A series of images of Ronan Keating as Guy in Once were released this week ahead of the Boyzone singer’s West End début in the award-winning musical at the Phoenix Theatre this November. He is set to take over the role on 17th November 2014 from current lead David Hunter, with female lead Jill Winternitz staying on to star opposite him as Girl, much to the fan’s delight. As the cast of Once are required to not only sing, dance and act on stage, but also accompany themselves musically, the audience benefit from seeing some of the industry’s most talented performers, demonstrating their love of music through a story which is about a love of music. Helena Gullan is one of the most recent additions to the show, and a very welcome one as well.
This beautiful talent made her West End début in Once this month, and now also makes her In Profile début as the featured ensemble member for this week’s edition of the popular article series.
Helena Gullan is an actor-musican and singer who was born and raised right here in London, but splits her time between the city and Los Angeles to meet the demands of her rising career on both sides of the Atlantic. She has built that career on a firm foundation of the training she received through her studies at several prestigious music and drama institutions, which began with her year at Trinity College of Music, London between 2006 and 2007 where she specialised in violin and voice. She was awarded an alto place in the Trinity College of Music Chamber Choir while there and also performed with the TCM Musical Theatre group, formed the Gustyllian Violin Duo and toured around China with the Amadeus Orchestra. Other highlights of her time there were being offered a place in the Onstage Chorus of the National Theatre production, Coram Boy, which ran for five months, and becoming the (then) youngest member of the Charles Court Opera company. She played Ruth in their 2006 production of Ruddigore, and the following year, played the role of Hebe in HMS Pinafore.
She was then accepted into Royal Holloway, University of London on an Alto Choral Scholarship, and during her three years there, sang in the University Chapel Choir (the Choir of Royal Holloway). She represented the choir at many events and also in professional recordings under record labels such as Hyperion and Naxos, as well as being the soloist singer for the University Swing Band and leading the Chamber Orchestra for a performance of Holst’s Double Violin Concerto. She spent one year of her degree studying in Australia at the University of Queensland as part of Royal Holloway’s International Exchange Program, where she was offered a place in the vocal chamber ensemble, Sola Voce, and performed with them at events in and around Brisbane. She also spent a month travelling with the group on an International European Tour, performing in London (UK), Budapest (Hungary) and Neuchatel (Switzerland). They also gained the chance to sing live on Swiss radio after competing in the Neuchatel International Choral Festival and coming first in both of their categories.
She took part in many theatre productions while working towards her Drama and Music degree and was awarded First Class, the highest mark in her year group, during her final year of studying for her devised physical theatre piece. She graduated from Royal Holloway in 2011 with a BA Hons in Drama and Music.
It was in that same year that she became involved with the London-based company Encompass Productions as an associate performer. She travelled with them to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to perform with the ensemble in the critically acclaimed original production, What It Feels Like, and also took part in regular live music events in and around London with the company. Her other post-graduate achievements include joining the Young Musicians Symphony Orchestra and performing with choral ensemble, Convivium Singers, in the UK and internationally, as well as recording under their record label, Convivium Records.
In 2012 however, she made the decision to relocate the Los Angeles to continue training after being offered a place at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute on the 1 Year Conservatory Program, where she was awarded an Acting Scholarship. She was cast in the leading role of Maureen in the musical RENT! and represented LSTFI at the Harvey Milk Day celebrations in 2013 singing a duet from the show at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre in Los Angeles, as well as performing an ensemble number which she arranged and vocally coached.
She then spent some time performing aboard on a P&O cruise ship as the lead singer and violinist in a pop band, before being cast in the UK tour of The Snow Spider. She played the principal role of Eirlys in the lo Theatre company’s stage adaption of the award-winning story by Jenny Nimmo, which enabled her to showcase her skills as both a singer and violinist. Following that, she returned to London to star in a musical adaption of Little Red Riding Hood, playing the title role in the children’s production at the Colour House Theatre from 8th February and 13th April 2014. Later that month, she appeared in Immercity’s The Three Rings of Cirque Tsuki at London’s Babel Studio in the role of fairground clown Bellatricks Magpie.
Most recently, she performed as a solo violinist in a showcase of The Good Doctor at The Poor School, a drama school based in King’s Cross, London.
She now makes her West End début in the award-winning musical Once at the Phoenix Theatre. Her première performance came on 18th August in what she described as a ‘surreal, wonderful experience’. She is 1st Cover Reza and 2nd Cover Ex Girlfriend in the show, and played her first performance as the latter. She plays violin in the show.
Helena Gullan is a girl blessed with a wealth of talent and the promise of a very successful career ahead of her, and now that she has finally made it into the West End, theatre fans can only hope that she sticks around for many more years to come.
You can follow Helena on Twitter: @HelenaGullan
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Sunday 31st August 2014