The sun was out for the opening day of Kids Week Covent Garden today as a host of West End stars took to the stage in the first day of this two-day theatrical event showcasing the best of London theatre for families. Danny Bayne and Susan McFadden from Grease and former X Factor contestant and Chicago star Brenda Edwards were among those joining host Mike McShane in today’s line up.
Edwards, who is currently appearing in Carmen Jones at the Royal Festival Hall, was one of the judges in the Kids Week Talent Contest which took place today. Ten finalists selected from auditions had their moment in the spotlight in front of the Covent Garden crowds, showing off their skills in singing, dancing, playing instruments and even reading poetry.
The participants impressed Edwards: “The talent in the competition today was absolutely amazing,” she said. “It’s nice to see the up-and-coming actresses, actors, singers, West End stars. You know in about 10, 15 years we could well see some of them on the West End stage.”
Luena, eight, was one of the two winners of the competition. Mother Carol commented afterwards: “I feel a bit emotional, you know. She’s just really got that desire in her. She’s always singing, performing, she just absolutely loves it. From the age of two she said to me I’m going to be on TV one day.” A happy Luena said she was “not that nervous. I’ve done it loads of times.”
Edwards said she was delighted to be involved in Kids Week. “For two reasons – obviously I have kids myself – my son is 16 and my daughter is 13. They love the theatre, I’d bring them to the West End to see different shows, and I just think it’s really good to get kids more aware of what’s going on around them and get them into not thinking that the West End is a stuffy thing for adults only.”
Today’s line-up included performances from The Gruffalo’s Child, Buddy, Mamma Mia!, a coconut sing-along with Monty Python’s Spamalot and a medley of songs performed by the cast of Grease.
Bayne and McFadden, who won their roles through the reality television programme Grease Is The Word, were on hand to chat to Official London Theatre before taking to the stage. McFadden said: “It’s a day of encouraging kids to come to the theatre, and I think theatre has had a great boost for the last year, two years even. Me and Danny, we did the TV show, and [there was] the Maria programme and the Joseph programme – I think all those types of programmes have really given theatre a boost.” Bayne agreed: “It’s brought a whole new audience to the theatre.”
Both seemed delighted to be performing in the West End in Grease, particularly with opening night out of the way. Bayne said it had exceeded his expectations: “It’s fantastic. Standing ovations for every show. We’re loving it.” Commenting on the unusual method of their casting, Bayne said: “We’re both trained, this is what we do, that’s just the way we got to where we are.”
Today’s event also included several pavilions situated around Covent Garden piazza in which kids could take part in a number of activities, from singing and dancing to costume designing and drama. Louise, from Welling in Kent, had brought four children to Kids Week Covent Garden and was watching them participate in the Costume and Design Pavilion. She told us: “It’s really, really nice and I’m always looking for free stuff. It’s been a good day. I’ve got two eight year olds and I’ve got two 11 year olds, and it’s held all of their attentions. We’ve watched the shows, watched some auditions, and just had a wander round.”
Kids Week Covent Garden continues tomorrow with a line-up of performances from shows including Footloose, Billy Elliot, Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chicago, The Sound Of Music, Wicked and Mary Poppins. For more information and to see the full schedule visit www.kidsweek.co.uk/launchevent