by Steph Parry
Steph Parry has been an ensemble member and understudy in Mamma Mia!, Billy Elliot and Wicked on the West End. But, on 7th June, after years of waiting in the wings, a stroke of fate caused the biggest surprise of her career.
The plot of 42nd Street is well known; Peggy Sawyer goes from chorus girl to star. It's a story that I, as a performer, have always loved but never quite believed could happen to me. But it turns out, it really can! On the 9th July, I'll step into the legendary pop star Lulu's shoes (not literally, I have big feet!) and take over the role of Dorothy Brock.
I got the rare opportunity of being in the right place at the right time. I’m currently a standby for the roles of Dorothy Brock and Maggie Jones in 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and on June 7th, I was sat in my dressing room when the company manager called. Straight away I prepared myself to go on for one of the roles. It turned out, I was… but for a show down the road.
My friend Caroline Deverill was playing Donna that evening in Mamma Mia! at the Novello Theatre, next door. Unfortunately, she had suffered a calf injury in the first scene, leaving her unable to carry on with the show. David Lamb, their company manager, who I'd worked with when I was there in 2013/14, remembered I was standing by around the corner so called to see if I was in the building, off stage and up for it. Never been one to turn down a challenge, within 18 minutes of the show stopping, I was back in the dungarees and carrying on the play. There were some hairy moments choreographically but in true showbiz fashion, the whole cast rallied around and helped me power through.
I left that night, on a high, but not really feeling like I'd done anything special. There are so many people who could have saved the day just as well as I could, I just happened to be the one who was nearby.
I woke up the next morning to interview requests from news channels, papers and radio stations. I just couldn’t believe people wanted to know about it. For me, it felt like another day at the office; a very weird day at the office, granted, but it’s just what covers do, step in at a moments notice and keep the show going.
Just when I thought things would start to calm down, I was then offered to play Dorothy Brock for eight weeks! It was a hell of a week! I definitely don't take this opportunity lightly. In a world where instant fame and reality TV is affecting our beloved industry, I’m hoping that my story inspires us all that we can still work our way up the ranks, through tenacity, hard work and being a great company member who they know they can rely on.