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West End star and Gants Hill stage school teacher Nancy Sullivan inspired by Miss Saigon

Nancy Sullivan played Eponine in Les Miserables at the West End Nancy Sullivan played Eponine in Les Miserables at the West End

Sunday, June 1, 2014
8:30 AM

A West End star has returned to teaching, after starring in hit productions, including playing a lead role in Les Miserables on stage and making an appearance on the big screen.

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Nancy Sullivan, 29, is back teaching at Rascals Theatre School, at Gants Hill Methodist Church, in Gantshill Crescent, Gants Hill.

She said: “It is just fun. It is nice sometimes to relax and work with a really nice bunch of children for a few hours on a Saturday.”

Nancy, born in Bermondsey, lives in south east London. She has always loved acting but started to explore her passion for musical theatre when she was 11, after she saw a performance of Miss Saigon at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.

She said: “I remember sitting on the bus home after watching the show and crying. I have never been touched by a story like that before, so afterwards I bought the cassette and that was the start really.”

She started to go to Pollyanna’s theatre school in Wapping every Saturday until she was 16, when she got into The Brit School in London. Nancy then went on to audition for the London School of Musical Theatre, and was given a place at the age of 18.

She said: “I started acting before singing, but when I realised you could do both if you do musical theatre I knew that’s what I wanted to do.

“When I was at the school, agents would come and watch you perform and it was really scary as I was only 19, but I was hungry for it and knew even if I wasn’t spotted, I would still somehow do it.”

Soon after leaving the school, she found an agent and played one of her first roles, starring as Lisa, a council estate woman, in TV’s Footballers’ Wives.

But in 2008 everything started to change, as Nancy made it to the final 20 of the BBC’s I’d Do Anything, where girls auditioned to play the role of Nancy in Oliver! on the West End stage.

It was during this process that she was spotted by the director of Les Miserables, who then asked her to audition for the role of Eponine.

After performing for producer Cameron Mackintosh, she was given the role.

Nancy said: “I absolutely love the musical and couldn’t believe it when I was told I had the part.

“Every time I speak to a female actress wanting to go into musical theatre, Eponine is the role she wants to play and it was such a great feeling knowing I was going to.”

She played Eponine at the Queen’s Theatre, London, from 2008 to 2010, but was also given the opportunity to play a prostitute in the ensemble, in the 2012 film adaptation.

Nancy said: “I looked completely different as I was covered in warts – I look nothing like me!

“But it was a great experience and something I will never forget.”

She then took a break from musical theatre but in 2013, returned to the stage, performing in the play, Beautiful Thing, starring opposite Suranne Jones, a performance of The Good Person of Sichuan, and she also played Sherbet in The Fastest Clock in the Universe, with producer Philip Ridley, at the Old Red Lion in London.

Nancy said: “It has always been another one of my dreams to work with Philip and Sherbet is the equivalent of Eponine in the straight acting world – everyone wants to play her part.”

As well as setting up her own musical theatre workshop company, W1 Workshops, in 2011, for 10 years Nancy has been going back and forth to Rascal Theatre School in Gants Hill, between her acting roles.

She said: “Everyone there is so understanding about the fact that I’m an actress first, and whenever I do come back, it always feels like I’m coming home.”

She added: “For anyone who wants to get into musical theatre, I would say that if there is something else you want to do and love just as much as performing, then do it, as it is a really hard industry.

“But if there isn’t, then be proactive, train, and eventually you will get there, and it is completely worth it.”

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