SOME 40 years on from when he made his acting name playing the role of Jesus in the TV movie the veteran actor, Robert Powell, was – by sheer coincidence – back at the Malvern Theatres at the same time as Jesus Christ Superstar was opening on stage at the venue this week.

He was previously there back in April starring as the ace Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, in Agatha Christie’s ‘Black Coffee’ so he will be no stranger to Malvern audiences.

This time he was there with many other members of the cast who will be appearing in this year’s pantomime – Aladdin - at the Festival Theatre for close on four weeks from mid-December.

He’ll be taking on the role of Abanazar and says he is looking forward to playing the part of the villain.

Mr Powell said: “I am delighted to be returning to the Malvern Hills area later this year. The theatre is a favourite venue of mine and all of us in the cast are looking forward to putting on a magical panto that will be fun for all the family.”

His leading role in the 1977 TV film ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, came about more or less by chance. He says he only came to be cast as Jesus when he emerged from the make-up room for his part as Judas, only to be told by film director Franco Zeffirelli he looked like everyone’s mental image of Christ, and the decision was made!

The popular actor has, over the years, shown his versatility, particularly so when he appeared in the considerably successful 1990s TV comedy series ‘The Detectives’, with his partner in crime Jasper Carrott.

Salford-born Powell – who has been married for 40 years to former Pan’s People dancer Babs Lord - is a keen sportsman. Over the years he has regularly played for the Lord’s Taverners cricket team and was the Taverners’ president in 2001-2. He is also a keen supporter of Manchester United.

Starring with him will be the talented Chris Edgerley as Aladdin, whom younger members of the audience may remember from CITV’s Hi-5.

He has had a prolific career in the entertainment industry appearing in his first panto in 2005 and has worked extensively in theatre.

He too says he is looking forward to being in Malvern and working with the rest of the cast members, which include his close friend Derek Moran, from Channel 5’s Milkshake, as Wishee Washee, Rebecca Marks as the lovely Princess Jasmine, Carrie Rawlings as Slave of the Ring and - of course, Aladdin wouldn’t be complete without a gloriously outrageous Widow Twankey who comes in the form and over-the-top shape of Ian Good.

A very accomplished stage director in his own right, Good has played this character many times and says he is ready to dazzle panto fans, young and old alike, with several changes of outfits during the performance, all of which he owns himself!

Aladdin, which will also feature members of the locally based Cecilia Hall Dance Centre, runs at Malvern’s Festival Theatre from Thursday, December 11 through to Sunday, January 4, 2015 and bookings can be made at the box office in person or by telephoning 01684 892277.

Val Wallcroft