Andrew Lloyd Webber’s TV casting shows have attracted their fair share of critics, but it’s an undeniable fact that they have been a spring-board for the careers of many musical theatre performers. The likes of Samantha Barks, Rachel Tucker, Lee Mead, Danielle Hope, Ben Forster, and so many more, have gone on to become huge stars in not only the West End, but Broadway and even Hollywood too. Another former finalist who saw his profile rise after appearing on one of these shows is Niall Sheehy, who has since been seen in such West End musicals as Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. A bright talent with the potential to rise so much higher, he is the featured performer for this edition of In Profile.
Niall Sheehy may now be a firm fixture in London’s West End, but he is originally from Wicklow, Ireland. He was involved in various amateur dramatics while residing there, and was actually working in sales when he landed his first professional role in a pantomime production. Quitting that job for the role was the wake-up call he needed to help him realise that this was the career for him, and soon after, relocated to London following his acceptance into the Mountview Theatre School. The prestigious drama school has been responsible for some outstanding talent on the West End stage, including the likes of Julie Atherton, Jon Robyns, Leanne Jones and Oliver Thornton, and Sheehy is another name to be proudly displayed on Mountview’s alumni list. His training credits whilst there include Arthur Cuttle-Smythe in The Gut Girls, Titus in Titus Andronicus, the title role in Macbeth, Herr Schultz in Cabaret, and performing as a soloist in Closer Than Ever, and he was awarded an MA in Performance upon graduation.
One of his earliest professional roles after Mountview was playing Carson/Peter in A Man of No Importance at the Union Theatre, which he reprised when the production transferred to the Arts Theatre for a limited season. Not long after that, he officially made his entrance into the West End with the smash hit musical, Wicked, at the Apollo Victoria. He was cast as a Swing and covered such roles as The Ozian Official, Elphaba’s Father and Doctor Dillamond in the 2010/11 West End company of the multi award-winning musical, which then starred Rachel Tucker, Louise Dearman and Lee Mead.
After just under two years in the show, he left the West End to perform on the road in the UK Tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot. He joined the production as a member of the ensemble and understudy to Lancelot/Galahad/Robin, and it was while on a week’s holiday from the musical that a life-changing opportunity presented itself.
Auditions for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new TV casting show were taking place locally, so he decided to use that break from Spamalot to give it a go himself. The ITV show, titled Superstar, would be looking for a Jesus for the forthcoming Arena Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. He received a call-back following his initial audition, and then discovered he had been selected to go through to boot camp. It came down to a choice between continuing in the Spamalot tour or trying his luck with Superstar, and with the support of ATG, a previous cast member took over his role in the musical and he was released to join the Superstar boot camp. He made it through to the live televised shows as one of the 11 final contestants and was a strong performer throughout the show’s run, but his first appearance in the bottom two ultimately saw his departure when Lloyd Webber chose to save fellow contestant Rory Taylor instead. He described his time on the show as ‘really tough’ but also an ‘amazing experience’, and it seems as if being eliminated hasn’t held him back in the slightest; in fact, his career has grown healthily in the years since then.
After Superstar, Sheehy returned to Ireland to play Jimmy in new musical ANGLO: The Musical at the Bord Gaid Energy Theatre, Dublin, and then appeared as Prince Charming in the panto Snow White at the Tivoli Theatre, Dublin. He then came back to London and immediately started rehearsals for his next role as Marcus in Alexander Bermange’s musical, The Route To Happiness. A chamber piece about three Londoners pursuing their dreams, Sheehy starred in the show at the Landor Theatre alongside Shona White and Cassidy Janson and received great acclaim for his performance.
He made his West End return on the stage of the Queens Theatre as part of the new 2013 company of long-running musical Les Miserables, where he performed with the ensemble in the role of rebellious student Feuilly and was also 1st Cover Enjolras. He left Les Miserables in March 2014, and showed up at the Prince Edward Theatre just a few months later as one of the original cast members in the 25th anniversary revival of Miss Saigon. The musical made its triumphant return to the West End on 21st May 2014 (previews from 3rd May), starring Alistair Brammer as Chris and 18-year old newcomer Eva Noblezada as Kim in a principal line-up that additionally featured Jon Briones as The Engineer, Hugh Maynard as John, Tamsin Carroll as Ellen and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi. Sheehy was part of the ensemble team and also 1st Cover for the lead male role of Chris. He recently left in the May 2015 cast change, and just one day after his final performance in the show, appeared in the charity concert Let’s Hear It For The Boys at the Grove Theatre, Dunstable, which was hosted by his former Wicked cast mate Louise Dearman and also featured Daniel Boys, Killian Donnelly, Ben Forster, Alex Gaumond, Dan Koek, Tom Lister, Hugh Maynard, Lee Mead, John Owen-Jones, Ben Richards, Jon Robyns, Oliver Tompsett and Michael Xavier in the cast.
He was due to travel to Greece in July for Jesus Christ Superstar in Athens, but the production was cancelled due to the country’s economic situation.
His other theatre credits include: Ensemble in Seagull’s Dance, A-Rab in West Side Story (Gaiety Theatre, Dublin), Lee Harvey Oswald in Assassins (Draiocht Theatre, Dublin), Ray Dooley in The Beauty Queen of Leenane (International Theatre, Frankfurt), Lead Vocalist in Hits of the West End, Soloist in The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, and workshop performances as Dean in The Commitments and Patrick Casey in The Last Maharajah. He played Johnny in the new concert production of Cool Rider at the Lyric Theatre and can be heard on the original studio recording of the Grease sequel, which was released on 29th June 2015. He is also a member of the all-male collective, Boys of the Barricade, which exclusively comprises performers from the West End, Broadway, International Tour and Hollywood movie of Les Miserables.
He is achieving great things off-stage too. He is part of a fundraising team supporting the Motor Neurone Disease Association with the aim of raising thousands for their London-based care centres. He and his team mates Rob Ferguson, Catherine Sneddon, Mike Hope-Milne and Michaela Raisch-Berkhoff took on the 3-day InSeine Challenge earlier this year, which entailed a 164k Cycle, 150k Kayak, and a 10k run along the River Seine in France finishing up in Paris. Their incredible efforts have so far raised £12,415.24.
He can next be seen in Pure Imagination: The Songs of Leslie Bricusse, which makes its world premiere at the St James Theatre this month. A celebration of the songs of the film/musical theatre songwriter, the show runs from 24th September – 17th October 2015, and additionally stars Julie Atherton, Siobhan McCarthy, Giles Terera and Dave Willetts. Following that, he will be going home to Ireland for Christmas to play the leading man in TheatreworX’s 2015/16 pantomime production of Jack and the Beanstalk at The Helix, Dublin.
Niall Sheehy is an exceptional stage talent who is a rising star in the industry. A leading man in the making, one can only hope to see this first-class performer in a full-time principal role in London’s West End very soon.
You can follow Niall on Twitter: @niallsheehy
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 19th September 2015