An actor who quit the stage to run a bakery has landed the starring role in award-winning West End musical Kinky Boots.

Simon-Anthony Rhoden, 31, will step into the knee-high boots of Matt Henry, who won an Olivier award for his role as cross-dressing Lola at the Adelphi Theatre.

He had almost given up his dream of making it in showbusiness, moving out of London to pursue his other passion — food.

“I had been doing lots of auditions and dedicating my life to acting — but I realised I wasn’t actually living,” Rhoden, who was born and raised in Brixton, told the Standard.

“I decided to take control of my life and get on the property ladder. I couldn’t do that in London so I moved to Bristol.

“I had found my second dream job after acting, running a lovely bakery called Pinkmans. I just thought, ‘I’m not going to let the acting industry control my life!’ But then once I’d made that decision, I got a call from the casting director and was provoked into auditioning for this show.”

He auditioned last year and joined the cast as a “swing” — an understudy for many of the parts in a production.

He then graduated to became an understudy to Henry, who is leaving after almost two years in the role, before landing the part full-time.

Rhoden said: “Now that I am doing the part full-time I will be able to craft my own version of the role.

“Of course, it also means doing the role eight times a week, which I’m finding out requires a lot of stamina. It is a marathon every night. Matt did such a fantastic job — they are very big boots to fill! I hope I can step up to the mark.”

Kinky Boots follows the owner of a shoe factory, Charlie, who tries to save his business by making high heels for drag performers, including Lola. It won the Evening Standard Theatre Award for best musical in 2015.

Rhoden studied at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts aged nine to 14 and graduated from the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art.

He starts the role on July 10 — and may never return to the food world. “I really did enjoy catering but I accidentally fell into it,” he said.

“My first love is acting and performing, and hopefully this role will lead to more opportunities.”


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