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You are in: Beds Herts and Bucks > Entertainment > Theatre, Arts and Culture > Panto-time > The Kane gang!

Linda, Sam, Lucy and Jack!

Linda, Sam, Lucy and Jack!

The Kane gang!

Hertfordshire’s Linda Lusardi, plus husband Sam Kane and their two children, are making pantomime a real family affair this Christmas.

The former glamour model turned actress Linda Lusardi is playing the Wicked Queen at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe this Christmas.

And while the former Emmerdale and Dancing on Ice star is scaring the kiddies, her actor husband Sam Kane will be playing Prince Charming AND directing her, their 12-year-old daughter Lucy will be playing the Forest Fairy and their nine-year-old son will be in the chorus!

And what's more, being in panto in High Wycombe means that the children will miss hardly any school at all, because the family home is in Hertfordshire!

For Linda, who looks about half of her 50 years, this will be her 19th pantomime, and it certainly isn’t the first time that she has appeared in one with her husband, as we found out!

Linda Lusardi

Linda Lusardi

You’ve been in panto with husband Sam Kane before so this isn’t the first time for this stage partnership is it?!

Linda: No – we actually met 14 or 15 years ago in panto in Darlington! I was Snow White and he was the Prince and we fell in love and the rest is history! But for the last six years I’ve played the Wicked Queen and Sam’s directed it and played the Prince, so I have to watch him kissing another girl every night!

Is that fair, that you have to go from Snow White to Wicked Queen and he still gets to play Prince Charming?!

Linda: Well, you know what it’s like, there’s no equality is there really?! I mean, Snow White is supposed to be 21 and at 50 I don’t think I can get away with it anymore! But I think it’s a promotion anyway, the Wicked Queen is a much better part! You get a much better reaction from the audience and it’s much more enjoyable to play to be honest. I love being wicked, if I can make the kids cry on my first entrance, then I’m happy!

Do you and Sam come as a package now with panto?

Linda: We try to. Obviously we’re happier if we’re together and the producers seem to think that it’s a mixture that works. This year we’ve got our 12-year-old daughter playing the fairy and our little boy who’s nine is in the chorus, so it’s a real family affair!

It must be lovely to all be together over Christmas?

Linda: Absolutely and they’re all very excited. Lucy’s an unbelievable talent, she’s got a fantastic singing voice, which she’s inherited from her father, and she’ll just blow people away in this show.

Have they done panto with you before?

Linda: It’s the first time they’ve done Snow White with us. Lucy’s played Annie and done quite a few other things. The producer has been a friend of ours since she was born and she used to be in the dressing room with me every year when she was a baby, and I’d be rushing off stage because she needed a feed, so he’s seen her grow up and knows her talent. She wouldn’t have got the part just because she was our daughter, but obviously he saw her and thought it would be enchanting to have a little girl play the Forest Fairy.

So she’s really grown up with it? 

Linda: Absolutely, but if she hadn’t done shows before we may not have risked it, but we know that she handles the pressure and she just loves it. When we’re rehearsing and I say that she can go and do something else now, she just says she wants to watch and soak it all up! So, I think her future is already carved out!  She definitely wants to be a performer.

The cast of Snow White

The cast of Snow White

Have you always seen this in her?

Linda: Always. I think the first time I spotted it she was about three and was singing ‘Happy Birthday’ and there was this little tuneful voice coming out. We found that she was just picking up songs and singing them. Now she starts to sing and people just stop in their tracks and say how is THAT coming out of that little body?!

And having two performing parents it must have been easy for her to see what happens – you haven’t tried to discourage her at all then have you?

Linda: In some ways we have because she’s actually got a track on the Charlotte’s Web album and we were staring to go down that route. But I said to her if you sign with somebody at 12 years old your life won’t be your own, you won’t be able to just go off and do things. She’s far more sensible than me and she just said ‘I want it mummy, but I don’t want it yet!’ So it’s going to be her choice not ours.

But you’re there to guide her?

Linda: Absolutely and we’re in the privileged position where we know the  pitfalls and we know the sharks out there so if any dangers come her way, we’ll spot them more than parents who aren’t in the business.

If she’d expressed an interest in wanting to be a model, as you very famously were, would you have felt the same way?

Linda: I think times are completely different now and if I had my time again I may have gone into acting first because it’s where my heart lies. But I wouldn’t discourage her, and by the time she’s old enough to become a model or do what I did, it’ll be her choice not mine.

How do you work out child care when you’re an acting family?

Linda: It’s very difficult! In previous years we’ve had to rent a house over Christmas and have a tutor come and teach them, or leave them at home, which we’ve found we can’t do.

But this year, they’ve had permission from school to come for a couple of days rehearsal, then they’re off school over Christmas anyway and are only in a few performances at the end so they are only missing four or five days at school.

In the past when Sam’s been doing one job and you’re on another, do you have to juggle who’s working when?

