Drawing: Peter Davison in Legally Blonde and Gypsy

British actor Peter Davison came to prominence as Tristan Farnon in James Herriot’s ALL CREATURES GREAT AND SMALL before becoming the fifth incarnation of the Doctor in DOCTOR WHO. He is coincidently the real life father in law of the tenth Doctor David Tennant.

Apart from his extensive TV work Peter has a distinguished stage career including two of his recent appearances, as Professor Callahan in LEGALLY BLONDE and Herbie in GYPSY, both at the Savoy Theatre in London. He was nominated for an Olivier Award for the latter. I dropped this sketch off at the theatre, having missed Peter a couple of times at the stage door and it eventually came back signed.

Drawing: Natasha J. Barnes in Funny Girl

Natasha J Barnes

“She may have gone out an understudy, but she came back a star”.

Julian Marsh’s famous declaration to Peggy Sawyer in 42nd STREET sums up Natasha J Barnes’ fairytale rise since taking over the lead role of Fanny Brice in the West End transfer of FUNNY GIRL by his month at the Savoy Theatre due to Sheridan Smith’s recent sabbatical due to health issues. It’s also a line a few London critics have been using in their praise of her performance.

Natasha is no novice to the stage, appearing in AMERICAN IDOL, CHESS and SPRING AWAKENING and was Sheridan’s understudy in the Menier Chocolate Factory run before the West End transfer.

Initially she faced disgruntled ticket holders who had paid to see Sheridan play the role immortalised by Barbara Streisand in the 1964 Broadway production and subsequent film.

“I’ve certainly never seen a more beautiful performer than Sheridan,” said Natasha, “but I have real faith in the audience and I honestly feel that no matter how disappointed people might feel that they booked to see her and got me they will find a way of enjoying the show. They’ve got two hours of me so I’m going to do the best that I can do.”
And do her best she certainly did, receiving a standing ovation. She stunned the critics and judging by social media, using the old show biz cliche, ‘a star is born.’

“The 25 year-old isn’t just a serviceable stand-in, she’s a sensation in her own right, every bit as good as Sheridan Smith” wrote The Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish. “She has a radiant charisma and twinkling mischief that’s irresistible.”

The added piquancy is that her whirlwind story is akin to that being played out on stage, the bio-drama of the early 20th century American vaudeville star Fanny Brice.
Celia Walden, also in The Telegraph said “with her heart-shaped face, impish smile and little curvy body could pass as Smith’s sister.”

When I was drawing this sketch I thought she had more than a passing resemblance to Imelda Staunton who some critics have likened her both physically and performance wise.

I joined a supportive crowd at the stage door after Saturday’s matinee where mutual appreciation flowed. Natasha seemed genuinely overwhelmed with the adoration and was more than happy to sign my sketch.

Sketch: Imelda Staunton in Gypsy

imelda gypsy

Jonathan Kent’s dazzling revival of Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy has gathered a galaxy of five star reviews, in particular for Imelda Stunton in the lead role of the legendary Momma Rose.

Transferring from Chichester Festival Theatre, the production has extended its run at London’s Savoy due to huge demand. It is considered by many to be America’s greatest musical, playing Broadway no less than five times, this is the first showing of the celebrated musical in London in over 40 years.

In what Matt Trueman in Variety calls, “a helluva performance… Staunton makes Momma Rose every bit the equal of Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s doomed salesman, but where he hawks his wares door-to-door, she’s selling her family.”

Tom Eames in Digital Spy simply states “Staunton is ridiculously brilliant as Rose” and Michael Billington in The Guardian says it’s “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in musical theatre”.

Sondheim was so impressed with Imelda’s turn as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd that he insisted she starred as Momma Rose in this revival, often called Broadway’s answer to King Lear, due to Momma Rose’s single minded devotion and delusional attempts to turn her two daughters into vaudeville stars.

When people first see the diminutive Imelda off stage, they are taken aback. One lady whispered to her friend at the stat door after a performance,”how can so much power come out of that tiny person?”

I was told that Imelda was only signing programmes, so out of respect for that I left my sketch with the stage door team with a return envelope. As usual, Imelda sent it back, graphed, a five six star signer.