Veteran Belfast actor Jimmy Ellis was the star attraction off-stage at the World Premiere of Love, Billy at the Lyric Theatre on it sopening night (Wednesday 1 May).
Jimmy played the father, Norman Martin in the 1980s’ BBC TV series – a part which has been revived 25 years on by Strabane actor, George Shane.
Most famous for his role in hit TV series Z-cars, Jimmy who lives in England, made the trip to Belfast with his wife Robina for the opening night and afterwards greeted the cast back-stage to offer his congratulations.
He was reunited with the only original cast member, Tracey Lynch, who plays Ann Martin, a role she last played as a young 10-year-old.
“It was wonderful to see Jimmy and for him to come out and support us on the opening night,” said Tracey.
Jimmy was also greeted by a stunning portrait of himself by artist Colin Davidson which hangs in the Lyric foyer.
The excitement has been building since the Lyric Theatre
commissioned Graham Reid to write a fifth instalment of the successful Billy plays. Star of stage and screen, Joe McGann has stepped into the shoes of Sir Kenneth Branagh to lead the cast as the estranged, angry son, Billy Martin, who returns to Belfast after 25 years, having left mysteriously without telling anyone. He comes back to a city that he hardly recognises and family grudges to resolve.
First televised by the BBC as part of the infamous Play for Today series, the Billy plays launched the career of Branagh, a then young Belfast-born actor, and made a huge impact across the island of Ireland and the UK.
The full cast line-up are George Shane as Norman, Maggie Hayes as Lorna, Ger Ryan as Mavis, Sarah Lyle as Maureen and Ciaran Nolan as Ernie Greer.
Love, Billy runs on the Danske Bank Stage from 1 to 25 May. Tickets from £10 – £24.50. To book contact the Lyric box office on 028 9038 1081 or online at www.lyrictheatre.co.uk