FROM skating with the stars on Dancing on Ice to surviving the beaches of Shipwrecked, Jeff Brazier is a man of all seasons – but for the Essex dad, spending time with his family at Christmas couldn’t be more important.
So this season, the TV personality is guaranteeing a cracking family Christmas as he joins his two boys on stage in the Thameside Theatre’s pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Starring as Essex’s own Prince Charming of Chafford Hundred, the 35-year-old is leading the way for the youngsters and tells me, he’s embracing the ‘uncoolness’ of parenthood in the role.
“I’m always up for taking the micky out of myself – I’m a dad so I gave up on being cool a long time ago,” laughs Jeff, during a brief break in rehearsals.
As the father of late Jade Goody’s two children, the former reality star knows how important it is to be with them at Christmas.
“This panto is the perfect opportunity as a parent, to work and spend time with my kids,” he says. “I think as a family we’ve seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs about 17 or 18 times so I thought the boys might as well be in it!”
Jeff’s children, 10-year-old Freddie and 11-year-old Bobby, play two the dwarfs in the production – although Jeff claims there’s no need for them to get stage fright on the night.
“They play two dwarfs who I believe are called Governor and Smiley, but they’ve got dwarf heads on, so you won’t see them,” he says. “Bobby is into performing arts anyway and although Freddie wasn’t sure about being on stage at first, it’s given him such a confidence boost, he loves it now.”
Having opened last week, the Polka Dot Pantomime production runs right through to January and tells the classic story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, where a princess called Snow White falls in love with a handsome prince, much to the dismay of the jealous Wicked Queen.
Seeking refuge from the Queen, Snow White stumbles upon the mischievous seven dwarfs. But the Wicked Queen won’t stop until she finds Snow White and tricks her into taking a bite from a poisoned apple that makes her fall into an eternal sleep.
“Panto is a lot harder than it looks,” says Jeff. “It’s second nature just to be yourself, so to not be you and having to think how someone else might move and react is really hard.
“I was actually given the option when I signed on, whether to be Muddles or the Prince. I asked ‘who’s got the most to say?’ and they said Muddles, so if I’m honest, I thought I’d go for the Prince.
“With Muddles, there’s a lot of silly gags and rolling around on the floor. I thought I suited the Prince better and I have so many commitments at this time of year, the workload seemed better for me.
“But Polka Dot Productions always make it as easy as possible and they’re good people to work with,” he adds. “It’s not just a great cast this year, but it’s also a great location, which is nice and local for me. It’s a lovely way to see all of my friends and have a catch up.”
Indeed, currently living in Matching Green, the commute to the theatre isn’t far for the family to travel and Jeff claims he’s loving every moment on stage – including a few musical numbers.
“You know what? I don’t mind singing,” he says. “My secret is that I actually think I’m alright and I think a lot of people are pleasantly surprised when they hear me sing. I sing a Frozen number called Love is An Open Door, which all the kids love. It’s such a wonderful song.
“But the real stand out performer of the show is Michelle Pentecost, who plays the Wicked Queen and sings an amazing version of Defying Gravity,” he adds. “She’s from the West End so it’s actually a real privilege to be performing with her.
“But the whole cast is great this year and this is an exceptional show, everyone will be left laughing their socks off.”
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs at the Thameside Theatre in Grays until 4 January 2015. For tickets, call the Box Office on 0845 300 5264 or visit thurrock.gov.uk/theatre for more information.