MARCH 17, London. York-born musical actress Livvy Evans is one day away from the opening of her West End role in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical at the Aldwych Theatre.
“After two weeks of tech rehearsals, we were getting ready to open, but instead we got called in to say the theatre would be closing immediately,” she recalls, now sitting in a different theatre, back in the home city she left 13 years ago, as she prepares to play Fairy Mary in York Stage’s socially distanced, Covid-secure Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @ 41 Monkgate, York.
Livvy went from Simply The Best to simply the worst of times, as the Coronavirus pandemic left the West End deserted for month after month. “Initially, we expected to go back after a few weeks, but at the last meeting we had with the company managers they told us ticket sales were being taken off for January and February and now, as with most shows, they’re aiming for a spring reopening,” she says. In other words, at least a year of gathering cobwebs will have passed.
In her professional career, Livvy has been “lucky enough to pretty much go from theatre job to theatre job” in such shows as Soho Cinders, Motown at the Shaftesbury Theatre and UK tours of Sister Act and Ghost: The Musical. “When I have had a time where I haven’t worked, I’ve done nannying support in special needs, and I get a lot from it; it’s much more fulfilling than working in restaurants,” she says.
“But right now there just aren’t the jobs available for actors that they might otherwise tend to do in the quiet times, such as teaching or working in bars,” she adds, on top of the blow of no furlough pay. “And we’re being asked to go back for less pay and fewer shows when we do re-start.”
Glory be that Nik Briggs came a’calling, offering Livvy the chance to join his Jack And The Beanstalk company for the panto season. “It must have been the beginning of September, and at that point it still hadn’t been confirmed that Tina wouldn’t be opening this year,” Livvy recalls.
“So, I could only say ‘hopefully’, and I’d need to get permission from the Tina company, so it all took a long time. But once we knew Tina wouldn’t be opening, I said to Nik, ‘I’d love to do it’. I’ve been a professional for many years, but since leaving for London, I’ve never done a professional show in York. Leeds, yes, Bradford, yes, but not York.”
Brought up in Huntington, Livvy moved south to train in musical theatre on a full scholarship at Arts Educational, in Chiswick, London, in 2008. “I normally only spend four or five days in York, but this year it’ll be six weeks, which will be lovely,” she says.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played Fairy before, and the only panto princess I’ve done was Jasmine in Aladdin at the Grand Opera House in 2006 with Syd Little and Michael Starke, who I then did Sister Act with. I remember he used to call me his ‘little Peking duck, his little dumpling’ in the panto!”
Livvy will be performing with York Stage for the first time. “Strangely, I never did a York Stage Musicals show when I was young, but I did a lot of the summer school youth projects with Simon Barry at the Grand Opera House, doing my first professional job in Aladdin on the back of playing Audrey in Little Shop Of Horrors,” she recalls.
“I liked being put in with the older group for York Musical Theatre Company shows, working with Paul Laidlaw and Jim Welsman – and I loved playing little Kate Mullins in the British premiere of Titanic: The Musical for that company.”
As opening night of Jack And The Beanstalk approaches fast on Friday, Livvy says: “It’s great to be in York, especially at this time of year, back in the house I grew up in, and I’ve never been so excited to be playing the Fairy, spreading joy to everyone, although she’s a no-nonsense fairy! As everyone keeps saying, I’m going to be the talk of my niece’s playground!”
York Stage presents Jack And The Beanstalk at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, from December 11 to January 3; show times, Monday to Saturday, 2pm and 7pm; Sundays, 1pm and 6pm; Christmas Eve, 12 noon and 5pm; New Year’s Eve, 12 noon. Box office: online only at yorkstagepanto.com. Please note, audiences will be seated in household/support bubble groupings only.