”

Stratford-upon-Avon College was the ideal bridge between secondary school and drama school for Jonny: “I have tons of fond memories, whether that’s being around like-minded people, being inspired by each and every member of faculty or rehearsing our big production numbers. It was an opportunity to explore my versatility as an actor and having the safe environment and confidence to do that was extraordinary. Alex Dengate helped me find my voice, Carol Harvey Barnes made me think outside the box when being an actor, and Phil Smith introduced me to dance – I owe so much to all of them and every faculty member.”

jonny at college
Jonny loved his time at College; especially the performances! Here he is in the cast of Anything Goes in June 2013

After college he attended The Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in central London. His first panto was whilst studying at Conti: “I was asked to audition for Sleeping Beauty for the Thameside Theatre. I joined the cast during my second year, I felt like the luckiest boy in the world gaining a professional credit whilst still training, and it was Panto!”

This year Jonny is performing at the New Wimbledon Theatre: “I’m lead dwarf which is a great challenge – there is an element of puppetry which I’m completely new to, as opposed to Dandini who I played last year for Richmond Theatre.”

Why does Jonny enjoy Panto so much: “Panto is timeless. When looking out to the audience you can see three or four generations in every row. Pantomime has something for everyone, humour, great voices, insane choreography, stunning costumes and lighting, plus live music with stunning arrangements – it’s joyous!

Also, hearing a live audience night after night is something I will relish in, but with panto it’s more the backstage antics I enjoy; the comradery, the festive cheer in dressing rooms, secret Santa, not to mention chilling out with absolute legends such as Ruthie Henshall or Mathew Kelly, hearing their anecdotes and advice is priceless.”

So what advice does Jonny give to any aspiring performers: “To any young performer or student it’s important you stay true to what you really want to do post college – if it’s drama school then audition for as many as you can, do not be distracted by other auditionees, focus on yourself and your material, and most importantly listen! Take direction and be open to anything – take that with you into the industry and it will serve you well. Above all – be yourself!”

Congratulations on your new role Jonny and we hope to see you in many more Pantos to come. Oh yes we do!

Find out more about the College’s Performing & Production Arts courses: SUAC Onstage