In the midst of the many shows which unfortunately don’t manage to make it past the one-year mark in the West End, there are the musical ‘elite’ which have not only achieved that feat, but long surpassed it and gone on to celebrate many more anniversaries. Les Miserables still leads as the West End’s longest-running musical, with The Phantom of the Opera always nipping at its heels, but Schwartz and Holman’s Wicked recently secured its place in the select group by becoming the 14th longest-running musical in West End history.
The Broadway transfer, which is now in its 8th year, opened at the Apollo Victoria on 27th September 2006 and is one of the West End’s most popular shows. Fans were thrilled to see one of its best-loved former Elphaba’s, Kerry Ellis, recently return to the production after more than 5 years, albeit for a limited 12-week engagement. She joined a company filled with a high-level of talented performers, from the upper echelons of the principal cast to the (no-less important) ensemble team. Among them is Swing Lauren Stroud, who has been selected to appear in the latest edition of In Profile as this week’s featured ensemble member.
Lauren Stroud is a skilled and experienced stage actress who has been involved in a wide range of musical theatre productions. She had built up a sizeable theatre CV before being accepted at Laine Theatre Arts where she spent 3 years training. She graduated from the Acting/Musical Theatre course at Laine, the renowned performing arts college based in Epsom, Surrey, in 2009 with a National Diploma, and is now on the list of alumni that includes an assortment of past and present Wicked cast members (Kerry Ellis, Louise Dearman, Mark Evans) as well as many other successful stage stars (Liam Tamne, Summer StrallenStrallen, Ruthie Henshall).
Stroud has appeared in several big West End shows since graduating from Laine, but her professional West End début came long before then. In fact, it was back in 1997 that she first stepped onto a West End stage. She played Young Cosette in classic musical Les Miserables, which was running at the Palace Theatre at that time. She also went on tour between 2000-2001 when she was cast in the title role of the UK tour of Annie, quickly followed by another year on the road as Mugglewump in the UK tour of The Twits. In 2003, she returned to London to perform at one of the West End’s most prestigious theatres: the London Palladium. She played opposite the likes of Gary Wilmot (Caractacus Potts) and Caroline Sheen (Truly Scrumptious) as Jemima Potts, remaining with the popular production until 2005.
Other credits include appearances as a guest soloist at such notable venues as the Royal Albert Hall (Proms Praise) and the Royal Festival Hall (Christmas Praise), as well as the age-old tradition of British pantomime. She has played the title role in a panto production of Sleeping Beauty at Torquay’s Princess Theatre and also played Belle in Beauty and the Beast at the Royal Spa Centre, Leamington.
After completing her training at Laine in 2009, she made her first professional post-graduate performance in the Stage Entertainment tour of High School Musical 2. The stage adaption made its UK première at the New Wimbledon Theatre on 22nd August 2009 and travelled the country for the next 4 ½ months. The show starred Liam Doyle and Nikki Mae as Troy and Gabriella and also featured Les Dennis, who played Mr Fulton. Stroud played Sharpette and additionally was 1st cover to the leading role of self-centred drama queen Sharpay.
She embarked on another Stage Entertainment tour after that, this time joining the touring company of Hairspray. She played Brenda and was 1st Cover Penny in the 2010 tour, which featured Michael Ball, Brian Conley and Michael Starke alternating in the role of Edna Turnblad and also starred Laurie Scarth (Tracy Turnblad), Danny Bayne (Corny Collins), Sandra Marvin (Motormouth Maybelle) and Clare Halse (Amber Von Tussle). It also reunited her with former HSM 2 co-star Liam Doyle, who played Link Larkin.
More time on the road was then spent with the UK tour of Grease between 2011-2012, following the show’s West End closure. She played Frenchy and understudied the lead role of Sandy in the tour, which starred another familiar face to her, Danny Bayne (Danny Zuko), as well as Carina Gillespie (Sandy). Then it was time to jump to the touring company of the 9 to 5 musical, which launched at the Manchester Opera House on 12th October 2012 as part of ATG’s ‘Manchester Gets It First’ initiative – as did Ghost The Musical, All New People and Monkee Business. She performed in the ensemble and was understudy Doralee Rhodes, the role played by Dolly Parton in the original 1980 film. She performed on stage alongside the likes of Natalie Casey (Judy Bernly), Jackie Clune (Violet Newstead), Amy Lennox (Doralee Rhodes), Ben Richards (Franklin Hart Jr.), Bonnie Langford (Roz Keith) and Mark Willshire (Joe). She has also been involved with West End Touring and AuburnBeat, teaching musical theatre workshops.
Lauren Stroud is currently back in the West End, appearing in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. She joined the show on 18th November 2013 as a Swing and also 1st Cover Glinda. The talented actress has gained a fan following that’s extended into a fan page in twitter (@TeamStroudx), and anyone who has seen her on stage couldn’t fail to understand why. She has an extensive list of theatre credits to her name already and many more are certain to be added to it in the future, because this is one performer who has a long and fruitful career still ahead of her.
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 16th August 2014