Sunny Afternoon made its world premiere at the Hampstead Theatre in 2014, and is now an Olivier Award-winning West End musical that continues to draw audiences to its current home at the Harold Pinter Theatre. The Kinks musical, which features music/lyrics by Ray Davies and a book by Joe Penhall, won four Laurence Olivier Awards in the 2015 Awards, including Best Musical and two Best Actor awards for cast members John Dagleish (Best Actor in a Musical – Ray Davies) and George Maguire (Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical – Dave Davies).
Any show’s success is always a joint effort from the entire company however, from the principal cast and the ensemble team to the swings and understudies. Helping to contribute to the success of Sunny Afternoon is understudy Lia Given, who is the featured stage performer for this edition of In Profile.
Lia Given took her first steps towards a career on the stage at the London-based Twickenham Academy, and went on to train professionally at Laine Theatre Arts following her acceptance into the renowned performing arts school. Sited in the Surrey town of Epsom, Laine has given the West End a wide assortment of star performers, including Kerry Ellis, Mark Evans, Ruthie Henshall and Louise Dearman, to name a few.
Since graduating from Laine Theatre Arts, she has gone on to build a solid list of stage credits working professionally within the industry. Featured amongst her earliest post-graduate jobs are ensemble roles in Peter Pan (Bristol Hippodrome/Birmingham Hippodrome), Cinderella (Swan Theatre, High Wycombe) and Aladdin (Theatre Royal Plymouth), the latter of which she was also Dance Captain on. She also understudied the title roles in both Cinderella and Peter Pan. One of her first notable professional roles though came when she was chosen to be part of the 50th Anniversary UK Tour of West Side Story. She appeared as a Swing in the production, but also understudied and played the roles of Jets member Anybodys and Sharks member Rosalia. She lengthened her time with the Romeo and Juliet-esque events of 1950 New York’s Upper West Side by joining the international tour, in which she moved on from Swing duties to play the full-time role of female Jets member Velma.
She put aside her travelling shoes for a while after that, and instead moved into the Dominion Theatre to make her West End debut in We Will Rock You. Joining the cast of the long-running jukebox musical, which features the music of Queen, she first performed as a member of the ensemble team before taking on another Swing role in her second year with the show.
Another West End role followed straight afterwards, and it was one which next took her to the Piccadilly Theatre for a brand new jukebox musical. Adept by now at juggling different roles, she once again performed as a Swing, this time in the Spice Girls musical Viva Forever!. The show unfortunately failed to wow the critics however, and closed early after only seven months in the West End. For the Wicked tour casting agents however, this may have been somewhat of a blessing in disguise.
She went back on the road after being cast in the first ever UK and Ireland Tour of Wicked, as a member of the ensemble in the touring company and also as Assistant Dance Captain. The tour opened at the Manchester Palace Theatre on 12th September 2013 and starred Nikki Davis-Jones and Emily Tierney in the respective lead female roles of Elphaba and Glinda, with the principal cast completed by Liam Doyle (Fiyero), Marilyn Cutts (Madame Morrible), Dale Rapley (The Wizard/Doctor Dillamond), Carina Gillespie (Nessarose) and George Ure (Boq).
She can currently be found at the Harold Pinter Theatre where she is appearing in the West End production of the Kinks musical, Sunny Afternoon. Her involvement in the hit biographical show, which originated at the Hampstead Theatre, includes understudying the roles of Peggy/Gwen/Joyce and now also Dance Captain.
Lia Given is a bright, young talent who is still only at the beginning of her career, and whose potential is seemingly limitless. She has already proven her ability to play leading roles through her extensive experience as a Swing and understudy, so who knows where the next step of her journey will take her following her time in Sunny Afternoon?
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 23rd January 2016