I’ve made various mentions of jukebox musicals in my blogs over the last few weeks, such as with the recent closure of Spice Girls musical Viva Forever! which only lasted six months in the West End. This particular genre of musical theatre isn’t necessarily my cup of tea, but there’s no denying that there is certainly a place for them in the London theatre scene as some have escaped the fate of Viva Forever! and enjoyed long, successful runs, remaining popular with theatre fans to this day. The Queen musical We Will Rock You is an obvious example, still going strong at the Dominion Theatre after 11 years in the West End. The most successful jukebox musical of them all however, has to be Mamma Mia!
The ABBA musical has been a part of the West End family for 14 years now, opening at the Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 and currently playing at the Novello Theatre. Productions have been staged in countries all over the world and it was even adapted into a film in 2008, with Meryl Streep, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried appearing as part of the all-star cast. Longevity is a rarity in the West End and it’s an achievement for any musical to sustain enough success to achieve that, so Mamma Mia! has truly excelled itself as it continues to draw audiences in on a nightly basis. Part of the credit for that of course, goes to its wonderful cast, currently starring the beautiful Dianne Pilkington as Donna Sheridan. The talent runs throughout the ranks too, right the way from the principal cast to its ensemble team. Part of that team is the uber-talented Steph Parry, who also happens to be the featured ensemble member for this week’s In Profile.
Steph Parry has made a very welcome addition to the London theatre scene since moving here from her hometown of Holyhead in North Wales. She came to London after being accepted at the Arts Educational School, graduating from there in 2004 with a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre. She has showcased her skills in one performance project after another since then, appearing in West End and regional theatrical productions, touring musicals and much more. One of her first professional jobs in fact, was the 2005 UK tour of classic musical Annie, which followed her role as Helene in A Doll’s House at the Greenwich Playhouse. She has gone on to gather much more experience and continues to climb the ladder with the aim of further cementing her name as a top West End talent.
She performed in the ensemble of Blaze The Musical at the Bridewell Theatre in 2007, and then lent her impressive vocals to several performance productions with the company Showstoppers Worldwide, appearing as a lead vocalist on both the Taiwan Theatre Tour and in the show The Roaring 20’s. In 2008, she travelled to Cyprus to perform in a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music at the Larnaca Amphitheatre there, returning to the UK later that year for roles in The Pyjama Game (Union Theatre) and Oklahoma! (Broadway Theatre). Following a stint in panto at the Thameside Theatre, Grays as the Wicked Queen in Snow White, much of the next few years was spent performing in less theatrical-based shows. Parry was a lead vocalist in the touring show Red Hot and Jazz, and then continued to travel on board various cruise ships with P&O Cruises, performing as a lead vocalist in a musical theatre-themed show and also with her own solo cabaret. She made a brief stop-off back on our shores in 2010 though for another panto season, performing in Snow White once again, but this time at the Guildhall Arts Theatre in Grantham. Coincidentally, my daughter and I have spent the last few Christmas’ with my mum up in Lincolnshire and we’ve always made the Grantham pantomime part of this annual tradition, so we were actually there to see Parry’s performance as the Wicked Queen. Our family always love a bit of panto, and she did her part to entertain us in a splendid manner.
Her next UK-based project came at the Playhouse in Weston-Super-Mare in 2011, where she brought out the wickedness once again to play the Wicked Witch of the West in a production of The Wizard of Oz. That same year saw her perform as Maude Bodley in the UK tour of Not Now Darling before she joined the cast of her first West End musical: Billy Elliot. The screen-to-stage musical has been playing at the Victoria Palace Theatre since 2005 and is one of the West End’s most popular shows. Parry joined as a member of the ensemble team in 2012, understudying the leading roles of Mrs Wilkinson and Dead Mam. After a year in Billy Elliot, she moved on to the Novello Theatre which houses her current show, Mamma Mia! Performing as part of the ensemble, Parry covers such lead roles as Tanya and Donna. She recently appeared with the show’s cast at last month’s West End Live 2013 event in Trafalgar Square as well.
Other theatre credits include Othello (Lakeside Arts), As You Like It (UK Tour) and West Side Story (Larnaca Amphitheatre, Cyprus).
Steph Parry has enjoyed a varied and extensive stage career so far, and while she is currently set at the Novello Theatre with Mamma Mia! for the foreseeable future, I don’t doubt that this talented performer has many more exciting ventures still to come.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
You can follow Steph on Twitter: (@ThatStephParry).
Saturday 6th July 2013