Eastenders Stars on the West End Stage
A Chorus Line
The latest Eastender to announce starring in a West End show is John Partridge who is going to be in the revival of A Chorus Line when it opens next year at the London Palladium. There has been a long tradition of TV soap stars transferring to live theatre especially during the pantomime season when a big TV name is an essential draw, but in the case of Eastenders this is not just a one way relationship. The reason why so many ex-eastenders manage to make their way into top shows and plays is not just because of their prominence in what was for years the UK’s most popular TV show in terms of viewing figures, but because many of them come from a background in plays and musicals in the first place, having come through one of the many stage schools in London and Essex. John Partridge himself for example, initially trained in ballet, then in musical theatre and performing arts and has even been in the touring version of Cats well before taking the TV role of Christian Clarke for four years in Eastenders.
Meanwhile down at the Savoy Theatre we already have another ‘Easters’ star on stage just opened in Cabaret alongside Will Young where Michelle Ryan is starring as Sally Bowles. Michelle Ryan surprise surprise, had been a member of a local theatre group since the age of 10. Although she is better known for drama on TV than for singing and dancing, this is one of the most prestigious roles for any female performer so she must be very good – did you see her in Doctor Who as Lady Christina de Souza? Wonderful!
Calendar Girls, Hairspray & Tape
The biggest Eastenders fest in theatreland must have been Calendar Girls, in which June Brown (Dot Cotton), Anita Dobson (Angie) , Jill Halfpenny (Kate Mitchell) and Jack Ryder (Jamie Mitchell) in all appeared at the Noel Coward Theatre in the season of 2009/10.
EastEnders star Lucy Benjamin (Lisa Fowler) isn’t going to the West End as such but will be on board one of the increasingly popular UK nationwide tours of a previous West End show, in this case of the hit show Hairspray in the role of scheming TV executive and archetypal ‘showbiz mom’ Velma Von Tussle. Now here’s the thing – Lucy has also been in Doctor Who so what’s going on with that then?
Marc Elliott portrayed a groundbreaking loving gay relationship as Syed Masood, Eastenders’ first gay Muslim and then went on to act in a play called “Tape” by Stephen Belber at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall, London.
I’m sure there are a couple more Eastenders stars who have been in musicals and plays in London and we’ll try and keep the above list up to date by including any you might remind us of in the comments section below here.