Biography of British actress Louise English. Photos L-R: An early publicity photo; singing on The Benny Hill Show; publicity photo; after the Hello, Dolly! show.


 
LOUISE ENGLISH BIOGRAPHY
 

Louise English brings a distinctive method of performing to her varied stage, television and film roles, gracefully combining a delightful sense of wit and élan with beauty and intelligence.

 

Early Life and Education

Louise was born in London into a family devoted to the arts. Louise's mother, Elizabeth (Liz) English was an actress, singer and dancer who appeared in Evening Stars, a review that toured with Benny Hill during his early show business career. She later worked for the BBC.

Louise describes her mother: “She was a wonderful singer and was in the films Oliver! Half a Sixpence and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and she used to be a backing singer for Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck in the 60s and she made some wonderful recordings. It's actually her voice on the Bobby Goldsboro song 'Honey'.” She was also the voice of Marie the kitten in the classic Disney film, The Aristocats.

And of her father Louise says, “My father was a classical musician and conductor with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and he played the violin as well.”

Not surprisingly, she’s always wanted to be a performer.

“I'm afraid that music was born in me and, apparently, I used to stand in the wings and desperately want to get on the stage. It must have been horrendous for my poor mother and father and I think they did their utmost to stop me from doing it but it didn't work!

When I was two-and-a-half, I was sent to this ballet lesson and I picked it up and started dancing. I used to go once a week and then I got a scholarship to the Stella Mann School of Ballet. I just loved dancing. Stella Mann very kindly gave me a personal scholarship.”

Ballet school instilled a lifelong discipline into Louise with lessons all day and dancing between 5-7 p.m. She enjoyed her time at dance school, saying:

“That was very good training, very hard. We took all our O-levels and A-levels very early. The idea was to get our education finished as quickly as possible then get into Royal Ballet School."

Louise excelled in academics as well, earning a very high standard in both French and German languages. She also developed her acting skills at the well-known Anna Scher Theatre School.

 

Early Career

Louise began her showbiz career at an early age when, while still at school, her superb dance skills earned her the role of the ballerina in the classic children’s film Bugsy Malone.

“I was so thrilled to be chosen but my ballet school didn’t really approve very much — it wasn’t encouraged. I was on a private scholarship, awarded to me by the headmistress, so it must have come as a bit of a shock to her when I said I was going to leave to be an actress.”

She was selected as Butlin's Holiday Princess soon thereafter and then won a beauty contest sponsored by British Leyland and Weekend Magazine.

While still in school she auditioned for a place with the famous Pan's People dance troupe and was offered a contract.

"When I told the principal I was not going to join the Royal Ballet but intended to go into Pan's People she was somewhat shocked and gasped, 'Who!'. She always wanted me to go to the Royal Ballet but my plan was completely different. I never wanted to be a ballet dancer. I wanted to sing, dance and act, to get into musical theatre.”

She accepted the Pan’s People offer and, only a couple days after completing her schooling, began a year with the group that was filled with appearing on television spots and commercials and modelling at fashion shows; plus a Christmas season with Jimmy Tarbuck.

After wowing the audience at an Isle of Wight showcase (see Interviews), it was obvious that singing was to become an important part of Louise's career as well. She performed as the featured singer in a cabaret act that toured the UK, Channel Islands and Bangkok and soon formed her own group, Patches, which enjoyed great success at London clubs.

Louise wasted no time in further developing her acting skills as she began her theatre career with the roles of Olivia in Twelfth Night and Edna in Harlequinade.

 

Television Fame

Louise soon had a chance to present her acting, singing and dancing talent to a world-wide audience. She appeared as a member of Pan’s People on The Benny Hill Show and was then selected by Benny Hill to appear in sketches as a cast member.

She explains: “I met Benny when I was in the group [Pan’s People] and he came to see us. When I first worked with Benny he didn’t have the ‘Hill’s Angels'. He was looking for five or six girls who could sing, dance and act in comedy sketches. I was given a line in a sketch, then a sketch was written for me, and after that I became his leading lady.”

Louise's outstanding comic timing allowed her to more than hold her own with one of the true masters of comedy and she was soon chosen to be one of the original members of the famous Hill’s Angels.

