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Tis the season to be Barry.

IT'S not everyone who can persuade one of their oldest schoolmates to appear in front of thousands of people dressed in a saggy Steptoe onesie and a permanently pained expression.

"Everything he's done, I've always said yeah, I'll be there for you," explains Drew Schoeld, the man in the long johns, of his friend Dave Kirby, writer of, among Kirby others, Brick Up the Mersey Tunnel and Council Depot Blues.

And not forgetting his most recent comedy, a foray into the festive season with Dreaming of a Barry White Christmas - definitely a Christmas show for the adults.

School pal and theatrical muse Drew plays Thomas Minge, the cantankerous, Scrooge-like owner of a loo roll empire who hides a dark secret which could spell doom for his disparate band of employees.

The show was premiered in the ECHO arena last December - with a stage that made the Empire's look like a minnow, and returns next week, this time in the perhaps more suitable theatrical space of the arena's 1,300-seater Auditorium.

"We were miles away from the audience," Drew says of last year's production. "We were only aware of the first three rows."

"Obviously, as an actor you want to get out in front of as many people as possible," adds fellow cast member Paul Duckworth, who plays employee Mouse. "But it's going to be great actually being in something that resembles a pros (proscenium) arch with raked seating, and you can control the whole environment.

"It's more of a real theatre experience." But it's not simply Drew and Paul who are back for more. The entire cast from 2013, including Alan Stocks, Keddy Sutton, Gill Hardie and Lenny Woods, are returning for the new season.

"It was just a great scream," says Paul of last year's experience. "A proper comedy, with a farcical element to it, a bit of adventure."

"It's sad really," Drew points out of the pathos which rubs shoulders with the comedy. "Thomas is stood up at the altar in the 1970s, and then every year, just before Christmas, he puts a verse in the ECHO, hoping she'll reply."

The love of his life never does, leaving him alone with nothing but his memories and Barry White records. Apart from this year that is.

"You've got a man wandering around in his long johns after being dumped 30 years previously, and being embittered ever since," Paul explains. "And we think, here's a great idea, let's try and con him with a fake love!" Cue much merriment, mistaken identity... and music.

While the cast is looking forward to a second run of the show, it's been a busy 12 months for them all in between.

Drew has been spending time with his young grandchildren, as well as appearing as Sheridan Smith's taciturn father-in-law in ITV's hit Liverpool drama Cilla.

And Paul's feet have barely touched the ground.

He appeared in Twelfth Night which opened the Everyman in March, playing Feste in make-up and "little size nine patent leather kitten heels", and was back at Hope Street earlier this autumn in Jeff Young's mystical paean to the hidden corners of Liverpool, Bright Phoenix.

Sandwiched between the two was a role as Lord Derby in Royal de Luxe's World War I street theatre spectacular Memories of August 1914.

"I really enjoyed it," says Paul. "I knew it wasn't going to take up all of my summer.

"But I remember the Giants coming last time, and I just wanted to be involved.

"I remember I was like a child, saying to my wife 'I want to be Lilliputian! I want a red velvet jacket, and I want to run alongside the Little Girl and the dog.' .' I just wanted to be part of it."

Now it's back to Barry White. "It's a good night out," says Drew of the Christmas comedy. "A good adult panto, in the old Carry On tradition."

Dreaming of a Barry White Christ-.mas is at the Auditorium @ ECHO arena from December 15 to January 3.

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Andrew Schofield and Paul Duckworth in Dreaming of a Barry White Christmas | |
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 12, 2014
Words:683
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