From performing in London’s off-West End to returning home to a York stage – it’s been a whirlwind year for York performer Henry Rhodes.
It’s a full circle moment for Henry, 26, from York, who is about to start performances in Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates of the River Ouse at the Grand Opera House, as he first performed with Berwick Kaler and the gang 17 years ago.
“It was a Berwick pantomime that was my first gig,” said Henry. In 2006, Henry was in the child ensemble for Cinderella at York Theatre Royal, and also returned for Sinbad.
“That was my first taste of being in a theatre and in a proper production.”
From there, Henry went on to star in Billy Elliot and Footloose with York Stage Musicals as well as training in ballet at the Academy of Northern Ballet in Leeds.
“What’s nice about the Grand Opera House is I’ve literally grown up in that theatre,” said Henry.
Henry did shows at the Grand Opera House with a couple of his previous dance schools, Red Shoes and Attitude Dance Club.
“It’s such a nice space to come back to.”
More recently, Henry performed with the English National Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella, and played Mr. Mistoffelees in Cats with Royal Caribbean Cruises.
And this year he starred in the UK premiere production of Disney’s Newsies in London.
“Newsies was just the biggest surprise and a real dream show as well,” said Henry.
Henry came into the show near the end of its run. “I did the normal audition process and didn’t hear anything – that’s how it goes.
“But then months later I got a phone call asking if I was available.”
The Disney musical Newsies, with music by Alan Menken, lyrics by Jack Feldman and book by Harvey Fierstein, is based on the 1992 musical film of the same name, and is inspired by the real-life Newsboys Strike of 1899 in New York City. It opened on Broadway in 2012, and made its long awaited premiere in London at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre at the end of 2022. It played its final performance on Sunday 30 July 2023.
Henry’s first show with Newsies was Thursday 6 July 2023. He joined the show as a ballet swing, which meant that he covered multiple tracks and would go on if a cast member was off due to sickness, injury or holiday.
“It’s a very intense show,” Henry explained. “I had three or four days with the dance captain (Alex Christian) which was great, he’s absolutely amazing. Then after that it was two days on the stage, and then you’re on.
“I was a ballet swing but when I was learning the show it was essentially I could go on for anything – you learn all the tap and all the other dance tracks.
“Because it was all so fresh, I would literally be holding my phone at the side of the stage watching the rehearsal videos, and then be straight into character.
“The balletic choreography was a dream. Matt Cole’s choreography is hard but it gives you everything, it’s so bold.”
Even though Henry joined the show late into the run, he described the experience as feeling like part of a family.
“Everyone was so welcoming and supportive. If anyone had a debut they’d come offstage and everyone would be screaming and cheering for them. That was thanks to our dance captain really, he set such a good atmosphere.”
Henry is excited to be back performing in York over Christmas, and to do another show with Berwick and the gang.
“I’m so glad to be back in York, because obviously it’s my home and it is a full circle moment. Berwick’s panto has a really special place in my heart. It’s such a tradition and I associate it with my journey and love of performing – it’s what got me started.
“It’s nice to be back performing on stage with the crew because they’re icons.”
Henry is the dance captain and part of the ensemble for Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates of the River Ouse.
“I’m really grateful – Berwick gave me my first theatre job. So I’m grateful to be back and to be performing.”
Looking to the future, Henry would love to be part of another West End production. “If Newsies returns that would be incredible. Anything dancey would be amazing, like Wicked. There’s also lots of new work going on at the moment which is really exciting.
“I’m determined, optimistic and ready!”
Don’t miss Henry – as well as Berwick and the gang – at the Grand Opera House York this Christmas.
Robinson Crusoe and the Pirates of the River Ouse starts performances at the Grand Opera House from tomorrow (Saturday). It runs from Saturday 9 December 2023 to Saturday 6 January 2024.
Tickets start from £13 and are available via the Grand Opera House website.