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Arterton conquered fears for Dagenham

Published 18 June 2014

Gemma Arterton may be a global movie star, but her worldwide success hasn’t quelled her nerves about starring in her first professional musical, Made In Dagenham, this autumn.

The Quantum Of Solace star spoke at a launch for the screen-to-stage adaptation this week about how she had to “get over my fears” about not having previously worked in musical theatre as she “wanted to do it more than anything”.

“I’ve always wanted to be in a musical,” she told Official London Theatre, “but I’ve wanted to be in a new one.”

Her opportunity came when Stephen Woolley, who produced the BAFTA-nominated movie version of Made In Dagenham, was working with Arterton on vampire film Byzantium. He heard the actress singing, passed her a CD of proposed songs for the stage adaptation and Arterton, who started out doing amateur dramatic musicals, jumped at the chance to work on the production from the very start.

“I think when musicals are done really well,” she told us, “it sends shivers through your spine. I remember seeing Sunday In The Park With George. Of all the things I’ve ever seen, it was one of the theatre moments for me.

“Sometimes with musical theatre it’s so grand and fabulous it’s not real. There’s a place for that, but this show is different because it’s rooted in reality. It has fancy frilly stuff and moments where we break out, but at the same time we want grit and reality.”

Made In Dagenham, which features songs by Bond composer David Arnold and Jerry Springer The Opera lyricist Richard Thomas, is based on the true events of 1968 when a group of women working at Ford’s Dagenham plant went on strike when their pay grade was downgraded.

“It’s a working class story,” explained book writer Richard Bean, who scored a major West End hit with One Man, Two Guvnors. “I hope that’s what gives it a little bit more credibility than the film-to-stage thing we’ve seen a few times. This is a British story about working class people that needs to be told and needs to be remembered.”

While recent high profile closures have many questioning the ability of new musicals to survive, Arterton has her own ideas on the matter: “I think you’ve got to be really good to stay on; you’ve got to be really brilliant. Obviously I’m nervous about it, we’re all nervous, but all we can do is make sure our show is special. I think it is otherwise I wouldn’t have said yes.”

Made In Dagenham begins its London run at the Adelphi Theatre in October. It follows another screen-to-stage adaptation, The Bodyguard, into the venue. The Whitney Houston musical, which currently stars former X Factor winner Alexandra Burke, closes on 30 August.

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