Sorry, Prince George! When the royals arrive on Broadway in King Charles III, it will be an adults-only affair.
The play, which opens at New York City’s Music Box Theatre this Sunday, imagines a not-too-distant future immediately following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The ripples of her loss are felt as Prince Charles embraces power in advance of his coronation, only to be second-guessed and manipulated by politicians, the public and even his own children.
But what of 2-year-old George? Unfortunately, and much like holiday dinners at Sandringham, there is no room at the table for children – though that wasn’t always the case.
“We had a baby [George],” reveals Oliver Chris, who plays Prince William in the play, in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, which features an exclusive First Look at the show.
“Even up until our first proper dress rehearsal in London, and for the first few previews, we had a baby, and we worked with it all sorts of different ways,” he says.
Chris’ onstage wife Lydia Wilson – whose Princess Kate is more Lady Macbeth than LK Bennett – says she loved her stage son: “I still miss it. But we just realized that he wouldn’t be a baby a few years in the future.”
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As they play readied for its original London run, Wilson says there were many “design solutions” for representing the royal heir as an infant.
The earliest iteration was an “expressionistic” folded cloth. Eventually “George” was upgraded, and Wilson says producers “auditioned a lot of different dolls.”
The strongest stand-in, though, “was of a different ethnic origin to myself and Lydia,” says Chris. As such, the show’s designers were forced to embrace a rather, ahem, creative solution: “They spray-painted the baby gold, and they sort of scraped all the paint off so it looked like a kind of icon, but it actually just looked like a doll with a skin disease,” says Chris, 36.
“I turned up for, like, the third preview, and they put this manky, gold, raggedy, scraped-off doll in my arms, and I had to carry this bloody thing around with me every single scene for two shows,” he recalls with a laugh. “He was leprously flaking all over me with gold.”
And though Wilson, 31, acknowledges that Prince George’s doll doppelgänger ultimately “didn’t make the cut,” Chris has learned an important parenting lesson of his own: “If I ever do have a child, I’m definitely not going to spray it gold.”
For more on King Charles III‘s upcoming Broadway reign, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday