From EastEnders to A Chorus Line: John Partridge back on the stage in West End revival of popular musical



22:17 GMT, 22 November 2012

A return to the stage: John Partridge stars with Summer Strallen in a new production of A Chorus Line

A return to the stage: John Partridge stars with Summer Strallen in A Chorus Line

John Partridge stepped out of EastEnders and right into A Chorus Line.

The actor, who spent almost five years in the BBC soap, stars with Scarlett Strallen in a rare West End revival of the celebrated musical that explores the psychology of Broadway dancers auditioning for a show.

Partridge, who was a musical theatre mainstay before his TV career, will play Zach, the director trying to find dancers for a nameless production.

'Zach's charismatic and manipulative,' Partridge said, though he added as Zach's an old hoofer himself, he's perhaps more sympathetic than he lets on.

One reason Partridge took the job was for the chance to work with Bob Avian, who was cochoreographer (with original director Michael Bennett) on A Chorus Line back in 1975, and who will direct the new production at the Palladium from February 5.

'It's one of those opportunities you've got to grab,' Partridge said.

Strallen will play Cassie – forced to seek work back in the chorus line after failing in Hollywood.

She has begun to learn the piece while still at her current job as another song and dance stunner in Singin' In The Rain at the Palace Theatre.

'I finish on a Saturday and start A Chorus Line on a Monday.

'If you're not dancing, you're not a dancer.'

/11/22/article-2237103-1629BACD000005DC-817_634x424.jpg” width=”634″ height=”424″ alt=”In tune: Dominic West and Carly Bawden in rehearsal for a new Sheffield Theatres production of My Fair Lady” class=”blkBorder” />

In tune: Dominic West and Carly Bawden in rehearsal for a new Sheffield Theatres production of My Fair Lady

He has been rehearsing for three weeks, alongside Carly Bawden as Covent Garden flower girl Eliza Doolittle, and a company that includes Anthony Calf as Colonel Pickering, Martyn Ellis (who was in the original One Man, Two Guvnors) as Eliza’s father Alfred P. Doolittle and Richenda Carey as Mrs Higgins, Henry Higgins’s mother.

The professor bets he can pass Eliza off as a titled lady by varying her vowels and clipping her consonants.

The first two weeks of rehearsals had Dominic practising in London with the My Fair Lady troupe by day, and performing by night at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, in Jez Butterworth’s acclaimed The River.

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Now he’s in Sheffield being put through his paces by director Evans, musical director Nigel Lilley and choreographer Alistair David.

‘I’ve wanted to do a musical for quite a while because it’s such fun — and because I think I can sing . . . and it turns out I can’t,’ he joked, adding that his training at the Guildhall School Of Music And Drama did include singing and dancing lessons.

But he noted that, till now, no one had ever offered him a singing part and West also described his dancing as ‘freestyle’, though his co-star Carly said we shouldn’t be fooled. ‘He’s got a lovely waltz going on,’ she says.

The actor is partly teasing because he can carry a tune. He’s also well aware that Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe tailored the songs written for Higgins to suit Rex Harrison — who spoke his numbers.

‘I know every inflection,’ said Dominic of Harrison’s performance. ‘And that’s one of the problems — I can’t get out of my head what he did. It’s written entirely as he did it.

‘It’s a part for a novice singer, which he was and I certainly am. You can’t depart too far from what he did,’ he told me.

Referring to Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, he said: ‘It’s like thinking of Stanley Kowalski and trying to get Brando out of your head.’

Dominic sees Higgins as ‘a mad professor who, in one way, was ahead of his time, because he believed through language you could transcend the disadvantages of class and of birth’. He observed that Higgins ‘isn’t some posh guy imposing his will on a working-class girl’.

Rather, he’s an academic carrying out an experiment, which, the actor said, ‘is almost more frightening’.

But he likes Higgins’s transformation: from rational man of the mind to the fellow who sings I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face. ‘I still can’t get through that song without crying,’ the actor admitted.

The show previews at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on December 13 for a limited season until January 26.

It's 'cat out of the bag' time…

An injection of glamour from sponsor Burberry — and guest host Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of U.S. Vogue — will reboot the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday.

Cate Blanchett, Eileen Atkins, Hattie Morahan and Laurie Metcalf are vying for best actress. And Damian Lewis, the Emmy-award winning star of must-watch TV drama Homeland, has the job of ‘letting the cat out of the bag’ — as Ralph Richardson used to refer to his presenting duties.

A touch of glamour: Editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour will be adding style to the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday

A touch of glamour: Editor-in-chief of American Vogue Anna Wintour will be adding style to the London Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday

The best actor category is tough, too, featuring Simon Russell Beale, Luke Treadaway, Adrian Lester and Charles Edwards — though I did wonder how they managed to leave out Jonathan Pryce, and his King Lear at the Almeida. And what about Jodie Whittaker in Antigone!

One of the most important categories is the Charles Wintour award for most promising playwright, named after Ms Wintour’s father, who founded them when he was editor of the Standard. Nominees include Lolita Chakrabarti’s Red Velvet; John Hodge’s first play Collaborators; and Tom Wells, for The Kitchen Sink at the Bush.

Chichester’s Singin’ In The Rain and Sweeney Todd are up for best musical — as is Swallows And Amazons (which I don’t recall having much of a score).