There is a countless number of talented individuals working in the UK theatre industry, and sometimes, a group of these individuals all happen to belong to the same family. Everyone knows the Strallen name; between them, sisters Scarlett, Summer, Zizi and Saskia have appeared in some of the biggest and best shows in the West End. For this edition of In Profile however, the spotlight is being shone on third sister Zizi Strallen in celebration of her being back in town, as the musical Cats returns to the West End.
Zizi Strallen was born to be on the stage. Real name Sylphide Charity Vaigncourt-Strallen, she comes from a long line of talented musical theatre performers that extends beyond her stagey siblings. Her parents, Sandy Strallen and Cherida Langford, both worked in musical theatre, and her aunt is veteran stage and screen star, Bonnie Langford. Performing is quite literally in her blood, so it’s not a huge surprise that she too followed them into a career on the stage.
She received her training at Arts Educational School, London, which is where her elder sisters Scarlett and Summer trained, as too did as ‘Auntie Bonnie’. She also studied at the London Studio Centre. She entered the West End not long after graduating, gaining a place in the company of the musical Scrooge as Kathy Cratchitt. The production ran at the London Palladium, which is an impressive venue in which to make your West End début She then travelled to Sussex for Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of The Music Man starring Brian Conley. She played the role of Zaneeta Shinn in what was her first professional appearance with one of her sisters in a show; her sister Scarlett held the principal role of Marian Peroo.
She came back to the West End after that and joined the London cast of Dirty Dancing at the Aldwych Theatre. He role in the ensemble made her the show’s youngest cast member, and she was also the understudy to the role of Lisa Houseman. She was then given the opportunity to really show off the phenomenal dancing skills that she and her and other three sisters are particularly known for. The Strallens have a reputation as highly-skilled, beautiful dancers who can deliver a mean high kick, which is hardly surprising really when they had a great-aunt who was a ballet dancer and a grandmother who ran a dancing school, not to mention their parents and aunt. Zizi displayed her own talents as a dancer in Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, playing the role of Betty first at Sadler’s Wells and then on the dance production’s world tour.
She kept her dancing shoes on following the end of the tour, coming back to the West End to be part of the original London cast of Broadway jukebox musical, Rock of Ages. As a member of the ensemble she played Constance, appearing on-stage at the Shaftesbury Theatre with such names as Justin Lee Collins, Shayne Ward, Amy Pemberton, Oliver Tompsett and Simon Lipkin. She was also understudy to the role of Regina.
Her next role brought her to the Menier Chocolate Factory for Maria Friedman’s revival of the classic musical, Merrily We Roll Along. The central trio of characters were played by Mark Umbers, Damian Humbley and Jenna Russell, with Zizi also starring as mistress Meg in the critically acclaimed production. It proved so popular that the show subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre for a West End run.
Following that, she left London for a while to appear in two productions at the Leicester Curve. Her first appearance there came courtesy of the musical Chicago, in which she played Mona Lipschitz and was 1st Cover to the leading role of Velma Kelly, while her second appearance was something a little different from the norm for her. She had to tone down her dancing abilities in a major way for Hairspray, to play the clumsy, awkward best friend of Tracy Turnblad, Penny Pingleton, which she described as one her favourite parts ever. She has since said that comedy is her personal favourite work, which means audiences may see take on more comic roles in the future.
Over the years she has also been involved with MADTrust’s West End Bares, a fundraising evening which evolved from the long-running Broadway event Broadway Bares. She has previously performed in the line-up of dancers from West End shows, who perform burlesque-style strip routines to help raise money for charity. Her other theatre credits include juvenile ensemble in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Palladium) and Dick Whittington (Sadler’s Wells), Tessie in Annie (Victoria Palace Theatre), company in The Herbal Bed (Royal Shakespeare Company), A Tale of Two Cities (Theatre Royal, Windsor), and company in A Christmas Carol – Ballet (Royal Festival Hall). She was also involved in a rehearsed reading of new musical Personality at The Crazy Coqs in July 2014 and features on the demo recording of the show, based on Andrew O’Hagan novel of the same name and written by Luke Bateman and Michael Conley.
Television and film credits include: Phoebe in Dinotopia, Princess Vicky in Victoria and Albert, Molly Marshall in Bramwell, Margery in The Prince and the Pauper, and Ball Guest in Cinderella.
Zizi Strallen was most recently seen in the UK Tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats. In fact I saw her perform when I went with my mother and daughter to see it at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury for my birthday. It’s the perfect show for her to be in, and not just because she is a superb dancer. She is the fifth member of her family to appear in the show, her parents being part of the original London company when it first opened in 1981. Her aunt, Bonnie Langford, of course originated the role of Rumpleteazer, and several years ago, Summer Strallen joined the show as Cassandra. She played the role of Demeter in the touring production, a role she will be reprising at the London Palladium when it makes its West End return this Christmas with Pussycat Dolls singer and X-Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger as Grizabella.
The Strallen name is held in very high regard in musical theatre circles, and Zizi Strallen is rapidly catching up to her two elder siblings. A true ‘triple threat’ performer, it’s always a joy to see her on the West End stage and her return in the musical Cats is the perfect Christmas gift for any theatre fan.
You can follow Zizi on Twitter: @ZiziStrallen
By Julie Robinson: @missjulie25
Saturday 6th December 2014