The original London production of I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical plays its final performance at the London Palladium tonight, bowing out of the West End after a run of just two months. Following the overwhelmingly positive reviews from the critics and excellent feedback from theatre audiences, it came as a shock to many when the show posted its closing notice – the ICS company included.
Amidst all the discussion about the show’s closure, the high quality of its cast has never come under question and it is a huge shame that the West End is losing such a talented group of performers from its stage. It is unimaginable that they will be absent for long however. Some cast members made their West End debut in I Can’t Sing! while others had varying degrees of previous experience – one such cast member who has formerly been seen on the West End stage is Philippa Stefani, who has appeared in several high profile West End musicals and now appears as the featured ensemble member in this week’s edition of In Profile.
Philippa Stefani is a beautiful young Italian actress who has graced the stage in an assortment of shows both in and out of the West End. She specialised in Musical Theatre at the Performer’s College, an independent Further Education school for the performing arts based in Essex which has placed numerous graduates into the West End. Former students who trained at the Performer’s College have gone on to appear in almost every major West End show, including Wicked, Matilda, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, The Bodyguard and Miss Saigon, to name just a few.
Philippa graduated from the Performer’s College in 2004 and has since gone on to carve out a successful career on the stage for herself. One of her earliest post-graduate roles saw her enter the West End with an ensemble role in Fame at the Aldwych Theatre, and in what was to be her first West End appearance, she also performed as 1st cover to the principal roles of shy actress Serena and fame-obsessed dancer Carmen.
She followed her time in Fame with another West End show, this time as part of the original London cast of Wicked. The hit Broadway musical transferred to the UK in 2006 and opened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre with a star cast led by Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who had originated the role of the green-faced Wicked Witch of the West on Broadway. Philippa appeared in the ensemble (and was also Assistant Dance Captain) in a cast which also featured Helen Dallimore (Glinda), Miriam Margolyes (Madam Morrible), Adam Garcia (Fiyero), Martin Ball (Doctor Dillamond), James Gillan (Boq), Katie Rowley Jones (Nessarose) and Nigel Planer (The Wizard).
The West End wasn’t done with Philippa when she left Wicked after one year in the show. She moved to the Duke of York’s Theatre for a revival of Jonathan Larson’s Rent which was ‘remixed’ into a brand new production that presented a modern-day version of the hit Broadway musical. She appeared alongside the likes of Denise Van Outen, Jessie Wallace, Oliver Thornton, Siobhan Donaghy and Luke Evans in her ensemble role, acting as 1st cover to Donaghy’s character Mimi and as Dance Captain in addition to this. Directed by William Baker, Rent: Remixed ran between October 2007 and February 2008.
She went on to appear as a Swing in another original show cast, this time in new musical Imagine This which was set in 1942’s Poland and centred on a group of Jewish actors in the Warsaw Ghetto. Featuring a book by Glenn Berenbeim, music by Shuki Levy and lyrics by David Goldsmith, it starred such names as Peter Polycarpou, Leila Benn-Harris, Michael Matus, Sarah Ingram and Simon Gleeson and had a 4-week run at the New London Theatre in autumn 2008.
Her next show was more well-received than Imagine This. Philippa retained her presence in the West End and made her first appearance at the London Palladium, joining the original London company of Sister Act. She was 1st cover to Sister Mary Roberts in her ensemble role in the musical adaption of the popular 1992 film, which starred Whoopi Goldberg as a club singer who goes into hiding as a nun after witnessing a murder. Led by Patina Miller as Deloris Van Cartier, the role Goldberg made famous, the West End production opened at the London Palladium in June 2009 and closed the following year before embarking on a UK Tour (which coincidentally featured ICS star Cynthia Erivo in the lead role of Deloris).
Philippa then continued her tradition of appearing in original London casts by moving to the Piccadilly Theatre for the debut of brand new musical Ghost. Adapted from the 1990 film starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, the show opened in the West End in July 2011 (following a pre-West End run in Manchester) with Richard Fleeshman and Caissie Levy as Same and Molly, the lovers separated by death. Philippa appeared alongside them and such other cast members as Andrew Langtree and Sharon D. Clarke in the ensemble once again, and was also 1st cover to the lead female role of Molly, playing her onstage on various occasions to great acclaim. After that, she took on an ensemble role in the original Stiles and Drewe musical Soho Cinders at the Soho Theatre, also acting as 1st cover to Velcro in the original cast, before landing the role of Rizzo in an international production of Grease which took her to Slovenia.
Her other theatre credits include ensemble in Oliver! (Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury), Children in Need charity performance (Lyric Theatre) and 100 Years of the I.S.T.D. (Sadler’s Wells).
Philippa returned to the London Palladium for the world premiere of I Can’t Sing! The X Factor Musical. She appears in the show’s ensemble team, performing alongside the likes of Cynthia Erivo, Nigel Harman, Simon Lipkin, Simon Bailey, Victoria Elliot and Alan Morrissey.
Tonight’s (10th May 2014) closure of I Can’t Sing! marks the end of her time in the West End for now, but although the West End is saying goodbye to the show, it’s more than likely that she will be seen here again in the very-near future. Philippa Stefani is a wonderful addition to the West End and her many appearances in various shows here prove that – this talented performer certainly has the ‘X Factor’ and one can only hope that in her next show, she will make the move from ensemble to a full-time principal role as that is a treat any theatre fan would be lucky to enjoy.
By Julie Robinson @missjulie25
You can follow Philippa on Twitter: @PhilippaStefani
Saturday 10th May 2014