Barrie Jerram catches up with Olivier Award-winning actress and singer Janie Dee.
This weekend versatile actress Janie Dee is the latest guest of Edward Seckerson in his Singular Sensations series at London’s Charing Cross Theatre. These shows have an ‘in conversation with…’ format as the writer and presenter encourages his guests to talk about their careers, particularly in musical theatre.
Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to have a one-to-one chat with Dee this week. I mentioned that the interviews with Seckerson were usually augmented with a mix of recorded and live singing from the guest in question. The actress explained that while she did have recordings that could be used, she had chosen not to use any, as she preferred to sing live. As the show takes place on Remembrance Sunday, Dee intends to include some appropriate material. Being a passionate peace activist, she has, over the last few years, tried to mark the occasion with something relevant. I understand that she also has a few surprises lined up for Seckerson, including a surprise guest appearance.
I offered Dee congratulations on her recent UK Theatre Award for Best Musical Performance in Hello, Dolly! at Leicester Curve. As she played the role last Christmas, she said that it had come as a pleasant surprise to learn during the summer that she had been nominated.
Not long after her success at the awards, Dee also returned to the London cabaret scene with a show at the St James Theatre Studio. She confessed to feeling nervous about this, but the apprehension soon evaporated as she made her entrance, took in the warmth of the reception from the audience, and spotted some familiar faces. She teased her audience that night by announcing that she would be returning to the same venue in the New Year, but refused to reveal in what context. However, I now know that she will be reprising her role in a version of Stephen Sondheim’s Putting It Together which was staged recently at the G Live Studio, Guildford.
Having seen the recent musical production of The Kitchen at the Central School of Speech & Drama (a new piece by Derek Barnes based on Arnold Wesker’s play), I was aware that Dee had made this her directorial debut. She explained how the opportunity came about, the complexity of choreographing the monster lunch service, and working with Wesker.
Looking ahead to the future, Dee expressed her pleasure at collaborating again with Alan Ayckbourn on his new musical which she will be workshopping soon. The project is an adaptation of Ayckbourn’s fantasy adventure The Boy Who Fell Into a Book which was originally staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough in 1998.
Although best known for her stage work, both in musical theatre and in classical and modern drama, she reminded me of her latest film work. “The two films I have made this year are Wild with Emma Greenwell, Tom Hughes and Alex MacQueen. It was shot in Ireland and is being edited now. Caffiend was the other one with legendary director Gary Walkow. I play opposite Neil Morrissey who comes back to England to woo his childhood sweetheart, a newly single Cambridge professor (me), but an unexpected turn of events take place. It’s very funny and the wonderful Dot and Harry Walkow are my children.”
* Janie Dee joins Edward Seckerson for Singular Sensations at the Charing Cross Theatre, London at 3pm on Sunday November 10. www.charingcrosstheatre.co.uk
* A longer version of this interview will appear in a future digital issue of Musical Theatre Review.
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