The West End is the UK theatre fan’s Mecca and attracts millions of people every year. At any one time, there are countless stage productions playing, and all of them wonderful in their own special way. You don’t have to be in London to experience good theatre though. In addition to the numerous fringe and regional shows which pop up all over the country, touring productions of hit West End shows can always be found in some town somewhere.
My mum, who is a huge theatre fan and lives outside of London, recently went to the Theatre Royal Concert Hall in Nottingham to see the UK/Europe tour of Cats there. She had nothing but praise for the show, and loved it so much in fact, that she’s going again with me and my daughter when it comes to Canterbury in June later this year. She highly extolled the performances from the cast with particular enthusiasm for Joanna Ampil’s rendition of ‘Memory’ as Grizabella. The principal actors of any show, while obviously deserving of the attention that is focused on them, are not the only ones on that stage responsible for the success of said show.
The ensemble members are also a vital part of the company and the role they play in a show contributes to the overall experience as well. They deserve to have the spotlight shine on them too, which is what led to the creation of In Profile, and Cats Swing Grace McKee being featured in this week’s edition.
Grace McKee is an extremely talented young performer who is dancing her way through some of the biggest and best musicals around. A singer, an actress, and most of all a dancer, she has been performing professionally for nearly four years now and only continues to grow as an artist.
She attended the Doreen Bird College of Performing Arts (Bird College), something she has in common with last week’s In Profile ensemble member Tosh Wanogho-Maud from The Book of Mormon. She graduated from the London performing arts institution in 2010 with a 1st Class BA (Hons) in Dance and Theatre Performance, also earning herself the award for Most Artistic Female in the process.
She had a little previous experience of the stage before being accepted at Bird College. She appeared in several pantomime productions between 2002-2004, including roles as The Slave of the Ring/Dancer in Aladdin, The Mirror/Dancer in Snow White and The Seven Dwarves and Dancer in Sleeping Beauty. Since completing her training at Bird College, she has moved up into the big leagues and can now proudly list roles in West End shows on her theatre credits, an achievement which many ‘wannabe’ stage performers aspire to.
McKee’s first professional appearance came in a touring production. Starting as she means to go on, she landed a role in the UK/European tour of the smash hit Andrew Lloyd Webber/Tim Rice musical Evita. The multi-award-winning musical is based on the life of Eva Peron, the second wife of Argentine President Juan Peron, and was the first British musical to win the Tony Award for ‘Best Musical’ after transferring to Broadway following its critically acclaimed West End debut. She was Dance Captain in the show and had an ensemble role, while also covering and playing the title role of Eva Peron.
Following her time in Evita she was cast in another touring production, this time as part of the all-new musical Top Hat. Based on the 1935 film of the same name, it opened in Milton Keynes and travelled around the UK in a pre-West End tour. Top Hat starred Tom Chambers and Summer Strallen as Jerry Travers and Dale Tremont, the roles first made famous by Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts in the original film. McKee appeared as a member of the ensemble again and also covered the lead role of Dale, transferring with the original cast when the show opened at the Aldwych Theatre in the West End.
The Olivier Award-winning production closed in 2013, at which point she moved on to her current role in the UK/European tour of Cats. She is a Swing in the show, which remains one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s most popular creations. She covers various roles as part of her Swing duties and understudies the characters of Jellylorum and Bombalurina, making her first on stage appearance as the latter on a Thursday performance (17th April 214).
Grace McKee is the epitome of a Triple Threat performer. This highly skilled singer, dancer and actress has been involved in three big West End shows, appearing all around the UK as well as in the heart of Theatreland. Still in the early years of her career, she surely has many more ahead of her which promise to bring even bigger and better things.
By Julie Robinson @missjulie25
Saturday 26th April 2014