Linda: We had a very difficult year, the year that I was in Emmerdale because when I got the job I had to start in two weeks and Sam had already got work the following year that was going to take him away from home. I was in Leeds from Monday to Friday and some Saturdays as well, so it really meant that for nearly a year they only saw me on a Sunday and a nanny was bringing them up. I couldn’t deal with it so that’s why I left Emmerdale really. I loved the job and I loved the work but it was just geography, the location was too far away from home. They are only little for such a short period of time and I can go and do that when they’re off my hands – there’s no age limit to being an actress!

How long have you been acting now?

Linda: Believe it or not I’ve been doing it for 20 years now. My modelling life seems like I’m talking about a different person [because since then] I’ve done plays and telly and stuff and earned my living as an actress. It took longer with television to prove myself with the producers but I think that Emmerdale helped a lot. I auditioned like any other actress for the part and I got it, and no one was more surprised than me really! It was a real discipline learning scripts every single week and having only three nights to learn great big speeches and bringing out emotions with very, very little rehearsal. Most of the time when you do a stage show you have two or three weeks of rehearsal, but with soap you get a couple of runs through at it and then you have to do it on camera.

That kind of fast paced nature sounds like good training for panto because you only have a couple of weeks of rehearsal for that don’t you?

Linda: Yes, we have ten days to get about 10 or 12 dance routines and learn words to songs and I have a lot to so as the Queen! It’s quite tricky working with the magic mirror because it’s on tape so I have to time my speeches to it between the gaps that are left in the tape. Should the mirror come up and I go into the wrong bit it’s just a nightmare. I can’t get out of it because it carries on regardless of what I’ve said! 

What’s it like being directed by your husband?

Linda: It’s brilliant because I co-direct with him and quite often we sit behind the table and watch something and we turn to each other to say the same thing about it! So we kind of have the same feeling about different performances and we know what the production needs having been in it so long.

We’ve had families come to this show and the dad’s have said that they get dragged along every year and usually have a good sleep for two hours, but that this is the best show they’d ever seen. It’s just really good fun and an extravaganza, like going to see a West End show. So, if you’ve not been to pantomime before come and try one because I know you’re going to love it!

I think that out of all the times that we’ve done this production, this is going to be the best! We’ve got a really, really strong team up there [on the stage] and the comedy element is really high. It’s very magical and very funny and we’ve got a fantastic choreographer who was on tour with a show that Sam did called ‘Simply Ballroom’. Sam and I do a tango in the show when I put him under a spell, and every other year it’s just been quite easy to do, this year with this one, well, I’ll be able to ballroom dance by the end of this show!

Do you think that might be your next foray into reality TV – after all, you’ve done the Ice one?!

Linda: Well, if they see me in this and they see my tango, who knows, I’d love to do it!

You did very well in Dancing on Ice – it must have been incredibly strenuous?

Linda: It was the biggest challenge I’ve ever taken on I think, especially as I broke my foot in the first week of training in October. I had six weeks off the ice which was supposed to be the time to do the basic training that you have before you get your partner, So poor Daniel [Whiston] had to do the basic training with me when everyone else was doing their routines so I felt quite behind. But it is very scary! The first time you’re lifted off the ice and he’s spinning, you think if he drops me, or if I put my body weight in the wrong place, then it’s harder than concrete and it’s cold! A lot of it is down to the balance that you have. A lot of people think that it’s easy for the girls because they just get lifted but you do have to have core strength otherwise you can’t hold yourself in the position.

And it was very different from how people would normally see you?

Linda: Yes – I’m used to performing on stage when you sing and you dance and you can control the nerves, but when you’ve got nerves, the first thing to go is your knees, then you get the shakes and you just can’t hide it on skates, you fall over, so it was very nervewracking.

But I went on the National tour with it afterwards and it was fantastic playing all the big arenas – I’d never played to 10,000 people before!

It must have kept you very fit but it doesn’t look like you need it – I have to ask what your secret is?!

Linda: I don’t know, I think it’s in the genes! My dad’s Italian so I’ve got quite oily skin and haven’t wrinkled too much. I did get extremely fit doing Dancing on Ice, I’ve put on about five or six pounds since then and it’s all gone wobbly again, but I had a bottom I didn’t recognise when I was skating! It’s the best exercise ever for your legs, thighs and bum - if you don’t break your neck that is!

But I do keep fit and I’m running around after two kids, but I don’t diet. Years ago when I’d gone on diets they always backfired on me and I ended up putting on more weight when I came off them. I think the key to it is everything in moderation. Don’t eat Indian meals every single night, but don’t stop yourself having one a fortnight! I think it’s just about being sensible. If you want a bar of chocolate, have one, but don’t have one every day!

Linda Lusardi is starring with her husband Sam Kane in Snow White at the Swan Theatre, High Wycombe from the 12th December 2008 to the 11th January 2009.

last updated: 12/12/2008 at 15:45
created: 12/12/2008

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