It takes a certain type of person to be able to stand up on a stage and sing/dance/act in front of hundreds of audience members. With every performance they are opening themselves up to possible criticism, which may range from their on-stage talent to more personal areas, such as their body image, etc. In most stage productions however, there is an entire company of actors up on that stage, working together as a single unit and supporting one another through every performance. When it gets really scary, is when they’re standing solo up there. A company of actors can share the mammoth weight of carrying a production, whereas that weight on just one set of shoulders is a much heavier burden to carry.
One person who has personally born that responsibility is stage and screen star Denise Van Outen. In 2003, she starred in Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s one-woman show, Tell Me On A Sunday, at the Gielgud Theatre. Lloyd Webber reworked the musical, which tells the story of an English girl who travels to America in search of love, specifically for Van Outen; a move which ultimately paid off as the show, and her critically acclaimed performance, were a huge success. Her positive experience with Tell Me On A Sunday would appear to have encouraged her to take on the demands of solo performance once again, as she is set to star in another one-woman show, but this time with the added challenge of touring.
Next year, she will be touring the UK with her long-rumoured show, Some Girl I Used To Know, which makes its debut at the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 5th February 2014. Van Outen stars in this brand new production, billed as a ‘play with music’, which she also co-wrote in collaboration with Terry Ronald.
Denise Van Outen is an actress, singer and television presenter, who first shot to fame hosting The Big Breakfast with co-presenter Johnny Vaughn. Her extensive theatre credits include playing Roxie Hart in Chicago, first in the West End production at the Adelphi Theatre and then on Broadway before returning to London once again. She is also known for playing Paulette in Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre in 2010, taking over in the role from Jill Halfpenny just five months after giving birth to her daughter Betsy. On television, she has appeared in such programmes as Hotel Babylon and Where The Heart Is, as well as appearing as a contestant on the tenth series of ITV’s Strictly Come Dancing in which she finished as runner-up with dance partner James Jordan.
Ronald is a singer/songwriter who, in addition to his own work, has penned songs for such music stars as Danni Minogue, Girls Aloud and Sophie Ellis Bexter. He has built an impressive reputation as a music producer too, having worked with the likes of Kylie Minogue and Boyzone. The multi-talented Ronald also published his debut novel, Becoming Nancy, in 2011, which was shortlisted for the 2012 Polari First Book Prize and which he recently hinted is ‘going to end up as more than just a novel’. He first worked with Van Outen on the 2007 West End production of Rent (Remixed) at the Duke of York’s Theatre, in which she was playing the role of Maureen and he was part of the creative team and working as a vocal arranger.
The result of this follow-up partnership is Some Girl I Used To Know in which Van Outen features as the show’s one and only star, Stephanie Canworth. Ronald speaks of the show he has written ‘with, and for’ Denise Van Outen on his website, saying that, “I guess this is what you might call my next big adventure, and after several great workshops I’m really looking forward to taking it the next stage.” The show follows her journey down memory lane as a Facebook poke from a former love brings old memories flooding back and causes her to question whether she is living the life she wants. Van Outen has said that it was partly inspired by her love of Shirley Valentine, the one-woman play by Willy Russell about a middle-aged, working-class Liverpool housewife who refreshes her unhappy life after a holiday to Greece, which was adapted into a film starring Pauline Collins in 1989. In an interview earlier this year, Van Outen spoke about her new show in comparison to Shirley Valentine, adding that, “the story’s moved on a bit now for women and hopefully my show will reflect that – we’re not all downtrodden anymore! I love anything that’s live – it gets the adrenaline going. And I’ve never toured – so I’m looking forward to it,” (Manchester Evening News, 25th Aug 2013).
Some have said that part of the inspiration for the show may have been drawn from Van Outen’s own personal life however, on the basis of her split from husband Lee Mead in July of this year. Whether there is truth in that, who knows? And to be honest, who cares? Some Girl I Used To Know isn’t Denise Van Outen’s autobiographical show after all, and where the inspiration behind it came from is of no bearing here.
Van Outen performs songs from the 80’s and 90’s throughout the show, which is directed by Michael Howcroft and also features designs by Morgan Large, with movement direction by Matthew Cole, lighting by Josh Carr, sound by David Gregory and musical direction by Garth Hall. Following its premiere performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Some Girl I Used To Know, which is produced by Tristan Baker and Charlie Parsons for Runaway Entertainment, will also play at: the New Alexandria Birmingham (10th-12th February), Hull New Theatre (13-15 February), Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (17-19 February), Wolverhampton Grand (20-22 February), Wolverhampton Grand (20-22 February), Wycombe Swan (27 February-1 March), Pavilion Theatre Rhyl (6-8 March), King’s Theatre Edinburgh (10-12 March), Palace Theatre Southend (13-15 March) and Orchard Theatre Dartford (17-19 March).
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Thursday 17th October 2013