Cassidy Janson is delighted to join the company when the West End comes to Chichester on July 30 for A Night at the Musicals featuring Cassidy plus Jenna Lee James and Matt Ford for outdoor summer fun in Priory Park. It will be a special day for her in every sense: the very happiest of many returns, she hopes.
Accompanied by London’s Orion Orchestra, she and the team will be offering popular songs from leading shows including Les Misérables, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Chess, Oliver!, South Pacific, Wicked and The Greatest Showman.
Cassidy freely admits that the past 18 months or so have been pretty traumatising for her and her industry: “I liken it to your beloved child being cast aside by the government as if it doesn’t matter.”
That’s the way it has felt for freelancers: “70 per cent of us are freelancers. There were a lot of us who were slipping through the net and not getting any help. We were the first phase to be shut and the last phase to be opened. You were just wondering what on earth it was going to take to get this industry back on its feet. We were all in the same storm, but the fact is that we were all in different-sized boats. And we were all just banging on the drum to get the government to be reasonable. They eventually gave out grants just before Christmas, but we had been closed since March. And now a lot of society is back to relatively normal, but not really the theatres yet. The theatres are still lagging behind.
“Thank God for Andrew Lloyd Webber. I don’t know what we would have done without him. It maybe doesn’t look like he has made much headway, but you have to think what things would be like if he hadn’t tried to get things open again.
“I have to say the first six weeks or so of lockdown were lovely, but once it stopped being lovely, it was really worrying, but then when things could start to open again last June and my boyfriend went back to his job and was able to start to lead a relatively normal existence, I was just like suddenly ‘Oh my God!’ He could get back to normal but I was realising the enormous chasm that was opening up between the arts and the rest of the world. It was obvious just how bad it was going to be.
“I have always been glass half full. I have always believed the arts were so important to society. But people don’t realise it. We all love books and music and opera and beautiful galleries. They are all art. They have all been made by artists, and I don’t think people realised how much relief they could give. But during the lockdown everyone was turning to Netflix and to books and so on.”
The arts were vital to getting us through: “And then when things could open a little, the rush for tickets was incredible. People were desperate to have that live human connection, that live sharing of experience.
“I went to see Joe Stilgoe perform, and I was watching him and he was so brilliant and so funny, and I just lost myself in how wonderful it was. I was thinking ‘This is what it is like to be an audience member.’ I was just so uplifted by the experience that I felt like I had been in therapy for 20 years. It felt like my whole state of mind had changed. I just felt that this is what the arts can do for human beings!”
Tickets for events at Priory Park are available from the Bel events website with the chance to buy a luxury gourmet picnic box. www.belevents.co.uk.
A Night at the Musicals is on Friday, July 30 and UK Queen on Saturday, July 31.
Tickets for A Night at the Musicals – adults £40 and children (5-13) £20. Tickets for UK Queen – adults £30, children (5-13) £15. Priority viewing tickets adults £40 and children (5-13) £20.