The West End is the hub of the UK’s theatre industry, home to some of the biggest and best musicals in not only the country, but the world. Space is limited and competition fierce, so for a show to make it into the West End, it has to have something special…an original production especially. It’s always anyone’s guess as to how a new musical is going to fare, so going in blind to the big leagues of the West End, there has to be a lot of confidence and faith in the show and its chances of success. The new musical adaption of Bend It Like Beckham is the latest resident to move to town, setting up home at the Phoenix Theatre where the original British musical is soon to make its world première, with its first preview performance on 15th May 2015. Based on the 2002 film of the same name, Bend It Like Beckham is one of the most excitedly anticipated musicals of the year and expectations are already high for what could be the new hit West End show of 2015. It’s not only the show itself that is causing the excitement, but the company too. There is an amazing cast attached to the West End production, led by Natalie Dew (Jess), Lauren Samuels (Jules), Jamie Campbell Bower (Joe) and Jamal Andreas (Tony), and within those ranks is the talented Leanne Pinder, who is also the featured ensemble member for this edition of In Profile.
Pinder is a graduate of the Expressions School of Performing Arts (Mansfield), who then went on to complete her training at the Urdang Academy in Islington, London. Many Urdang alumni have gone on to find success in the theatre industry, such as Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Samantha Dorsey, Nathan Amzi, and she too has forged a successful stage career for herself post-graduation. She’s performed in a wide variety of works, including dancing in the world première of Classical Pianist Maksim (Roundhouse) and appearing as a soloist in the concert Musical Memories of Stage and Screen (Queen’s Theatre).
One of her earliest theatre credits was a UK Tour of classic musical Grease, in which she appeared as a member of the ensemble between 2003-2004. During that time, she also covered the roles of Rizzo/Patty/Cha Cha. She remained on the road for a few years straight, travelling and performing with several touring productions. Grease was followed by the UK Tour of Saturday Night Fever, in which she played Linda/Patty and understudied Maria/Shirley, which in turn was followed by the UK Tour of Fame. This show marked her first full-time principal role; she starred as one of the students of the High School of Performing Arts, ballet dancer Iris Kelly.
After gaining plenty of touring experience with three UK Tours of hit West End shows under her belt, she returned to London to make her début on the West End stage. She joined the award-winning Queen musical, We Will Rock You, as a Swing and Dance Captain in October 2007, remaining with the show at the Dominion Theatre until October 2011. Leaving We Will Rock You didn’t mean leaving the West End however, as she subsequently moved to the Cambridge Theatre where she joined the RSC’s critically acclaimed production of Matilda The Musical. It steamed into the West End following a highly successful sold-out run in Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Pinder jumped aboard the runaway hit as a Swing in the show. Matilda is a brilliant piece of original British musical theatre which has earned numerous awards since making its West End première and continues to be one of the most popular shows in town, making her 2-year involvement in it another notable achievement in her career thus far.
Pinder has a number of further achievements to her name, both on and off the stage. She ran the Virgin London Marathon in 2011 for example, to raise money for the British Heart Foundation, and is also a qualified Zumba Fitness and Toning instructor. She also teaches Musical Theatre classes regularly at Wilkes Academy of Performing Arts, and has additionally taught at The Centre PAC, Body Works, The Urdang Academy, Expressions Performing Arts, LSMT and Pineapple Performing Arts Workshops.
In regards to performance, Pinder has been involved in several concerts/cabarets, including the Mansfield By The Sea concert in 2008 and Jest End in 2011 , in addition to having made numerous television appearances as a dancer for Emma Bunton and Girls Aloud.
She has also worked extensively as a choreographer, earning credits as Associate Choreographer on a UK Tour of We Will Rock You, Assistant/Resident Choreographer on Matilda The Musical, Assistant Choreographer for the 2014 Commonwealth Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and Assistant Choreographer on American Psycho at the Almeida Theatre. Most recently, she choreographed the pantomime production of Cinderella for the Palace Theatre’s 2014/15 Christmas season, and was Assistant Choreographer on Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown at the Playhouse Theatre.
She can next be seen in the West End in the world première of the Bend It Like Beckham stage musical, which opens at the Phoenix Theatre on 25th June 2015 (previews from 15th May). She appears in the original London company as a Swing and also the show’s Dance Captain. The cast recently performed at The Asian Awards ahead of their West End début, only fuelling the hype for the show.
Bend It Like Beckham is under the spotlight right now as the hot new West End show, but here, the spotlight falls instead on the multi-talented Leanne Pinder. She has proven herself a valuable addition to every show she’s been involved with as an outstanding performer and highly skilled dancer, and there is no doubt that Bend It Like Beckham is just the latest to benefit from her involvement. She has a long career still ahead of her and the potential for where it could take her is limitless.
You can follow Leanne on Twitter: @LeannePinder
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 9th May 2015