Saturday, 23 August 2014

The Pajama Game and why I will always love Gary Wilmot

I was stood backstage at The Adelphi Theatre in London meeting the stars of Me and My Girl. I informed the male lead that “I was going to be on the stage like him one day,” he kissed me on each cheek and I still remember my blushes and pride to be stood in this showbiz world.

I was 8 and the man was Gary Wilmot.

He was my musical theatre crush growing up; whilst other aspiring West End Wendies during this era were perfecting the vocals of Elaine Paige, Barbara Dixon and Frances Ruffelle, I sang along to “If I only had a Brain” on Gary's Showstopper cassette. (I was also pretty strong on “Beat Out Dat Rhythm on a Drum” from Carmen Jones!)

Gary in Me and My Girl
with Jessica Martin from
We saw him twice in Me and My Girl (teaching me how to have an audience in the palm of your hand whilst cavorting with a tiger skin rug,) as Tony in Copacabana, in his one man shows and I was a member of his fan club. Yes, his fan club – I had a card and everything.

I would have told him all this last night when I saw him in the wonderful production of The Pajama Game but I would've dissolved into a gibbering wreck if I saw him in real life! I would have morphed into a loom band wearing 1D fan meeting Harry Styles and so I ran away from stage door before seeing him.

I went to see The Pajama Game to see my friends – the lovely Sharon strutting her stuff and the gorgeous Michael Xavier be talent on long legs. I had completely forgotten that Gary Wilmot was also in it and so when he came onstage my friend and I squealed. And he was just as brilliant as he was 25 years ago; strong vocals and cheeky grins to the audience.

The show itself was just lovely. Old skool musical theatre with fabulous choreography (well, it was Stephen Mear so what would you expect?) I did sit there wondering if audiences still appreciate these old-fashioned musicals. They are used to high dramatic plots, high-tech sets and an almost cinematic experience, in fact they expect it for a £120 ticket. But last night they was a simple but effective set, a light storyline but all this allowed the calibre of the performers to radiate through. Genuinely high-class musical theatre actors being sublime and I loved it.
 It made me want to be in that world. I still want to have abs like Joanna Riding, I am grateful for the year I got paid to hang out with Michael Xavier in a wet suit, I am in awe of Sharon who I spent 3 years at drama school up there with musical theatre elite but most of all, I still adore Gary Wilmot. His warm charisma reminded me of being 8 years old and desperate to stay backstage in a theatre forever. 

Thank you Gary, for still inspiring me 25 years on.

The Pajama Game is only playing until September 13th, so go and see it if you can! 

1 comment:

  1. jo and michael are a dream team!!