Panto helps talented Prince Charming find his voice

KEITH Hanley, who stars in the Everyman pantomime, says that if it wasn’t for performing in the annual Christmas show every year, he would never have had the confidence to take part in The Voice of Ireland.

The 21-year-old from Charleville in Co Cork, who won the RTÉ singing contest in 2013, plays Prince Charming in this year’s production of Cinderella.

“With panto, you get to the stage where you’re performing 40 shows,” says Hanley. “You literally just glide onto the stage and you get used to the audience.”

Up to now, Hanley has only ever been part of the singing ensemble in pantomimes but this year, he hopes to charm audiences as Cinderella’s hero.

He admits that it “took a fight for the choreographer on the ‘The Voice of Ireland’ to make me not only sing but also to bring an entertainment element to my performance. I was able to carry it off thanks to my panto experience”.

He won the talent show with his version of ‘Beggin’, originally recorded by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.

Hanley’s prize was making an album with Universal Recrds. Entitled Hush, he says it has “unexpected sounds that people wouldn’t expect him to come out with. “It stays true to soul but it also has some pop sounds. I’m a lover of Motown and I also like jazz.”

Apart from two covers, the album contains original songs written in conjunction with professional songwriters. “I definitely put my stamp on it in terms of the arrangements,” says Hanley.

He is working with vocal tuition centre Voice Works in Cork, developing his music. He is hoping to have a professional singing career.

“I’m ambitious about my music. Doing The Voice of Ireland definitely got me out there and is helping to make my name known.”

He is currently working on new material. “It’s not necessarily for an album. I plan to base myself in the gig scene in Cork and there are music people in the UK lined up for me to be introduced to for advice.”

A busy young man, Hanley also works part-time as a care assistant at St Joseph’s Foundation in Charleville and hopes to complete his diploma in child psychology next year.

“I look after adults and children with special needs. It’s my other passion. The night I was on ‘The Late Late Show’, I had to work a 12-hour shift the next day.”

It’s not all showbiz glamour then? “I’m delighted to have the two interests. I’m trying to get my diploma behind me. If my music career doesn’t happen full-on, I will commit myself 100% to caring for people with special needs.”

Hanley is excited about this year’s pantomime. “It’s my first time having a principal role. It was always my dream to play a fantasy-type character so that I can branch away from reality. I get that sense every day at rehearsals, living in a fantasy world for a few hours.”

Hanley’s Prince Charming comes across as slightly glum, he says. “The royal life and the glamorous life don’t really appeal to him. His secretary of state, who is almost a butler to him, tries to keep him in shape so that he can sustain his royal life. But Prince Charming is trying to branch away from that and live a normal life. Cinderella (Clodagh Downey) brings him back to his true self.”

As is usual with the Everyman pantomime, it’s a traditional show and includes a dame, played by Frank Twomey. Hanley doesn’t mind working over Christmas. “It wouldn’t be Christmas if I wasn’t doing panto. But there’ll be plenty of me left for the New Year. I’ll focus as much as I can on the music,” says this man of many talents.

  • Cinderella opens at Cork’s Everyman Theatre on December 6


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