St Albans teen actress Asha Banks saves the day as she steps in to play lead in top London show

St Albans teenager Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre

St Albans teenager Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre - Credit: Marc Brenner

An 18-year-old actress and singer from St Albans helped save a 5-star London show from cancelling performances.

Asha Banks stepped in to play the lead female role with only a few hours’ notice at the prestigious Almeida Theatre.

Talented teen Asha was already playing the part of Thea in the theatre’s critically acclaimed revival of the Broadway rock musical hit Spring Awakening.

However, she played the lead part of Wendla for two shows last week when performers in the show contracted COVID.

St Albans teenager Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre

St Albans teenager Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London. - Credit: Marc Brenner

Four other understudies also took to the stage for their debuts in those roles – including Asha’s own understudy – as the theatre production, like so many others in the West End, was hit by the Omicron virus.

Steven Sater, the Tony Award, Grammy Award and Olivier Award-winning American writer of the show, posted on social media: “I’m still struggling to take it in.

"Five understudies and swings made their debut last night, allowing our show to go on. Five out of 13! With next to no rehearsal.”

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Understudies and swings have proved themselves to be the lifeblood of theatre productions as COVID-19 has taken over London in the past few weeks, with countless West End shows announcing cancellations by the day.

Asha’s performances proved a huge hit with the audience, who gave the show standing ovations both nights, including rap artist and songwriter Professor Green and Peaky Blinders actor Paul Anderson.

Many took to social media to congratulate the cast.

The character of Wendla opens the show with the song Mama Who Bore Me, and plays a central part in the story about a group of teenagers moving into adulthood and tackling hard-hitting issues of parental oppression, abuse and suicide.

Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre

Asha Banks in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre - Credit: Marc Brenner

The show is based on the 1891 play by German playwright Frank Wedekind.

Spring Awakening was a huge hit on Broadway 15 years ago, won multiple Tony awards and made global stars of Lea Michele and Jonathan Groff.

The current Almeida production features a young, dynamic cast and stars Laurie Kynaston, who won the Evening Standard Rising Star 2017 and Screen Star of Tomorrow 2018 awards.

Laurie Kynaston, centre playing Melchior, in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre.

Laurie Kynaston, centre, playing Melchior, in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre. - Credit: Marc Brenner

St Albans teen Asha is no stranger to the theatre, having performed in West End and touring musicals since she was cast in Les Misérables aged seven.

Before Spring Awakening, she played the lead part of Lisa James in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of The Boy in the Dress in Stratford-upon-Avon from 2019–2020, based on the David Walliams book, and with music by Robbie Williams.

Asha Banks (back row, right) and fellow cast members in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London.

Asha Banks (back row, right) and fellow cast members in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London. - Credit: Marc Brenner

Earlier this year she made her screen debut, flying out to Germany to shoot the Roland Emmerich-produced movie The Magic Flute, which is due to be released in 2022.

She also spent the summer of 2021 filming a Netflix series, soon to be announced.

Asha last performed in St Albans in 2018, singing Don't Rain on My Parade in the star-studded gala at the Alban Arena organised by Bob Golding to celebrate the venue's 50th anniversary.

She appeared alongside comedian and The Last Leg presenter Adam Hills, Gareth Gates and former EastEnders star Rita Simons.

Asha Banks and fellow cast members in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London.

Asha Banks and fellow cast members in Spring Awakening at the Almeida Theatre in London. - Credit: Marc Brenner

The Almeida’s production of Spring Awakening has been one of the best received shows of the last year, with critics and audiences alike.

It is directed by Rupert Goold, whose 2019 movie Judy won the Academy Award for Best Actress for Renée Zellweger.

Spring Awakening is now booking until January 29. Visit www.almedia.co.uk


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