The Guildford school of Acting (GSA) featured in a blog post I wrote earlier this week, in correlation to the release of The Bakewell Bake Off original cast recording which is the creation of a group of GSA students. The leading UK performing arts school has one of the most solid reputations for excellence in the world of theatre and has produced countless talented stage performers over the years, many of which have gone on to achieve their dreams of a successful career on the West End stage. Past GSA students Michael Ball, Caroline Sheen, Daniel Boys and Dianne Pilkington were mentioned during the course of said-blog post, being well accomplished and widely known West End names, but there are also so many more musical theatre performers who may not have attained a leading men/ladies status just yet, but possess so much potential. In that respect, one name which must be mentioned now is that of Sharon Wattis; company member of West End smash hit musical The Book of Mormon and the featured ensemble member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Sharon Wattis, as has already been established, is a GSA alumnus. Coming from that solid foundation, she has since gone on to become involved with a wide variety of theatrical-based projects within the stage industry and gained not only invaluable experience, but a pretty nice list of theatre credits too.
One of her earliest professional stage roles post-graduation was as part of the original company of Promises and Lies, the stage musical based on the reggae/pop band UB40’s hit songs which premiered in their home city of UB40 at the Birmingham Rep in 2006.
She remained at the venue for her next musical theatre role which saw her take the ensemble role of Apple Tree in the Rep’s revival of The Wizard of Oz. In addition, she understudied the principal role of Wicked Witch. She went with the production when it moved from the Rep to play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and it was a big success for both theatres.
Following her time in the north of England, she travelled a little further south to play the Principal Girl in the musical revue Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Oxford. The Oxford Theatre Company production was performed at the Pegasus Theatre in March 2008 ahead of a short tour which ran through to the next month.
That same year, Wattis made her West End debut when she was cast in Disney’s The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. She was a swing in the popular show (which was adapted from the original animated film version) and covered the roles of the villainous hyena Shenzai, and Simba’s mother Sarabi. She left the West End production in the following year’s cast change. Notable theatre credits after that include her role as Ronette in a London-based revived production of classic musical Little Shop of Horrors. It played at the Broadway Theatre in Catford, a venue which holds fond memories for me as my family and I used to visit it every year to see the pantomimes performed there. She also played Dynamite in Hairspray at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales during the summer of 2012 and has made several other stage appearances since entering the industry, such as being a featured singer in the Godspell 40th Anniversary Concert alongside Kerry Ellis at the Palace Theatre in Manchester.
Before she was a professional stage performer, she was also involved in Richard Stilgoe’s Exit Allan at the International Music Theatre Festival and had parts in the National Youth Music Theatre’s productions of Ragged Child and Whistle Down the Wind.
Sharon Wattis is now appearing in hit Broadway transfer The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in an ensemble role. Through that involvement, she recently became involved with West End Serves, a service organisation which is comprised of West End performers. It was co-founded by fellow cast member David O’Reilly who is the Standby Elder Cunningham in the show.
The combination of talent and hard work has led her to exactly where she has always wanted to be, standing on a West End stage. Where it will continues to lead her remains to be seen, but theatre fans would do well to follow her along her journey.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
You can follow Sharon on twitter: @Shazzaraza
Saturday 21st December 2013