It’s a genuine tale of romance that could easily fit into its own enchanting festive fairy tale.

This Christmas, Jez Edwards, a renowned figure in Leeds pantomime, will grace the stage of The Carriageworks Theatre alongside his beloved wife Gemma. This reunion comes 14 years after their initial encounter during the performance of the same production.

Their paths first crossed in 2009 during rehearsals for Snow White, marking Jez’s inaugural visit to Leeds and Gemma’s debut in pantomime. Now parents to two children, the couple has come full circle, starring in this year’s rendition of the classic Grimm’s fairy tale. Jez takes on the role of the comic relief character Muddles, while Gemma, after an eight-year hiatus, returns to the stage as the Forest Fairy.

Recalling their first meeting, Jez, who also famously voices Cormack in kids TV hit Chuggington, said: “Walking into rehearsals on the first day is always interesting as you meet the cast for the first time and you discover all the different characters and personalities you are going to be working with.

“I soon saw that Gemma observed and laughed at the same things that I did. After first day of rehearsals we went out with a group of us and Gemma said ‘it’s my round, I’ll get these.’ I’ve never heard anything so beautiful!”

Love blossomed, leading to marriage, a move to West Yorkshire, and the joyous addition of Elsie and Wilfred to the family. While Gemma took a break from performing, Jez became a festive favorite in Leeds, returning each Christmas to entertain audiences at The Carriageworks.

This year’s pantomime is set to be an extra special family affair, with Elsie and Wilfred in the audience, witnessing their parents on stage.

Gemma said: “Touring in theatre shows and the unpredictable schedule of a performer is extremely difficult to navigate when the children are young, especially when Jez and I do a similar thing, but now they’re a bit older it’s something I’d like to do more of as it feels good to be back doing what I love and doing something for myself.

“I think there will be a lot of mums out there who will resonate with losing some of their identity when they became a mum, so it’s super important for me to claim some of that back now.”

Jez added: “I’ve always wanted the kids to see their mum on stage doing what she does best, so they can see where they get their dance talent from. I knew she’d be apprehensive about returning after such a long time away, but I couldn’t be prouder of her. She’s an inspiration to our kids and to all mums who are fighting their way back to being themselves again. She’s my hero.”

In the coming month, Jez and Gemma will balance family life with rehearsals, with Snow White running until January 7.

“Jez and I work very differently. I’m a stickler for perfection and being word perfect, where as Jez is much more of a ‘fly by the seat of his pants’ type of guy.

“In terms of running lines together at home, it’s more a case of me running my lines from memory and Jez reading off the script in the hopes that they’ll stick in his brain.”

For Jez, the ultimate reward lies in being part of Christmas for Leeds families.

He said: “Leeds has become more than just a venue, Leeds has given me everything. I met my wife. We now have a family and live in Yorkshire. I couldn’t be more grateful. Panto has always been about family for me.

“My family used to go which is why I wanted to be a part of it. Now I get immense joy seeing families and groups coming back to The Carriageworks year after year. Being here 14 years is my greatest career achievement. Being a dad is my greatest life achievement and that is all thanks to the amazing Fairy I met all those years ago.”

The Carriageworks Theatre, situated in The Electric Press building on Millennium Square, hosts a variety of national and international productions.

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “Panto season is such a key part of Christmas for so many families across Leeds and the hard work and dedication of everyone at The Carriageworks ensures it’s always a fantastic performance.

“I hope theatre-goers of all ages have a fantastic time and a very merry Christmas.”

Snow White will run at The Carriageworks Theatre on Millennium Square until Sunday, January 7. For additional details, including timings and ticket bookings, visit the Carriageworks Theatre’s website: https://www.carriageworkstheatre.co.uk/