Barely a few weeks into her debut musical run and Gemma Arterton is already making waves. Starring as Rita O’Grady in the stage adaptation of hit movie Made in Dagenham, audiences have fallen for the former Bond girl in her new guise as West End star.
It’s not the first time she’s sung professionally though; in February 2013 Arterton revealed on The Graham Norton Show that she once worked as a Karaoke Hostess. Since those days Arterton’s star has continued a steady rise to the top – following her big break in films like St Trinian’s (2007) and Quantum of Solace (2008), the actress has been nominated for the BAFTA Rising Star Award and starred in a handful of Hollywood blockbusters.
The sense in London’s theatreland is that in Rita O’Grady the actress has met her match – a fiery and determined woman, the musical’s central character drives the plot at a fast pace. Set in 1968, the spirit of sixties revolution is in the air as the sewing machinists at Ford’s Dagenham plant strike for equal pay. Leading the strike, organising the women and trying to keep up a happy home, the odds are stacked against Rita – she’ll need every ounce of resilience to see the strike through and survive in the all-boys club world of the unions.
So ably and memorably played by Sally Hawkins in the 2010 film version of the same name, Gemma Arterton had big shoes to fill. Take one look at her back-catalogue of roles however and it’s pretty clear Arterton can pull off brassy characters – add to that her naturally warm and witty nature, the perfect complement to a book by One Man Two Guvnor’s writer Richard Bean, and it’s easy to see why her performance has been achieving rave reviews from audiences.
Besides which, the musical makes several departures from the highly popular film. Whilst some characters are lost and several sub-plots developed upon, this musical version is a great deal more upbeat too; catchy songs and showy numbers make the musical’s otherwise heavy subject matter digestible and the score, written by Bond composer David Arnold with lyrics by ‘Jerry Springer: The Opera’ writer Richard Thomas, is worth going along for by itself. Helmed by critically-acclaimed theatre director Rupert Goold, the show benefits from a wealth of talent both on stage and behind it.
Arterton’s star is the one that burns the brightest however, and her performance is one that deserves each and every crowd that is drawn in by it. Long best known as a ‘former Bond Girl’, this could easily prove to be her new career-defining role.
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