Trafalgar Square is an iconic London landmark that is a hotspot for tourists visiting our fair city. This weekend though, history makes way for musical theatre as thousands of people will journey there – not for the famous stone lions, Nelson’s Column or the resident pigeons, but for West End LIVE. More than 25 of the best shows in the West End will be taking to the stage at the popular annual event over the course of the next two days, offering the public a unique chance to sample a little taste of everything London theatre has to offer. It’s a veritable buffet of theatrical entertainment! The West End’s longest running musical, Les Miserables, is performing today (Saturday), and if that wasn’t enough of a treat, it will be showcasing its newest cast members who opened in the production earlier this week (16th June 2014). One individual who joined the show in this most recent cast change is the lovely Claire Parrish, who is performing in the ensemble team. Having now landed her ‘dream job’, this talented actress has also been selected to appear as the featured ensemble member for this week’s edition of In Profile.
Claire Parrish was always headed for a career on the stage. Her first steps towards the spotlight took her through the doors of Temple Academy of Performing Arts (TAPA), a part-time drama school based in the Greater London area. This led her to become a student at the Millennium Dance 2000 college in Haverstock Hill, London which now goes under the name of Millennium Performing Arts. She trained for three years on the college’s Musical Theatre Diploma course and graduated in 2003 with the added distinction of being the winner of the Wendy Toye Musical Theatre cup. She also made professional performances during her time there, including being chosen to be in the ensemble of BBC Wales’ Showtime at the Stadium while in her second year of training. She was part in a dance production choreographed by Stephen Mear at the concert, which was staged at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales and featured musical performances from such stars as Charlotte Church, Ruthie Henshall, Paul Keating, Russell Watson and Petula Clark.
After that, she was cast in a national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats playing Jemima and covering the role of Rumpleteaser between 2003 and 2004. The touring production also include such names as Chrissie Hammond (Grizabella), Simon Adkins (Macavity), Stuart Ramsay (Rum Tug Tugger) and Alex Durrant (Bill Bailey). She then appeared in the stage musical of Scrooge at the Palace Theatre in Manchester over the Christmas period, playing the role of Bess. British entertainer Tommy Steele starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in the musical, which is adapted from the Charles Dickens novel A Christmas Carol.
She was involved in a couple of Chichester Festival Theatre productions in 2005, including the world premiere of 5/11. Written by Edward Kemp, it was conceived to mark the 400th anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and was the largest new play staged in the UK that year. She played the role of Lady In Waiting in the critically acclaimed topical play, which received numerous 4* reviews during its August run. Three months earlier, she also appeared in the CFT’s production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying playing Laurie and as cover Smitty. The production received rave reviews and led that year’s TMA Awards with five nominations, going on to be named Best Musical in the awards ceremony.
She made her West End debut that year too, reprising her role as Bess in Scrooge The Musical. The show, which once again featured Tommy Steele in the title role, played at the London Palladium during the Christmas season. She also understudied the roles of Mrs Pringle and Mary.
The show took her into 2006 before she moved on to join another touring production. She was cast in the UK tour of The Rocky Horror Show which embarked in March of that year and continued into 2007. She spent 18 months travelling with the show, starting off as a Phantom and then taking on the roles of castle maid/sister of Riff Raff, Magenta and as Usherette. Matthew Cole, Suzanne Shaw, Sarah French-Ellis, Shona White, David Bedella, Nathan Amzi, Matt Harrop, Richard Meek and Hayley Tamaddon all performed in the tour at some point throughout 2006 and 2007.
She then appeared in Alan Ayckburn’s A Small Family Business at the Palace Theatre, Watford in the role of Tina before once again returning to Scrooge The Musical, this time for its 2007/2008 UK tour. This time she played the roles of Helen and Isabel, opposite actor/comedian/singer Shane Richie as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.
Two weeks after her time in the tour was finished, she joined the Bill Kenwright tour of Half A Sixpence. She played the role of Flo Bates and was cover Ann for the production’s four month run before moving on to another Kenwright tour. She joined the UK tour of Blood Brothers in the role of Brenda, and also covered the more prominent roles of Linda and Donna Marie.
In 2010, she appeared in the arena tour of Doctor Who Live. In what she described as ‘a job unlike any other’, she played various roles within the shows, including a Silurian, a Vampire of Venice and even got to drive a Dalek. Most recently, she spent 18 months in the UK touring production of Oliver! She performed on stage alongside the likes of Samantha Barks (Nancy), Iain Fletcher (Bill Sykes) and Neil Morrissey/Brian Conley – alternating in the role of Fagin – playing the ensemble role of Strawberry Seller, while also covering Bet and the principal role of Nancy.
Her other theatre credits include playing Safir in a concert performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Patience at the Festival Theatre in Chichester.
After years on the road in various touring shows, Claire Parrish is now back in the West End and can currently be found at the Queen’s Theatre in classic musical Les Miserables. She joined the London production in the June cast change in an ensemble capacity and appears onstage as Old Crone, as well as being the understudy for Factory Girl. This talented stage performer has been delighting audiences all around the country for a long time – now it’s time to let the West End audience see her shine.
You can follow Claire on Twitter: @claireparrish30
Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Page updated 18th October 2014