Theatre Preview: The Messiah, The Other Palace

the cast of The Messiah

the cast of The Messiah - Credit: Archant

Muswell Hill soprano Lesley Garrett throws herself into her first comic acting role in Patrick Barlow’s Nativity caper this Christmas.

Lesley Garrett as Mrs Leonora Fflyte

Lesley Garrett as Mrs Leonora Fflyte - Credit: Archant

Muswell Hill soprano Lesley Garrett literally throws herself into her first comic acting role in Patrick Barlow’s The Messiah this Christmas.

She is joined by Outnumbered star Hugh Dennis (on stage for the first time in 20 years) and John Marquez (Doc Martin) in the hilarious nativity comedy penned by the award winning playwright behind The 39 Steps.

Between them they play a cast of thousands - including Archangel Gabriel, Herod, God and an Ox - in the show about two actors and an opera singer performing a play called the Messiah. Along the way there is surreal comedy, a mid-life crisis and a plea for everyone to be nicer.

Garrett, who has a distinguished career with English National Opera, plays Mrs Leonora Fflyte, a wayward diva employed to sing excerpts from Handel’s oratorio at key moments in the Nativity saga.

Hugh Dennis as Maurice and John Marquez as Ronald

Hugh Dennis as Maurice and John Marquez as Ronald - Credit: Archant

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We caught up with her ahead of her run at The Other Palace in St James to ask a few quesitons.

Q Tell us about the idea behind the show?

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A Maurice Bromsgrove Rose writes a play called ‘The Messiah’ about the Nativity story. He and his friend Ronald decide to put the play on and book an opera singer – Mrs Lenora Fflyte – to sing excerpts from Handel’s favourite oratorio of the same name to highlight the important moments in the play.

Q You play an opera diva – is that going to be a stretch for you?

A I think I can manage, though Mrs Fflyte isn’t really like me. She’s rather grand and posh. Maurice booked her to give the proceedings a professional air; a touch of class if you like.

Q Why were you drawn to doing your first pure comedy role?

A I’ve never done a play of any kind before and this is the decade for trying things I’ve never done which will stretch me further and extend my abilities as a performer. Also I saw it in 1983 at the Tricycle Theatre and loved it!

Q Has it been fun to work on with Hugh Dennis and John Marquez?

A Are you kidding! It’s been like attending the most amazing masterclass on coming timing. Hugh and John are exceptionally talented and the kindest and funniest human beings on the planet!

Q Can audiences still expect some fabulous singing from you?

A You bet! I sing a total of 8 excerpts from Handel’s Messiah plus an aria from La Boheme and two Christmas carols! I also get to dance (as a Wise Man!) and I have some dialogue too!

Q Tell us your favourite gag from the show?

A Maurice, Ronald and Mrs F as the Three Wise Men are galloping (on camels of course) across the desert in pursuit of the famous Star in the East. Suddenly and unexpectedly it changes course and heads west! Ronald and Mrs F pursue the star, but Maurice can’t get his camel to turn around so he ends up in the wings. It brings the house down every night!

The Messiah runs at The Other Palace from December 3 to Saturday

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