Pregnancy leads to two actors sharing South Pacific role

Last Updated on 24 May 2021 by Showcall Editorial Team

Gina Beck and Alex Young will both play Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre this summer

South Pacific Chichester
Left to right: Gina Beck and Alex Young

Two actors, Gina Beck and Alex Young, will share the lead role of Nellie Forbush in South Pacific at Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) in a “trailblazing” move to accommodate the former’s pregnancy.

Beck, who was confirmed for the role in February, will rehearse and open the role as planned with performances from 5 July and a press night on 13 July and then alternate with Young from 5 August. Young will then take over full-time from 23 August for the remainder of the run.

The production of Rodgers & Hammerstein musical South Pacific, postponed from 2020 due to Covid-19, also stars Julian Ovenden as Emile, Joanna Ampil as Bloody Mary, Keir Charles as Luther Billis and Rob Houchen as Cable.

Beck said: “I’m so excited to be finally playing Nellie at Chichester and am so grateful to CFT for all their support. I’m hoping their trailblazing attitude will spread across the industry to create a future which accommodates those women who want to start a family.

“When carrying my first child, I became unemployable and unpaid for six months of my pregnancy because I looked… well… pregnant. Like most women, I wasn’t unable to work during this time but, because of some of the industry’s more conventional attitudes, financial pressures greatly impacted my choice to return to work when my daughter was just four months old.

“Thanks too, and huge respect, to my dear friend and fellow mum Alex Young for taking over the reins later in our run, when even I think eight shows a week may be too much.”

Daniel Evans, artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre (CFT) and director of South Pacific, added: “It’s utterly joyful news that Gina is expecting her second baby and that her long-awaited Chichester debut in the role of Nellie will take place as planned from 5 July.

“I know that Gina is as delighted as I am that Alex Young will share the role with her at certain performances from 5 August, and take over full-time for the final weeks of the run to allow Gina to focus full-time on her next production.

“Our amazing company – of 31 adults, six children and 15 musicians – starts rehearsals today. We are looking forward to exploring this great musical – which invites us to confront the differences within and outside ourselves – through a contemporary lens, and revealing its pertinence to our times.”

Young is returning to CFT where she starred opposite Matt Lucas in Me and My Girl in 2018. She and Beck appeared together in Daniel Evans’ production of Show Boat in Sheffield and the West End.

Young said: “To be sharing this gorgeous role with Gina is a huge honour. She is someone I respect and admire enormously as a woman, actress and fellow mother. I’m very grateful to Dan and the team for creating a safe, sensitive and generous environment for parents in the industry.

“Being a working mum is a challenge, whatever line of work you’re in, but could feel almost impossible when you work in the arts, so I’m thrilled this important progress is being made.”

About Mark Ludmon 318 Articles
Mark Ludmon has been a journalist for over 20 years, specialising in theatre, hospitality and drinks after starting in regional daily newspapers. He has an MA in early modern literature and history, focusing on Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, and a theatre studies MA from Royal Central School of Speech & Drama. He is a former panellist for the Olivier Awards. He tweets at @MarkLudmon.