The most recent stage musical that I’ve seen was the UK and European touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which was playing at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury last week. It was a fantastic show with a very strong cast and proved that you don’t have to go to the West End to see high quality theatre.
There are many shows being performed around the UK at any given time, including the touring production of another ALW classic, Evita. One of the shows he created in collaboration with lyricist Tim Rice, Evita is a masterpiece musical of the Lloyd Webber-Rice partnership and tells the story of Eva Peron, who was the second wife of Argentine president Juan Peron. Both Cats and Evita will be coming to the West End in the Christmas season for short runs, with Evita set to take up residence in the Dominion Theatre which was recently vacated by the long-running Queen musical We Will Rock You. Starring Marti Pellow as Che, Madalena Alberto as Eva and Andrew C. Wadsworth as Peron, the touring show has been collecting rave reviews wherever it goes.
One cast member who can take their share of the credit for such a great audience reception is Michelle Pentecost, who is regularly seen on stage as the Alternate Eva. The consistent glowing praise surrounding her performance in the starring role more than warrants her a place in the spotlight, not only in the Evita UK tour, but also in this week’s edition of In Profile as the featured ensemble member.
Michelle Pentecost is a rising star in the world of musical theatre. This talented actress has recently come out of one of the biggest hit shows in the West End and is now making a name for herself as she performs in front of audiences all around the country in Evita.
It was Arts Educational Schools, London that provided the springboard for her to launch her stage career. She earned a BA (Hons) in Musical Theatre at ArtsEd, which has been the training ground for so many of the West End’s leading ladies, including Samantha Barks, Danielle Hope, Sally Ann-Triplett and Scarlett, Summer and Zizi Strallen.
One of her earliest professional appearances after graduating from ArtsEd came in the UK tour of Annie. She played Annette and Ronnie Boylen in her ensemble role with the touring production and also covered the role of Grace Farrell, Oliver ‘Daddy’ Warbuck’s secretary and mother figure to Annie. She then went on to play the role permanently in the UK and Irish tour of the classic Broadway musical.
Several further theatrical projects followed, including a return to life on the road as she joined Opera North for its 30th birthday. Her part in the celebrations came in Paradise Moscow, David Pountney’s English adaption of the satirical operetta by Dmitri Shostakovich, Cheryomushki, which toured the UK before playing at the Bregenz Opera Festival in Austria. She performed in the ensemble alongside the show’s stars, Eaton James, and her fellow ArtsEd graduate, Summer Strallen, in addition to being Dance Captain for the production. She also understudied the role of Vava.
She has had a recurring involvement with Norwich Theatre Royal through their annual productions in pantomime season. The 1,300 seat venue is the largest theatre in Norwich and stages a wide variety of musicals, plays, stand-up and other theatrical-themed shows, including many West End touring productions. She has made multiple appearances at the Theatre Royal over the years, the first being a production of Cinderella in which she performed in the ensemble and was the understudy for the Fairy Godmother. She returned to take part in their follow-up pantomimes, including as Dance Captain and U/S Dick in Dick Whittington, Dance Captain and U/S The Queen in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, Dance Captain and U/S Robin Hood in Robin Hood.
She made her West End debut in 2010 when she joined the smash hit musical Wicked as part of a major cast shake-up led by newcomers Rachel Tucker as Elphaba and Louise Dearman as Glinda. The two became one of the show’s most popular pairing in the star roles and the cast, which also featured Lee Mead (Fiyero), George Ure (Boq) and Clive Carter (The Wizard), is remembered as one of the strongest in the history of the West End production. The new cast’s premiere performance in Wicked was on 29th March 2010 and Michelle continued to appear on the stage of the Apollo Victoria until November 2013. She spent over three years in the show’s ensemble and in that time moved up to become 2nd cover for the lead role of Elphaba, and then 1st cover. She had the opportunity to play the iconic role on stage on numerous occasions and drew much acclaim for her portrayal of the green-skinned witch. Her fan following have even created a fan group dedicated to her on Twitter, under the handle of @TeamPentecost.
She was scheduled to go back to the Theatre Royal in Norwich at the end of 2013 to once again appear in their production of Cinderella, this time playing Dandini, but actor Jack Richardson stepped in to take over the role when she was offered an exciting new opportunity.
She was cast as the Alternate Eva in the UK touring production of Evita, which had launched in May 2013 and extended into 2014 following its critically acclaimed run. Audiences have welcomed her with open arms whenever she has performed as the First Lady of Argentine, right from her debut appearance in the role on 5th February 2014 at the Edinburgh Playhouse to her most recent onstage performance for the matinee show on 2nd July 2014.
Michelle Pentecost is fast becoming a name to remember in the world of musical theatre. In addition to her onstage theatre credits, she has impressed audiences with her vocal prowess at such other events as the cabaret of then-Wicked co-star Chloe Hart (Freedom Bar, Soho on 8th April 2012). She also has choreography credits for Fame (Bloomsbury Theatre), Bugsy Malone (Bloomsbury Theatre) and Annie (Bloomsbury & Shaw Theatres) as well as having founded Dynamix Dance, a dance and drama company specialising in corporate events and school workshops in which she also serves as director and choreographer. She has enlisted a number of West End performers as teachers for DD, including such names as Matt Krzan, Sarah French, Lyndsay Gardiner and Tommy Sherlock. She is also listed as a performer herself for Just So Productions, a company which provides entertainment featuring West End talent for events in the UK and Europe.
She can still currently be seen as Alternate Eva in the touring production of Evita, which plays its last performance at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells today (5th July) and then moves on to the Princess Theatre in Torquay. This bright young star has been sharing her talent with audiences all around the country throughout 2014, but London audiences can hope for her return to the West stage soon.
You can follow Michelle on Twitter: @MichPentecost
Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 5th July 2014