In Profile with Charlene Ford
A classic show like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is a timeless piece of musical theatre that can be staged again and again without ever becoming tiresome or feeling outdated. This is evident by the welcome the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s upcoming revival has received following the announcement that it is set to run in London this summer. The production is set to open next week and features an impressive company, led by Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pulford. Included amongst those names is Charlene Ford, most recently seen giving a wonderful turn as Bombalurina in Cats at the London Palladium. A true star-in-the-making, this talented performer has attracted the attention of In Profile and falls under its spotlight for this edition of the running series.
Charlene Ford is a graduate of Laine Theatre Arts, which has produced such prestigious stage performers as Kerry Ellis, Ruthie Henshall and the Strallen sisters. Her training began long before she was accepted into the renowned performing arts school though, as in her youth, she also attended classes at the Janice Blake Dance Studios and the Stonelands School of Ballet and Theatre Arts.
The 30-year old stage actress has accrued an extensive list of notable theatre credits to her name since graduating from Laine Theatre Arts, with one of her earliest roles placing her in the ensemble of the touring company of Beauty and the Beast. She played Tall Silly Girl and covered the role of Babette in the musical’s UK Tour. This was followed by another touring role, this time as Usherette in the first UK tour of Mel Brooks’ The Producers, which starred such famous faces as Peter Kay, Joe Pasquale and Russ Abbot during its run. She ended the year in Southampton, as part of a brand new production of The Wizard of Oz for the Mayflower Theatre’s Christmas season. She appeared as a member of the ensemble and was also Dance Captain, performing alongside Russ Abbot, Gregor Fisher, Matthew Kelly, Gary Wilmot, and more.
The show ended its run on 19th January 2008, after which she travelled to West Sussex to make her first appearance in a Chichester Festival Theatre production. Their revival of the classic musical Funny Girl opened the 2008 Season and starred Samantha Spiro in the iconic role of Fanny Brice, with Ford playing the role of Maude. The CFT production ran at the Minerva Theatre from 28th April to 14th June 2008.
She then went on to make her West End début in Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Adelphi Theatre. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival followed a televised casting competition on BBC1 (Any Dream Will Do), in which Lee Mead won the title role of Joseph. Ford joined the 2008/09 cast in the ensemble role of Napthali’s Wife/Mrs Potiphar. She spent a year there and was part of the final company, with the show closing on 30th May 2009.
She made her second West End appearance in 2010, returning to the Adelphi in another Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. She was a member of the original London cast of The Phantom of the Opera sequel, Love Never Dies, which made its world première on 22nd February 2010. In a company led by West End stars Ramin Karimloo (The Phantom) and Sierra Boggess (Christine Daae), she performed in the ensemble and was also 2nd Cover to the role of Meg Giry, played by fellow Laine graduate Summer Strallen. The cast change in March 2011 marked her departure from Love Never Dies and saw her move on to Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which was staging a revival of Ludwig/Gershwin’s Broadway musical Crazy For You. She played a Follies Girl in the comedic love story and also understudied/played the role of Patsy, staying with the company when Crazy For You transferred to the Novello Theatre in October 2011 for a West End run.
She made a panto appearance playing the title role in Aladdin at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange, starring opposite ex-Eastenders actor Todd Carty as Abanazaar for the 2012/13 Christmas season. This was soon followed by another West End role, this time joining the CFT production of Singin’ in the Rain in its West End transfer to the Palace Theatre in February 2013. She played the ensemble role of Production Secretary until 8th June 2013, and later that year, reprised the role of Aladdin in another production of the pantomime at Devonshire Park, Eastbourne, playing opposite another ex-Eastenders actor as Abanazaar, Shaun Williamson, between 13th December 2013 and 12th January 2014.
In February 2014, she travelled to Greece to join the European Tour of Cats as part of the musical’s second touring cast. After many years of ensemble and understudy roles, she was front and centre in the show as Bombalurina, performing alongside such other cast members as Joanna Ampil/Sophia Ragavelas (Grizabella), Cameron Ball (Admetus/Macavity), Joseph Poulton (Mr. Mistoffelees), Nicholas Pound (Old Deuteronomy) and Filippo Strocchi (Rum Tum Tugger). She won over a legion of fans with her performance, gaining much praise in particular for her duet of Macavity with Lily Frazer, and subsequently, Zizi Strallen, who took over the role of Demeter in May 2014. She remained in the role of Bombalurina in the 2nd leg of the tour in the UK, spending around 10 months on the road with the show all-in-all.
It was later announced that the touring production of Cats would be returning to the West End for the Christmas period, opening at the London Palladium on 6th December 2014 and continuing through in to 2015. She transferred with the show, which now starred Nicole Scherzinger in her first West End role as Grizabella, replaced in February 2015 by Kerry Ellis. Cats, which ran at the Palladium until 25th April 2015, gave Ford her fourth West End role to date, though it’s unlikely to be her last.
She will soon be seen back at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre as she’ll be appearing in the upcoming production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Their revival of the classic musical opens on 16th July 2015 and stars Alex Gaumond and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Adam Pontipee and Milly Bradon respectively, alongside a host of other talented stage performers that includes Ford in the role of Dorcas.
Her other theatre credits include Broadway to West End (London Palladium), and she also features in the 2005 film Mrs Henderson Presents. Additionally, she is one of the members of The Spinettes, a vintage all-girl group that exclusively perform a variety of hit songs from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Other West End members include Haley Flaherty, Amy Webb, Chloe Ames, Melanie Cripps and Lucy Anderson.
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is set to keep her busy until 29th August 2015, after which who knows what adventure next awaits her? Charlene Ford has built a solid reputation for herself through the quality of her performances, and the sky really is the limit for this exceptional stage talent.
You can follow Charlene on Twitter: @Charleneford85
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 11th July 2015