She quickly became the featured performer and her solo renditions of classic songs including La Vie En Rose, Pour Un Flirt Avec Toi, Paradise and Milord became fan favourites and have been seen by more than 1 billion television viewers in over 140 countries.

Louise says of working with Benny, “Lovely Benny. He was a very professional man to work with and extremely funny and a very sensitive man. He was a super guy."

And the admiration was mutual with Benny saying of Louise, "She definitely has that bit extra. She is very talented."

Louise’s beauty, talent and charm made a lasting impression on young men (and their fathers) around the world and perhaps no place more so than the United States.

“They wanted me to go to America in the 1980s, but I didn’t go. I didn’t want to leave my mum, and my dogs, and my home. I’m too much of a home girl,” she explains.

And the admiration continues to this day. "They loved him and his shows in America and I get lots of fan letters from over there," says Louise.

Respect for Louise’s skills soon earned her guest star appearances on many television shows including a featured dramatic turn as Cherry on Lytton's Diary; the role of Lucia Morella, Karl Howman’s Italian girlfriend, on two series of the popular BBC series Brush Strokes; and as co-host for the pilot of the BBC game show Full Swing.

Louise was also a featured guest star on TV entertainment specials including: Elkie and Our Gang with Elkie Brooks and Gemma Craven, Saturday Royal, and Entertainment Express (all choreographed by Nigel Lythgoe); The Mike Yarwood Show, Dream Alley and Starburst.

She also earned additional credits on a variety of popular television shows including Fresh Fields, Full House, Chance in a Million, Give Us a Clue and Don’t Rock the Boat.

 

Feature Films

Louise honed her acting skills on television and in repertory theatre and was soon asked to appear in movies including the featured role of Diana Caulder in the cult-classic The House of the Long Shadows with Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, John Carradine, and Peter Cushing (now available on remastered DVD); and in The Wicked Lady with Faye Dunaway and Denholm Elliott.  

Louise says, “You learn a lot [doing films]. And I enjoy doing films as much as theatre.”

 

Theatre and Musical Theatre

Louise is a veteran of many highly successful national tours including nine-months as the lead in Mike Harding's hilarious comedy Fur Coat and No Knickers, Ted Willis' play Tommy Boy, Tom Lehrer's Tom Foolery and Russ Abbot's Madhouse. She also traveled to Stockholm to perform as the lead in Neil Simon's I Ought To Be In Pictures.

She has showcased her acting, dancing, and singing skills in many musicals including playing the highly acclaimed role of Louise in Gypsy at the Crucible Theatre, selling out every performance. She stole the show as Bella Spellgrove on the cast recorded CD of Sherlock Holmes The Musical, and displayed her lovely soprano voice in Maxwell — The Musical and Italian Idol — The Musical.

The Adelphi Theatre in London's West End is a place that holds very fond memories for Louise, for when she was a girl she used to sit in the orchestra pit and watch her father conduct Charlie Girl. And the Adelphi Theatre was the site of her breakthrough West End performance as she earned great acclaim playing Sally Smith in the much-loved musical Me and My Girl, with Karl Howman — breaking all box office records.

She was asked back for a special eight-week run of Me and My Girl and then was asked to perform the role of Sally Smith for an additional year at the Adelphi Theatre with Les Dennis.

And, as Louise explains, the fond memories continue.

"When I did Me and My Girl in the West End, the wonderful and great Benny Hill came to see me on a Wednesday matinee. He was very ill at the time, it was just about the last few days of his life, and he did struggle. I remember him sitting about four rows from the front and he stood up and applauded me at the end and he was crying. That was amazing because he was like a Dad to me."

Louise also starred in the national tour of My Dearest Ivor, an original musical that honoured the legendary Ivor Novello. In this wonderful show she played eight roles and sang ten songs!

Louise comments, “That was a lovely tour, I really enjoyed that. I love the Novello music.”

Not content with singing, dancing and performing comedy, Louise sank her acting teeth into meaty dramatic roles as Bella Manningham in the Victorian thriller, Gaslight; as Sybil Chase in Private Lives; and as Liz in Shadow of Doubt.

