Former Horsham and Billingshurst student actor lands leading role in West End

Jessi with Amanda Holden
Jessi with Amanda Holden

A student actor who took classes in Horsham and Billingshurst has landed a role in the West End.

Showdown Theatre Arts said: “One of our students, Jessica-Alice McCluskey was recently spotted by Director Maria Friedman whilst performing in an amateur production of ‘Sister Act’ in Haselmere.

“Jessi was asked to audition for an upcoming tour and West End transfer of ‘Stepping Out’, starring Amanda Holden, Tamzin Outhwaite and Tracy Ann Oberman to name a few, she won the role of ‘Lynne’, a bubbly student nurse who attends a weekly tap class.

“This is Jessi’s West End debut and second professional credit, the first being the mini tour of the show that visited Bath, Chichester and Richmond theatre’s late last year. The West End run is currently selling tickets until June 2017.

“When asked about the experience and process of winning the role, Jessi said: “When I was rehearsing for ‘Sister Act’ a year ago I had no idea of how much my life was going to change and the calibre of actors I was going to be working with. When I heard Maria Friedman was in the audience, I just knew I had to introduce myself and I cheekily asked if she had any parts available, I was thrilled when she explained that she would like me to audition for ‘Stepping Out’. When I found out I officially had an audition, I was amazed but ready for the challenge and then when I actually got the phone call from Maria to say I had got the job, I could not believe it. It took a while for it to sink in but then I was ready to work my socks off!”

Jessi trained at Showdown Theatre Arts a part time theatre school for performers ages 5-25 based in Surrey and West Sussex, who wish to pursue a career in the arts.

Showdown Principal Carli Jones is thrilled for Jessi to have finally had her big break: “Jessi came to us when she was just 18 and she had bags of potential, she trained hard every week, taking every opportuntiy that we gave her and never missed a class, she is more than deserving of this huge step in her career. Not everyone can make full time drama school work for them, for various reasons including cost and personal circumstances however at Showdown we try to show the students that they can work hard and still achieve their goals, we couldn’t be happier for Jessi and also for what this represents to the rest of our students.”

When asked about her time at Showdown, Jessi said: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without the experience I have had with Showdown; from their multiple yearly shows and the chance to play various roles at a high standard to their international exchange programme to Baltimore and New York, which I was lucky enough to be selected for, for three consecutive years and various workshops and classes taught by experienced West End performers I feel I have grown as a performer since I joined five years ago and was given the tools to be prepared for this opportunity when it came along.”

Press night was a starry event with big names such as Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelley, David Walliams, Alesha Dixon, Sharon D Clarke, Miranda Hart and many more in the audience.