Luton entrepreneur to star in Beauty and the Beast panto with ‘South Asian twist’

"I’m really excited, but slightly nervous.”
Shehzad. Picture: Shehzad HussainShehzad. Picture: Shehzad Hussain
Shehzad. Picture: Shehzad Hussain

A man from Luton will star as the villain in a new pantomime which will give a new twist on the classic story, Beauty and the Beast.

Shehzad Hussain, 39, was contacted by Citizen Khan actor and writer, Abdullah Afzal, for a role in the upcoming Beauty and the Balaah show. The Muslim pantomime will raise money for the Penny Appeal.

Shehzad’s love for performing began at age eight when he would watch Bollywood films frequently after his mother died. The entrepreneur said: “Little did I know that I was absorbing a lot of the acting. I’m able to mimic a lot of Bollywood actors because of that. I always wanted to become an actor, but unfortunately, in Asian households, acting is kind of frowned upon. They think it's not a real job.”

Shehzad (centre) with this castmates. Picture: Shehzad HussainShehzad (centre) with this castmates. Picture: Shehzad Hussain
Shehzad (centre) with this castmates. Picture: Shehzad Hussain

After forgetting about his dream for decades, he rediscovered his love for performing during the pandemic when began creating TikTok videos parodying famous actors, like Shah Rukh Khan, online. Shehzad explained: “My videos were going viral, getting 1.4 million views.”

The online fame grew and he began getting stopped more often on trips through Bury Park and into the town centre. Two months ago, he was approached by Abdullah Afzal and his team. Shehzad said: “I did my audition and he absolutely loved me. He changed the script and expanded my character. Now. I'm playing the villain in a comedy, Asian version of Beauty and the Beast.”

The Stockwood Park resident will play Gulfaraz, who is similar to Gaston, when the show tours later this year. On Sunday (September 17), the cast had their first rehearsal in Wakefield ahead of their first show in London in December.

He said: “I'm really excited, but I'm slightly nervous. When I do my TikTok videos, I have an idea of what I'm saying, I don't have a script. I’m not saying things word for word. So the challenge I have now is, that I have got lines to learn.”

The locations and dates of the performances are due to be announced but will run until January 28, 2024.

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