THE NEW COMEDY KING OF THE KING'S Arron Usher is a big hit as the joker Jimmy Jingles I got the thumbs up from Gerard to be funnyman in panto!

THE actor plucked from obscurity to take on the role made famous by panto legend Gerard Kelly has revealed the late actor gave him his seal of approval before he died.

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Arron Usher, 34, from Johnstone, took over the part of the comic hero in this year's King's Theatre pantomime Sleeping Beauty – a role Gerard had played for two decades before dying last October.

Arron said the year before Gerard suddenly passed away after suffering an aneurysm, the panto star gave him the thumbs up for his performance in another festive show.

He even wonders if Gerard's approval could have led panto bosses to ask him to step in at the King's.

Arron, said: "He came to see me in Sinbad and the Little Mermaid at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh two years ago. He was very complimentary, and we had a picture taken together.

"I was told he liked what I'd done. I think they took that on board. For me, he was panto. I adored him. I don't think anybody can try and copy him. What I do is what I do. It's an honour. We miss him."

Arron was poached from the east coast theatre when he had starred in pantos for more than a decade, to head for the King's– one of the biggest pantos in the UK – just three weeks before curtain up.

His character is hapless hero Jimmy Jingles.

Arron says it was seeing a King's panto aged nine that made him want to become an actor.

However, for the son of a dinner lady and a storeman – he has a twin brother, Iain who is a teacher – it was a big dream.

Arron, whose real name is Andrew, said: "I keep having to pinch myself. In 1986 my mum took me and my twin to see Stanley Baxter at the King's in Aladdin.

"I remember saying 'mum, mum, I want to be up on that stage. My mum said 'pigs might fly'– and 25 years later, well what can I say.

"It's always been my dream, and it's a dream come true to do the King's.

"I'd love to do more pantos here but we'll wait and see.

And of course Arron's mum, Betty, 65, has had to eat her words.

Arron, who went to Johnstone High, said: "She came to see it and I could hear her laughing all the way in the circle. She's so proud."

Arron joined Johnstone Phoenix Theatre group when he was 16 before studying at Langside College and Queen Margaret's College in Edinburgh.

His dad David, 69, worked as a storeman at the Royal Ordinance factory in Bishopton, and he also has a sister, Kirstin, 30.

Gerard, who also starred in films and TV shows, including Brookside and City Lights, died in London age 51 on October 28 last year.

His pal, actor Gavin Mitchell stepped into his panto role for the 2010 show.

Gerard's funeral cortege passed by the King's Theatre in tribute to his long career on its stage.

A spokesman for the King's Theatre, said: "We were familiar with Arron from his work at the Brunton Theatre and we knew how popular he was with the audiences there.

"And with all his years of experience in panto we knew he would go down a storm with the King's audiences."

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