Brief Encounter With … Norman Pace

Popular TV comedian Norman Pace talks about swapping tickles for tassels for the role of Buffalo Bill in the touring production of Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun.

How is the tour going as you are in your first week?

The Sunderland Empire is the first theatre on the 16-week tour for the show. We had an intense four-week rehearsal period, which included four days off for Easter then opened in Manchester. Then we had a week off before all meeting again in Sunderland to commence the tour.

Norman Pace (c) as Buffalo Bill with Jason Donovan (l) and Emma Williams (r) in Annie Get Your Gun.
Norman Pace (c) as Buffalo Bill with Jason Donovan (l) and Emma Williams (r) in Annie Get Your Gun.
© Alastair Muir

So after a week off how did you prepare for the show?

Most of us arrived in Sunderland on Monday, then had a run though of the dialogue on Tuesday morning. We also rehearsed with the two local children playing Little Jake. But with no shows on Mondays, we do three matinee days during every week, so it’s an intensive week .

How do you spend your days before coming to the theatre?

I love buses, so I always get the local buses to the theatre, listening to all the people on the bus. Then have a walk around the shops and have a coffee reading the papers before going to the theatre. But the whole company gets along, so often we meet up before the show. I would be more than happy to go for a drink with any of them at anytime as we all are a large family.

You have to wear a long wig in the show, how are you coping with that?

I knew I would have a wig for the part of Buffalo Bill, but this is very long and very heavy. Plus my costume looks great with all the tassels but it is also very heavy plus I have large boots to wear. So there is water in the wings and I drink a lot during the show. Likewise do all the cast as the dance routines are very energetic, especially in the "I’ve Got The Sun In The Morning" number.

How long are you in the tour for?

The tour lasts 16 weeks but I leave after 14 to join the tour of One Man, Two Guvnors. This brings me back to the Sunderland Empire on 19 January for a week.

How do you prepare for the One Man, Two Guvnors Tour

I have two weeks to prepare before taking over from Shaun Williamson, who was Barry in Eastenders and will follow the tour for those weeks. First of all, I work with the assistant director on the set to get the blocking right, then the understudies, before a dress rehearsal and then I’m on. It will be odd being the only new cast member joining a touring company already familiar with themselves, all of whom love working with Shaun, who is a good friend of mine. I have taken over like this before but the first performance always puts you under a lot of pressure.

So what are your plans after the two tours and will we see you on TV again?

I am lucky that I have two long theatre tours now and then it will be a holiday. But at this stage in my career theatre is the most important part of my work. If the right TV project came up I would be interested but it is my lowest priority.

Norman Pace is touring nationally in Annie Get Your Gun for the next 14 weeks, then in One Man Two Guvnors, again nationally, including the Sunderland Empire on 19 January 2015.