Wicked The Musical has helped to propel many a young star into the spotlight, and playing the role of Elphaba has been the stepping stone for a number of talented actresses to move onwards and upwards in their careers. One such actress whose long association with the musical helped cement her status as a future leading lady is the sublime Ashleigh Gray, who for now steps into the spotlight of In Profile as the featured performer for this edition of the long-running series.
Ashleigh Gray originally hails from Edinburgh, but her dream of a professional career on the stage has since led her all over the country, including London’s own West End. She attended Telford College whilst still living in Scotland, completing a 1-year HNC in Acting and Performance in 2000. Immediately after that she was accepted to the Guildford School of Acting (GSA) and made the big move south for her three years of training there. The Surrey-based performing arts college has a reputation of excellence and has produced such stage stars as Michael Ball, Dianne Pilkington, Celia Imrie, Daniel Boys and Caroline Sheen over the years. Ashleigh Gray, who graduated from the GSA Musical Theatre course in 2003 with a First Class BA (Hons), certainly warrants a place alongside them in the school’s list of notable alumni. During her time there, she was also given the Principal’s Award for Musical Theatre and the Margaret Veale Award for Singing.
She announced her presence in the world of theatre by making her professional stage debut in the UK tour production of the Boy George musical Taboo, in which she played the leading role of Kim between 2003 and 2004. She also returned to Scotland for the 2004 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, playing Kirsty in the world premiere of musical Only You Can Save Mankind which was adapted from the original Terry Pratchett novel.
She took on a variety of theatre projects after that, including originating the role of the ‘clipboard wielding and much dreaded’ Hospital Administrator in the premiere of Nick Stimson and Jimmy Jewell’s NHS The Musical at the Drum Theatre, Plymouth. She also played Dolores in a rehearsed reading of Apocalypse Wow!. In 2006 she embarked on another tour production, this time in the UK Tour of Grease in which she played the ensemble role of Miss Lynch, but also understudied Rizzo and Jan. Upon her return to London she played the role of Emily in the European premiere of Myths and Hymns at the Finborough Theatre.
She made her first appearance in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria when she joined the 2007 London cast, first in an ensemble role (and 1st Cover Elphaba) and then as Standby Elphaba. The role marked her official West End debut. She left in March 2010 after nearly three years in the musical, after which she played Maid Marion in the new musical version of Robin Hood at the Castle Theatre, Wellington. A selection of notable roles followed soon after, beginning with her casting in the acclaimed production of Ian McFarlane’s Betwixt! at the Trafalgar Studios. She played Miranda in the comedic musical, appearing as a disembodied head from Bavaria which necessitated her sitting in a box for half the show and being pushed around by her fellow cast members. Then it was on to the Courtyard Theatre for an appearance in the world premiere of original British musical After The Turn, which featured the music and lyrics of Tim Prottey-Jones. She played the role of teacher Amanda in the production. Then she was back on the road, first playing the role of Lorraine Campbell in the UK Tour of the Susan Boyle musical I Dreamed a Dream, and then Martha in the UK Tour of The Secret Garden.
She returned to the Apollo Theatre from October to December 2013 as Standby Elphaba in the West End company of Wicked, and was back three months later for a three week stint as emergency cover for the standby role.
She originated the role of Stephanie Zinone in Cool Rider, a stage adaption of the Grease sequel, in a sell-out one-night-only concert performance at the Lyric Theatre on 27th January 2014. She reprised her role when the production moved to the Duchess Theatre in April for a week-long run, and also features on the cast recording.
Continuing her long association with the musical, she joined the UK Tour of Wicked in the September 2014 cast change and this time appeared in the principal line-up on a permanent basis in the starring role of Elphaba. She remained in the role for the duration of the tour’s run, performing alongside Emily Tierney (Glinda) and Samuel Edwards (Fiyero) until its closure in July 2015.
She is also well established as a concert performer. Her concert credits include: Notes From New York (Trafalgar Studios/Prince Edward Theatre), Christmas in New York (Lyric Theatre), A Concert for Christmas, A Little House Music (Arts Theatre), West End and Hollywood Favourites (Queen’s Theatre), From Broadway to West End, a Celebration of William David Brohn (Theatre Royal Drury Lane), Simply The Music of Scott Alan (Charing Cross Theatre), The Songs of Bobby Cronin (New Players Theatre, Unwritten Songs, The Songs of Michael Bruce (Delfont Room), First Thing’s Last, The Music of Lance Horne (Garrick Theatre), Divas Sing Scott Alan (Arts Theatre), Scott Alan Live (O2), Lee Mead & Friends (Pheasantry), Andre Lippa in Concert (St James Theatre), Apollo Victoria 80th Birthday Gala (Apollo Victoria), Dress Circle Benefit Gala (Her Majesty’s Theatre).
Additionally she has toured as a guest singer in the Momentous Musicals UK Tour, supported Susan Boyle in her UK concert tour, and performed with Ramin Karimloo, Lee Mead and Stephen Rahmen Hughes in The West End Men (West End & UK Tour). She also hosted her first solo cabaret for SimG Productions in 2011 with Easter With…Ashleigh Gray.
Her other theatre credits include: The Wicked Witch in Mother Goose (Oxford Playhouse), Medea in Hero, The Golden Legend of Jason and the Argonauts (workshop), Mary Kelly in The Ripper (workshop, New Players Theatre), Bella in Home: The Scott Alan Song Cycle (Her Majesty’s Theatre), The Go-Between, Girlfriends and A Penguin’s Tale (Perfect Pitch work shops), Mrs D in The Water Babies (workshop), Fairy Firefly in Jack and the Beanstalk, Aurora – Spirit of the Northern Lights in Dick McWhittington (Glasgow SECC Clyde Auditorium) and From Page to Stage (Landor Theatre). She also features on the musical albums of Mark Evans, Tim Prottey Jones and Oliver Thompsett, as well as studio recordings of Stand Tall and Acoustic Overtures (SimG Records), and Unwritten Songs and Christmas in New York (Speckulation Entertainment). In 2014, she recorded a duet of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ with John Barrowman which appeared on his album, You Raise Me Up.
She is currently playing Fairy Bowbells in Dick Whittington at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford with Shane Richie, from 12th December 2015 to 3rd January 2016. She can next be seen as a guest singer in An Evening With Ramin Karimloo at the Union Chapel in London on 19th January 2016.
Ashleigh Gray is a highly talented performer whose years of hard work and dedication to the craft have seen her go from singing and dancing around her home as a child to performing the lead role in a smash hit West End musical. Having already achieved so much in her stage career, the future seems bright for this rising star and the road ahead can only take her on to bigger and better things.
Follow Ashleigh on twitter: @OfficialAshGray
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 12th December 2015