She has appeared as the lead in many other plays including: Absent Friends, Suddenly at Home, Don't Dress For Dinner, Bedside Manners, There's A Girl In My Soup, Love Off The Shelf, Strip Poker and Cider with Rosie.

With such great range as an actress, what genre does Louise prefer?

"Having that diversity is something I’ve always strived for. It would have been very easy to have just done light entertainment all the time, but I wanted to also do straight plays and Shakespeare and luckily I’ve been able to do that. I enjoy a challenge – that’s what it’s all about for me."

 

Pantomimes

Louise is one of the UK’s top pantomime performers and has starred as the principal girl or boy in over ten pantomimes throughout the UK including: Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk, Dick Whittington, Mother Goose, The Bells of Notre Dame and a record-breaking run as Snow White. 

She has also played such wonderful characters as the Princess in Aladdin, Mrs Darling and the Magical Mermaid in Peter Pan, the Forest Fairy in Snow White and  Maid Marion in Babes in the Wood.

 

2000-2005 Shows:

During the millennium, Louise starred as Lady Chiltern in the UK tour of An Ideal Husband and as the lead in the Christmas pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk at the Hall for Cornwall.

The following year found Louise portraying Grace Farrell in Annie The Musical - for the first time - at the Theatre Royal Lincoln. And Louise was delighted to reprise her wonderful role as Sally Smith in the sold-out Christmas production of Me and My Girl at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.

During 2002, Louise earned kudos for her performance as Grace Farrell in the first of several Annie The Musical UK and Ireland tours. She played Evelyn in Absent Friends and Helen Tenby in Suddenly at Home, both at the Theatre Royal Windsor.

She also enjoyed starring as the fairy tale princess Snow White during the 2002-2003 Christmas pantomime season at the Theatre Royal Lincoln — once again setting a box office record.

Not one to bask in her successes, Louise displayed her broad range of skills as she tread the boards during 2003 as Anne Norbury in William Fairchild's The Sound of Murder; as Molly Forsyth in William Douglas Home's comedy The Secretary Bird; and as Vivien Norwood in Francis Durbridge's thriller, House Guest, all at the Theatre Royal Windsor.

Later that same year she starred as Sally in Bedside Manners with television favourite John Inman at the Bournemouth Pier Theatre. As an additional treat for her fans, Louise reprised her tremendous success as Grace Farrell, earning rave reviews during a sold-out September through November 2003 UK and Ireland tour of Annie The Musical.

Louise discusses the challenge of performing such a wide range of roles:

"I try to choose a variety of work – and good work. It’s lovely to be able to do all these different roles. That’s the beauty of doing what I do, it’s such a joy to work on it. It’s great fun," she says.

Louise travelled to Singapore during the spring of 2004, to play Teresa Phillips in Alan Ayckbourn's acclaimed farce, How The Other Half Loves. She then reprised her hugely successful role as Grace Farrell in Annie The Musical in Kuala Lumpur and in an August 2004 through January 2005 sold-out UK national tour.

She returned to Kuala Lumpur in 2005 to star as Nancy in Oliver! The Musical at the Genting International Showroom. She reprised her signature role as Grace Farrell in Annie The Musical 2005, touring the UK and Ireland from June through November and then played the roles of Mrs Darling and the Marilyn Monroe-esque Magical Mermaid in the Christmas pantomime Peter Pan at the Manchester Opera House.

 

2006-2010 Shows:

Two-thousand and six found Louise reprising her acclaimed role as Grace Farrell for the last time in a three-month UK tour of Annie The Musical that played through November. She wrapped-up the year starring as Mrs Darling and The Mermaid in Peter Pan at the Wycombe Swan Theatre.

During the 2007-2008 Christmas pantomime season, Louise played the role of the Forest Fairy in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs at the Hawth Theatre, Crawley.

Two-thousand and eight was yet another busy year as Louise starred as sophisticated hat shop owner Irene Molloy to great acclaim in an eight-month UK tour of the smash-hit musical Hello, Dolly! that ran from February through August 2008.

She barely had time to catch her breath before beginning a nine-month tour in September as the leading lady in the new musical All The Fun Of The Fair with David Essex.

