2017 is the year that I am championing, understudies, bringing them to the forefront of theatre. If I can get to see a show when an understudy is performing, then I will write about it because it can be a thankless task, for a performer to take on a leading role in a theatre show, only for it to pass by unnoticed by press and media outlets. They deserve to be recognised.
Gary Barlow‘s new musical The Girls (a musical adaption of The Calendar Girls) opened in London earlier this year, giving the West End more flesh than we’ve seen since Mrs Henderson Presents in 2016! I went along to see fellow Essex girl Jenny Gayner play the lead role of Annie, in place of Joanna Riding whilst she was on holiday.
Jenny is brilliant in the role. It feels as though the part was written for her and she conveys the rollercoaster emotional journey perfectly, bringing tears to the eyes and joy to the heart. Her rendition of the song ‘Scarborough’ was stunning and her voice is perfectly suited to the music in the show.
The Girls is a musical based on the true story of a group of women from the Yorkshire Women’s Institute who made a calendar to raise money to buy a couch for a local hospital where their friend’s husband passed away. The same story was the subject of The Calendar Girls film back in 2003.
The story is quite simple: woman has an idea to make a calendar, convinces her friends through the medium of song to join in, the making of the calendar transpires to be a journey for each of the women and forces them to address personal battles they are fighting inside. SPOILER ALERT: they make the calendar, raise the money and buy the couch.
Bravo to Understudy Jenny Gayner for her performance as Annie. Joanna Riding is a brilliant actress and to top her performance is no easy task. However, I think you might have just done it!