Part 1: Before they were famous... 10 stars who East Anglia saw first
PUBLISHED: 09:45 21 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:45 21 February 2017
The stars weren’t always stars, and our region has played its part in shaping the careers of some of the most famous performers in this country and internationally. Take a look at 10 of the stars who began their road to fame in East Anglia.
1. Cary Grant
The epitome of suave, he was Hollywood’s go-to man for wise-cracking comedies like Charade and Hitchcock thrillers like North by Northwest. But his early years were a far cry from California. Born Archibald Alexander Leach in Bristol in 1904, he had an unhappy childhood. Expelled from school in March 1918, he joined the touring Pender’s Troupe as an acrobat and came to the Norwich Hippodrome on May 14 – a few months after his 14th birthday – appearing as part of the ‘Nippy Nine’. While the troupe were in New York two years later, he decided to stay on. The rest is Hollywood...
2. Joe Pasquale
The comedian, TV presenter and actor started off his road to showbiz fame as a greencoat at Warners Holiday camp in Corton, near Lowestoft, where he was operations manager. We caught up with the squeaky-voiced hopeful on September 17, 1987 when young Joe, then 26, was planning what was to be his breakthrough national television appearance on the top-rated talent show New Faces. “I have six and a half minutes to show what I can do,” he told us. “And if the viewers like me and vote for me, my career could really take off.” They did, it did.
3. Ronnie Corbett
The Cromer summer show in 1954 might have been called ‘Take It Easy’ but for the cast it was anything but. On stage at 8pm nightly (plus 3pm on Wednesdays) the eight-strong concert party joked, sang and danced their way through 22 scenes. And that was only part of it - there were four separate programme which changed every four days. ‘Easy’ money? Not really. The cast was led by Graham Stark, but it was one of the names that further down the bill who would go on to be beloved by millions. He was just a 23-year-old jobbing actor and entertainer called ‘Ronald Corbett’ in those days.
4. Sir Van Morrison
The singer was only 20 when he popped up at the Washington Club in Norwich on February 10 1966 in our never-before-published cover photo. The son of a Belfast shipyard worker, he was heavily influenced by his father’s country, gospel and blues records. He was a singer, saxophonist and guitarist by his teens, forming his band, Them, in 1964. Two years in, they had two hit singles – Baby, Please Don’t Go and Here Comes the Night but ambitious Van wanted more. A few months after their Norfolk gig, the band split. His 1967 solo hit Brown Eyed Girl was followed by Astral Weeks, one of the greatest albums ever made.
5. Ed Sheeran
In 2008 the Framlingham 17-year-old was already an experienced performer when he entered the fifth Next Big Thing musical showcase, organised by the EDP, Evening News and Future Radio. The finale at the UEA LCR stage in November that year saw Ed beat five other acts to win, despite breaking four strings on his guitar. He said: “Winning the Next Big Thing made a big difference. I wouldn’t have got here without it.” He went on to appear at Ipswich Music Day in 2009 and 2010, later lending his name to one of the stages. He’s not done too badly since then: 28 hit singles (include three number ones) and millions of sales have made him one of the most in-demand performers and songwriters of his generation
6. Caroline Quentin
Showbiz fame seemed a very long way off indeed for the young dancer who joined Bernie Clifton’s summer show at the Sparrow’s Nest Theatre in Lowestoft in 1977. The future star was barely 17 when she made her stage debut as part of the troupe supporting the entertainer, who was a regular on Crackerjack and best-known for ‘riding’ Oswald the Ostrich. Her massive television successes in Men Behaving Badly and Jonathan Creek were still a few years away, but this was definitely the last time the actress and comedian ever had to play second string to a life-sized bird puppet.
7. Lee Mead
Theatre and TV star Lee Mead, who recently moved home to his native Southend, rose to fame on the BBC series Any Dream Will Do where he won the title role in the West End revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. His first job was at Potters Resort at Hopton, near Lowestoft, where he was part of the show team. It all began here!
8. Justin Hawkins
Justin Hawkins, lead singer of The Darkness, grew up in Lowestoft. He went to Kirkley High School – now East Point Academy – at the same time our own entertainment writer Wayne Savage. They were in the same play – Faust and Furious – and he attended Savage’s 18th birthday party at the request of a friend who fancied the rocker. Sadly he turned up with another girl.
9. David Essex
His 1970s teen heart-throb days were still a long way off when this fresh-faced performer appeared at Norwich Theatre Royal in December 1967. Can you spot him – in a rather fetching poncho – at the drums? He was appearing (with Andrew Wilson, David Lipson and Nathan Dambuza) in a touring version of the show The Fantasticks, a musical by Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones - no, not that one. It wasn’t the first time he’d appeared in our region – he was a regular performer at the Maid’s Head in King’s Lynn, for example. By the time he reached Norwich he had recorded five unsuccessful singles. Then in 1971 he won the lead roll in Godspell.
10. Myleene Klass
She is now best known for being a musician, model and TV presenter, but back in 1988 she was a schoolgirl celebrating her team reaching the regional finals of the Meccano Young Technologist of the Year contest. Myleene was then a pupil at St Mary’s RC Primary School, in Great Yarmouth, and went on to Notre Dame High School in Norwich before studying music at Great Yarmouth College. Growing up in Gorleston, she often featured in the local press, making the front page of the Great Yarmouth Mercury in 1986 as a dancer in a show by Kinza’s Academy of Dance at the Royalty Theatre.