In Profile with Gemma Whitelam
Sixty-five years ago, Frank Sinatra played his first UK concert at the London Palladium in London’s West End. The theatre now pays tribute to the legendary performer with the world premiere of the show Sinatra: The Man & His Music, which is running there until 10th October 2015. The multi-media experience includes all of his greatest hits, and features a live orchestra and a cast of 20 dancers. One of the show’s dancers is Gemma Whitelam, a talented singer/dancer/actress who has made many other appearances in the West End. She also makes an appearance here as the featured ensemble member for this edition of In Profile.
Gemma Whitelam, who originally hails from East Yorkshire, started on the path towards a stage career at the early age of just three years old. She was a student of a wide selection of dance schools, including Skelton Hooper School in Hull, Neil McMahon’s Dance School in Rotherham and York Dance Scholars, and also trained with the Royal Ballet as a Junior and Senior Associate. Additionally, she attended dance summer schools and performed in many dance festivals. She was later accepted into Laine Theatre Arts, the renowned musical theatre school in Epsom, Surrey which counts Ruthie Henshall, Kerry Ellis, Liam Tamne, Louise Dearman, Mark Evans and Summer Strallen among its list of notable alumni. She wasted no time in acquiring her first professional stage role after graduating from Laine Theatre Arts, joining the UK tour of Oh! What A Night as Brandy and understudy to the role of Candy. Since then, Whitelam has continued to stack up the theatre credits with one show after another, primarily working in the West End and on several tour productions.
She performed in the ensemble of the original UK tour of Footloose and dipped her toe into the waters of the West End for the first time with Fame! at the Aldwych Theatre. She performed an ensemble/swing role in the show, but also understudied and played the parts of Serena, Lambchops and Iris on a number of occasions. She left in April 2006 after just over 18 months in the show and followed it with further touring roles. She travelled as an ensemble member with the company of Grease on its UK tour, understudying and playing the roles of Frenchy and Marty, and also participated in a second UK tour of Footloose. She was Assistant Dance Captain for the tour production and performed in the ensemble, additionally understudying and playing the roles of Wendy Jo and Urleen. When the production transferred to the Playhouse Theatre for a West End run, she went with it and subsequently achieved her second West End credit. More soon followed.
She next appeared as a Swing in Desperately Seeking Susan at the Novello Theatre between 16th October and 15th December 2007. After that, she moved on to Rent at the Duke of York’s Theatre, in which she was also a Swing. She then went back out on the road as a Swing in the original UK Tour cast of the musical The Wedding Singer, which featured Jonathan Wilkes, Natalie Casey, Stephen Webb, Simon Lipkin and Jodie Jacobs in the principal line-up.
She returned to London to join her first jukebox musical, performing in the West End production of We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre. She was Assistant Dance Captain and had an ensemble/swing role in the show.
She was with We Will Rock You for three years, leaving in October 2011. It wasn’t long until she was back in the West End though. Her next job brought her to the Prince Edward Theatre to join the West End production of Jersey Boys in an ensemble/swing role: she was 1st Cover Francine and 2nd Cover Mary Delgado and Lorraine.
Her stint in Jersey Boys lasted two years, after which she was Ensemble/Swing/Dance Captain in the UK Tour of Dance Til Dawn and its subsequent West End run at the Aldwych Theatre.
Her other theatre credits include Aladdin at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, and various workshops: Vicky in The Thing About Tom (London Welsh Centre), ensemble in The Waterbabies (Shaftesbury Theatre), ensemble in Vampirette (London), Tanya/Cassie in Blockbuster (Expressions Studio, London) and The Girl in A Question Mark for a Face (Aldwych Theatre). She regularly assists choreographer and director Bruce Karen.
She is currently appearing as a member of the ensemble in Sinatra: The Man & His Music at the London Palladium. The multi-media concert show pays tribute to the iconic singer in his centenary year, 65 years after making his UK debut on the Palladium’s stage, and is the only one to be endorsed by the Sinatra family. Sinatra opened at the London Palladium on 10th July 2015 and is set to run until 10th October 2015.
Gemma Whitelam has already proven that she is a talented and versatile performer with her vast experience as a swing in numerous West End shows, and having understudied a number of principal roles over the years, has also shown that she can more than handle the responsibility that comes with these more demanding roles. Perhaps her next role after Sinatra will see her in the principal cast, and not as a swing/understudy this time.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Last Updated: Saturday 12th September 2015