After months of anticipation, the Broadway smash-hit has finally come to spread the Mormon word to theatre fans here in London. The first preview performance of the West End production took place at the Prince of Wales Theatre on Monday (25th February 2013), and judging by the audience response so far, this is one instance in which it more than lived up to the surrounding hype. The original Broadway production of BOM has already won 9 Tony awards and tickets are still near-impossible to come by, two years since it first premiered at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The entirety of its West End run is already pretty much sold out too.
The Book of Mormon has a fantastic collection of creative minds behind it. The book, music and lyrics are by Robert Lopez, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the latter also directing the production in collaboration with choreographer Casey Nicholaw. They, along with the design team, have created a powerhouse piece of musical theatre which is taking the world by storm, but the credit cannot be given for their efforts alone. The cast are as big a part of a show’s success as the people who created it. Josh Gad and Andrew Rannells originated the principal roles of the two Mormon missionaries Elder Cunningham and Elder Price and in our West End production, it is Jared Gertner and Gavin Creel who lead a company which is filled with talented performers. To mark the arrival of The Book of Mormon, this week’s In Profile will feature one of the show’s ensemble members: Ashley Day.
Ashley Day is a young man who is forging his way towards bright future ahead of him, having already laid down a trail of theatre credits to be proud of. He trained at the Stonelands School of Ballet and Theatre Arts, as well as the National Youth Music Theatre, and has put that training to good use in securing the variety of roles he has played since graduating.
Day appeared in the original London company of 2004 musical Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre, directed by Richard Eyre. He was a swing in the production, which featured the likes of Melanie La Barrie (Matilda), Rosemary Ashe () and Nathan Taylor () and won two Olivier Awards, including Best Actress in a Musical for its title star Laura Michelle Kelly. He has also performed in a number of popular musical revivals, such as the 2011 production of The Wizard of Oz (London Palladium) following the BBC television programme Over The Rainbow which searched for an unknown talent to star as Dorothy – Danielle Hope won the role and has since become a well-known West End name who is currently starring as Eponine in Les Miserables. Day was a member of the show’s ensemble and understudied the leading role of the Scarecrow. He also performed in the ensemble of Michael Grandage’s revival of Evita at the Adelphi Theatre in 2006.
His time at the Adelphi was followed-up with a starring role as Troy Bolton in the original UK tour of Disney’s High School Musical. A highly popular franchise at the time, the stage-adaption of the film carried the added difficulties of remaining faithful to the beloved characters while also interpreting them in a new way, and dealing with the loyal HSM fans, who Day revealed in a 2008 online interview would sometimes follow him home! As he said though: “Being an actor in a sold out show isn’t that bad either,” (Walesonline.co.uk).
These shows only mark a limited proportion of his stage experience however, with his more notable roles having been Robert Martin in The Drowsy Chaperone (Upstairs at The Gatehouse), Dream Gabey in On The Town (English National Opera), Irving Stone in Babes In Arms (Chichester Festival Theatre) and Liquorice Man in Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker (Sadler’s Wells). He has also appeared in The World Goes Round (Castle, Wellingborough), Dream Curly in Oklahoma! (Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre and Peacock Theatre, London) and the Edinburgh Fringe show Creation. Day also previously performed in Oliver! at the London Palladium.
He features on the original cast recordings of Mary Poppins, Evita and The Wizard of Oz and was involved in the work-shop of Empire – Greatness Begins With A Dream, playing Ethan/Al Smith under the direction of Joey McKneely.
Ashley Day has been afforded a number of roles in an impressive array of stage shows, both in the West End and outside of it. With such a wealth of experience to draw on, coupled with his carefully cultivated singing/dancing/acting abilities, he surely has what it takes to really go places in the theatre industry. The Book of Mormon is one of the biggest shows to hit the West End this year, and for Day to be offered the opportunity to be a part of that, well, it speaks volumes of the potential he possesses. An up-and-coming talent, Ashley Day is certainly one to watch.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Saturday 2nd March 2013
You can follow Ashley on twitter: (@Ashleyday_86).