Louise describes her character:

"I play a gypsy called Rosa, who's desperately in love with Levi Lee (David Essex), and who has a daughter. She's a tough woman, she knows what she wants and she doesn't get messed around by people and she's nobody's fool. It's a fabulous role - completely different from Irene Molloy, who's very soft and feminine. This woman is sexy, she's voluptuous and she knows what she wants and goes and gets it.”

2009 found Louise continuing in the role of Rosa in the new musical All The Fun Of The Fair, with David Essex, which toured the UK through May. She is also featured on the original cast-recorded All The Fun Of The Fair compact disc performing her solo interpretation of A Winter's Tale and her duet with David Essex, You’re In My Heart.

Louise says of the tour, “It is hard work touring and travelling round the country but the audience response is wonderful, which makes it all worthwhile.” She continues, “The show is doing phenomenally well. It’s very rewarding to see the audience standing on their feet at the end and then to read these five-star reviews.”

Christmas 2009 found Louise playing the roles of Mrs Darling/Mia the Mermaid/Indian Chief in the Peter Pan pantomime at the Marlowe Theatre Arena in Canterbury.

How does Louise endure such long and demanding tours year-after-year? She gives a quick lesson on professionalism that everyone could benefit from by taking to heart, saying:

“It’s a discipline. You have to give a hundred per cent. You’ve got people out there who have paid a lot of money to see you. As a professional I certainly couldn’t come off stage knowing I’d only given 90. That has come from my ballet training. The long, long hours I used to do at the bar, training for hours and hours to get one move absolutely correct."

Louise starred as Miss Peterson/Jacqui Henderson in Night Fright: The Nightmare of Your Life at the Gordon Craig Theatre during February 2010.

She then reprised her starring role as leading lady Rosa, a beautiful and mysterious Irish fortuneteller, in a highly acclaimed smash-hit return to the West End in All The Fun Of The Fair that played from April through September at the Garrick Theatre and sang on the West End version of the All The Fun Of The Fair CD.

 

2011-2013 Shows:

Louise wrapped her original leading lady role as Rosa, a beautiful and mysterious Irish fortune teller, in the smash-hit 2011/2012 UK tour of the West End musical All The Fun Of The Fair, where the lovely lady starred alongside pop legend David Essex as Levi Lee and is excited to announce that an All The Fun Of The Fair DVD filmed on tour is now available.  She is also featured on the documentary House Of The Long Shadows...Revisited DVD.

 

2013 found Louise playing the role of Gina in a private rehearsed reading of the new high-octane drama Truth, Lies, Diana. And during the Christmas pantomime season Louise played the Fairy Godmother we all dreamed of in Cinderella at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford. 

 

 

2014 Shows:

 

Louise has just wrapped playing the original role of Alice in the world premiere of the 2014 leg of BLOCKBUSTER The Musical.

 

Looking Ahead

Louise reflects on her career-to-date, saying: “Everything I’ve ever done I’ve done with great pride. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve worked with some lovely people and I’ve had some great experiences. And I think it’s lovely to keep testing yourself, trying something new, and seeing how far you can go.”

With all that Louise has done in her career, what does she aspire to?

“I think I'd like to do some more television. What I’d like to do is something I haven’t done before – maybe a role on a soap. To be a goody-two-shoes that turns into an absolute monster – wear nice clothes – that sort of thing, [also] a lovely, good television drama would be fantastic."

Of course, musicals are always on Louise's mind. "I'd like to have done My Fair Lady very much. I think it's a lovely musical," she says.

And with Louise's great popularity in pantomimes she further reveals her ambitions saying, "I would love to play the Wicked Queen. Maybe playing Rosa will lead me down a different road and away from the goody-two-shoes towards the naughty ones?" 

 

Off-Stage

And what does Louise enjoy doing when she’s not on stage?

“I love taking my dogs for a walk and I love decorating. I like doing houses up. I’m quite creative but I like getting up ladders and taking all the old wallpaper down. One day I’m going to learn rewiring.”

And Louise wants to thank all of her "loving and loyal fans" for your "incredible kindness and steadfast support".

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