Panto-goers were left disappointed at a Wimbledon theatre’s response to Lee Ryan abandoning his role as Aladdin.
The Blue star reportedly disappeared during a performance of Aladdin at the New Wimbledon Theatre on The Broadway on 28 December and did not reappear in the show since.
Lee Ryan super-fan Andrea, 38, who is physically disabled, was close to taking a two-hour journey from Leicestershire to see him in the show on 30 December after the theatre assured her that he was still performing.
“If my friend hadn’t told me Lee wasn’t performing, I would have had to pay for train tickets and a hotel which I had already booked.
“I rang ATG and I asked if what my friend said was true. They said no. But it turns out that wasn’t the case.”
Aladdin ran in the Wimbledon theatre from 8 December 2018 to January 6 2019 and starred the singer alongside comedian Paul Merton and magician Pete Firman.
“The theatre is about two hours away for me, but there were people coming from other countries to see him and the theatre wasn’t making any effort to tell anybody that he wasn’t performing,” said Andrea.
“I don’t blame Lee. Having followed Lee for 17 years I know what he’s like. I don’t think he wouldn’t have walked out unless something was really wrong.
“What I do blame is the poor communication from the theatre. They made absolutely no effort to tell anybody that he wasn’t performing.”
The theatre refunded the cost of Andrea’s ticket.
Audience members gathered outside the theatre on the show’s closing night also shared their thoughts on the star’s absence.
Helen Smith, 32, who was attending the show with her children, was unaware that the Strictly Come Dancing celebrity wasn’t performing when she purchased her tickets earlier that day.
She said: “Why has no one said anything? Why wasn’t it online when I booked my tickets today? I came here to see him, I don’t know who the replacement is.
“I booked my tickets online this afternoon and then I went into the theatre to collect them and they said he’s ill.
“He’s still on all the posters, there was nothing said online about it. I would have gone to Richmond to see Peter Pan if I’d known.”
In an Instagram post, Ryan said he was suffering from a chest infection. He captioned the image: “Yuk yuk yuk… can’t even talk – let alone sing.”
Not all theatre goes were as upset at the star’s absence.
Dance teacher Saffron Sydeki, 47, said: “I didn’t know he wasn’t going to perform. When I booked my tickets they didn’t tell me that.
“I just assumed he was in the show because the posters are up with his face on them.
“He’s alright, I’m not a massive fan, I haven’t come to the show just to see him.”
Catholic priest Gerry, 62, said: “I couldn’t give a monkeys. I don’t even know who he is. I’ve come because of Paul Merton.”
A Qdos Entertainment spokesperson, the production company who put on the show, said: “On Friday night Lee Ryan informed us that he would not be continuing his contract, a position Qdos Entertainment has accepted.
“Our public notices in the theatre read ‘Due to the indisposition of Mr Lee Ryan, at this performance the role of Aladdin will be played by Chris Durtnal.’
“Our refund policy is full refund if a customer doesn’t wish to stay and watch.
“Customers were informed by an announcement at the beginning of the show, and when collecting tickets.”