The London theatre scene is over-flowing with talented performers of all sex, sizes, shapes and ages, and each and every one of them deserves to be recognised for their contributions to this business we call show. This edition of In Profile is putting the spotlight solely on Jenny O’Leary, in recognition of the contribution she has made in the course of her stage career so far.
Jenny O’Leary is a bright young talent in the UK theatre industry. She attended the prestigious Arts Educational School, London, which has seen such stage stars as Oliver Tompsett, Samantha Barks, Nigel Harman and Bonnie Langford pass through its doors over the years, and graduated from the Musical Theatre course in 2012. She performed in many different (mainly musical) productions in a variety of roles during her three years of training there, such as playing Josephine in the comic Sullivan and Gilbert opera, HMS Pinafore, and Mrs Taylor in Laurence O’Keefe’s Bat Boy, an American musical about a half-boy, half-bat discovered in a cave in the fictional town of Hope Falls. Other roles include Petra in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, and Amber in Christopher Williams Hill’s Heartbreak Beautiful. She has also performed in the ensemble of La Belle Epoque, been a featured soloist in the Kate Golledge-directed That’s A Beginning, and doubled-up as an ensemble member/soloist in Bonnie and Clyde and ensemble member/voice captain in The Producers, the latter of which was directed by Russell Labey. Additionally she performed in the choir at the 2011 Olivier Awards, was in the ensemble of Paul Spicer’s Christmas in New York show series for Speckulation Entertainment, and was a soloist singer in a production for Tori Allen-Martin’s Interval Productions.
She has continued to build on that experience since graduating from ArtsEd through further projects, which have taken her to a number of venues across the UK. Straight out of school, she took on the lead role of Tracy Turnblad in feel-good musical Hairspray at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales. Produced by the Centre, in association with the Wales Theatre Company, it garnered great reviews and she herself was highly praised for her performance.
She followed that initial success with the role of Winifred in the Union Theatre’s production of Once Upon A Mattress, directed by Kirk Jameson. The classic musical comedy, billed as ‘the untold story of The Princess and the Pea, features music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer and a book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller and Marshall Barer. She followed in the footsteps of such actresses as Sarah Jessica Parker by playing the Princess Winifred, appearing between 29th November 2012 and 5th January 2013 with a top-notch cast which included Paddy Glynn, Denis Quilligan and Mark Anderson. The production received great acclaim and O’Leary was once again noticed for her performance.
Next came an appearance in the show Sex, Love and Dumping at the Kingston Musical Theatre. She was part of the ten-strong cast performing an ‘eclectic’ mix of songs from a wide range of new musicals such as The Book of Mormon, Soho Cinders, Wonderland, Next Thing You Know and Ordinary Days. It played between 14th and 16th February 2013 and also showcased original compositions from up-and-coming musical theatre composers from both the UK and the US, including Kooman and Dimond, Dougal Irvine, Laura Tisdall and Bobby Cronin.
She also had an ensemble role in the Gala concert of Madness musical Our House, staged at the Savoy Theatre on 11th November 2013 for a one-night-only performance in celebration of the show’s 10th anniversary.
She made her West End debut in that same year, joining the London company of Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre in June 2013. She played the ensemble roles of Crone/Old Woman and could be seen as ‘Fantine’s Friend’ in the Factory scene in Act I of the show. In addition to her ensemble duties, she also covered and played the principal role of Madame Thernadier. She spent a year in the show, performing alongside Dan Koek and Geronimo Rauch in the role of Valjean during that time, as well as Tam Mutu as Javert, Na-Young Jeon as Fantine, Rob Houchen as Marius, Carrie Hope Fletcher as Eponine, Samantha Dorsey as Cosette and Anton Zetterholm as Enjolras. Wendy Ferguson played Madame Thernadier opposite Cameron Blakely as Thernadier.
She was subsequently cast in the UK and Ireland tour of Shrek The Musical, directed by the West End production’s original Lord Farquaad, Nigel Harman. One month after leaving Les Miserables, the tour was launched at the Grand Theatre, Leeds and she was performing in venues all over the country. As Ensemble/Mama Bear/Mama Ogre/Cover Dragon, she was on-stage with a principal line-up that included Dean Chisnall in the title role, Faye Brooks as Princess Fiona, Idriss Kargbo as Donkey and Gerard Carey as Lord Farquaad.
The tour came to a close in June 2015. Since then, she has appeared as part of a West End cast of singers in West Side Story in Concert at the Alexandra Theatre, Bognor Regis on 13th September 2015, and most recently, performed in the workshop presentation of new musical Midnight. Created by Laurence Mark Wythe and Timothy Knapman, the musical is based on Azerbaijans Elchin’s play Citizens of Hell and premiered at the St James Theatre on 9th October 2015.
She will also be appearing as a guest vocalist in the upcoming fundraising event, Claire’s Cabaret, at the Koha Restaurant & Bar in London, which aims to fund treatment for MS sufferer Claire.
Jenny O’Leary is a fantastic talent who has made a very welcome addition to the UK theatre scene, and I’m sure there are many fans who would love to see her back in the West End again very soon.
You can follow Jenny on twitter: @Jennyoleary90.