History and Career
Gillian created the first original dance show in England that was a mixture of jazz, classical and words. It was called COLLAGES, it had original music by Dudley Moore and preceded shows of a similar format by many years.
Gillian was also ahead of MAMMA MIA with THE LOOK OF LOVE in 1989. Using Burt Bacarach's songs to tell the story, it was written by Gillian and Marvin Laird for the BBC, and Gillian called it a romantic adventure story: a love story using Ute Lemper, Daniel Massey, Philip Casnoff and Juliet Prowse.
Career and History
Gillian Lynne danced the Swan Queen in Swan Lake at the People's Palace, Mile End Road aged 16 and was seen by Ninette de Valois. She entered Sadler's Wells Ballet aged 17 and rose through the ranks to become a leading dancer. Her roles included: Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, one of three ballerinas in Symphonic Variations, Queen of the Willis in Giselle, Daughter in Job, Black Ballerina in Balanchines Ballet Imperial, Black Queen in de Valois Checkmate. Roles were especially created and written for her in Helpmann's Adam Zero, and as the Young Lover in Miracle in the Gorbals.
Royal Ballet Days
She became a star dancer at the London Palladium in pantomime and variety with ballets created for her by Pauline Grant. Amongst others, she appeared with Billy Daniels, Jimmy Durante, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Lynn, George Formby; she eventually had a 30 minute spot written for her in Puss in Boots in which she danced, sang and acted with Jimmy Edwards, Frankie Vaughn, Dick Emery.
She appeared in the film of The Master of Ballantrae in Sicily playing Errol Flynn's Tortugan lover for Warner Brothers. She had the lead in Puss in Boots in Coventry Empire written for her with supporting cast, Harry Seacombe, Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. She played Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair and the title role in Goody Two Shoes specially written for her both at Windsor Theatre Royal. Gillian also played Gwen Vendon's role in Can Can (Cole Porter) at the London Coliseum.
She and April Olrich became household names dancing on TV. Gillian performed The Dance of the Seven Veils in the great Rudolph Cartier's production of Salome for BBC TV and also played Puck in his A Midsummer's Nights Dream opposite John Justin and Natasha Parry.
She played female lead opposite Wilfred Pickles and John Stratton in Edgar Wallaces's The Frog BBC TV.
She narrated and mimed all 14 characters live with the Royal Philamonic orchestra in Peter and The Wolf for BBC TV, a unique performance.
Gillian returned to Covent Garden to dance the lead in Aida with Alexis Rassine and danced the lead in Samson and Delilah at Sadler's Wells. She played the lead in The 5 Past 8 Show in Edinburgh and Glasgow, opposite Ricky Fulton and Jack Milroy. She choreographed her first ballet for Western Theatre Ballet, The Owl and the Pussycat with an original score by Dudley Moore. She also choreographed and did musical staging for England Our England, directed by John Dexter, score again by Dudley Moore. Gillian also choreographed Breakaway for the Scottish Theatre Ballet.
Gillian conceived, choreographed, directed and starred in the first jazz classical dance company in England, presenting Collages at the Edinburgh Festival. All original scores by Dudley Moore. This was 1963 and the first time jazz modern and classical dance had been welded into a new form of dance - it was the hit of the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh receiving rave reviews. Collages went on to be filmed by the BBC with Melvyn Bragg directing and subsequently had a season at the Savoy Theatre in London. It immediately put Gillian on the map as a choreographer. David Merrick, the then 'King of Broadway' producer flew to Edinburgh especially to see it and vowed he would put her on Broadway within a year. He did, and her first musical there was The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd at the Shubert Theatre starring Anthony Newley. In between the Edinburgh Festival and Broadway Gillian made three movies in her first year as a choreographer including Wonderful Life starring Cliff Richard.
She remained instrumental in the development of jazz dance in Britain and her distinctive style led to groundbreaking work on film, television and stage. Gillian's 50 plus Broadway, West End and International shows include as Director: Tonight at Eight, Once Upon a Time, The Match Girls, Tomfoolery, Jeeves Takes Charge, Cabaret, Avow, What The World Needs Now, Gigi, and Dick Whittington. For the Royal Shakespeare Company she directed The Boyfriend, co-directed A Midsummer Night's Dream and staged The Comedy of Errors, The Way of the World, As You Like It, Once in a Lifetime and the acclaimed The Secret Garden - which won Best New Musical in the Theatregoers' Choice Awards.
As Choreographer and Stager her numerous productions include: Pickwick, How Now Dow Jones, The Ambassador, The Card, Phil The Fluter, Hans Christian Andersen, The Yeoman of the Guard, My Fair Lady, Songbook, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Le Malade Imaginaire. .
Her work for the Royal Opera House includes The Trojans, The Midsummer Marriage, The Flying Dutchman and Parsifal and for the ENO the direction of Offenbach's Bluebeard.
Gillian's ballets include: Breakaway, Fool on the Hill, Lippizaner, The Brontes, Journey (Bolshoi Ballet), Some You Win (Irek Mukhamedov Company), and A Simple Man which was commissioned by the BBC and won her the 1988 BAFTA for Direction and Choreography. Starring Christopher Gable and Moira Shearer, it was the first dramatic ballet conceived, choreographed and directed for TV and was an example of how dance can look if it is filmed by its choreographer. She put it on stage for the Northern Ballet Theatre in 1987 and it became one of the ballets that helped project that company into its special place as the leading dance drama company. Her BBC TV production of Le Morte d'Arthur received the coveted Samuel G. Engel Award in America and she staged many of the Muppet Shows. Her 11 feature films include Half-a-Sixpence, Man of La Mancha and Yentl.
However, she is probably best known for her worldwide direction/choreography of Cats, and her staging of Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love all for Andrew Lloyd Webber. In 2006 a new version of Phantom of the Opera opened to great acclaim in Las Vegas in a specially commissioned theatre built within the Venetian Hotel.
In 2006 Gillian was asked by the Royal Academy of Dance to create four variations for their bi-annual Fonteyn Nureyev Young Dancers Competition. This aims to focus attention on the popularity of ballet with young people and to identify, encourage and nurture talent for the long term future of British ballet.
Olivier Award, Best Musical for the RSC's COMEDY OF ERRORS
Golden Rose of Montreux Award for THE MUPPET SHOW
Best Musical, Best Production awarded in Australia by ABC-TV for THE FOOL ON THE HILL, a special featuring the Australian Ballet
Olivier Award, Best Play ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Olivier Award, Best Musical, SONGBOOK
Olivier Award, Outstanding Achievement of the Year in a Musical awarded for choreography of CATS
Silver Order of Merit, awarded in Austria for direction of CATS, Vienna
Saumel G Engel International TV Drama Award awarded in America for the direction of BBC TV's THE MORTE D'ARTHUR
BAFTA for conception, direction and choreography of A SIMPLE MAN for BBC TV
Moliere Award for best musical of the Year for CATS, Paris
The Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award given by the Royal Academy of Dance
And in 1997 Gillian was awarded the CBE .