Having a continuing career on screen for CBeebies, Jennie Dale plays Captain Captain in Swashbuckle, has her own series Jennie’s Fitness in 5, and performs in the CBeebies Shakespeare plays, taking shows such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It to Shakespeare’s Globe. Jennie is returning to the CBeebies pantomime this year, for their production of Robin Hood, and she will be playing Fairy in Beauty and the Beast for Sheffield Lyceum’s Christmas show, alongside a cast including Duncan James, Max Fulham and Damian Williams, and runs from Friday 8th December to Sunday 7th January. Previously, Jennie played Debs in the original Plymouth and West End cast of Elf the Musical, as well as the Arena Tour, and Matron in The Midnight Gang and Parchester in Me & My Girl (both at Chichester Festival Theatre). Other stage projects for Jennie have included the UK and International Tour of MAMMA MIA! as Rosie, Les Misérables – understudying and playing Madame Thénardier, and Singin’ in the Rain in Paris. On screen, Jennie was in the cast of Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas, and alongside her acting career, she is a choreographer and vocal coach, and teaches at Genesis in Worthing. Speaking with Jennie, she told us about playing Captain Captain in CBeebies’ Swashbuckle, performing in pantomimes including for CBeebies and this year’s Beauty and the Beast in Sheffield and her time as Debs in Elf the Musical.
On screen, you play the regular role of Captain Captain in the CBeebies series Swashbuckle, what is the show like to work on?
Swashbuckle is pure joy! I had no idea how popular the show was until I got the job, my friends with children started going crazy! It’s such an iconic flagship show for CBeebies, and Captain Captain is so much fun to play, a baddie with a silly side!
How would you describe Captain Captain and how is it filming alongside the rest of the cast?
The role of Captain Captain is quite a funny concept as the little ones recognise me but aren’t quite sure if I’m a goodie or a baddie! They recognise me from the telly but I often get lots of strange stares as they can’t quite work it out! The filming experience itself is like nothing I’ve ever known, the turnover is very fast, we record 26 episodes in 15 days and also do a week of sketches, which also involves a lot of SLOP! It’s very much a team effort of everyone pulling together and helping each other as it’s such fast filming, which does therefore lead to mistakes and a lot of corpsing sometimes!
What was it like filming for your own series Jennie’s Fitness in 5?
A dream come true! I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever have my own TV show. The crazy thing is, my mum and a storyline with a cat had been written in, I had no idea, having lost my mum it was so lovely that this was a part of my little show. I was also inundated with messages, photos and videos of people’s children, saying how much they loved joining in!
How is it taking CBeebies productions of Shakespeare plays such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It to Shakespeare’s Globe?
Well, this is a whole new collaboration that involves two very different worlds. I hadn’t done much Shakespeare before so I was incredibly worried about going into that iconic building and being directed by the top Globe team. It was, however, one of the most incredible experiences of my life, I learned so much and to perform on that stage was a pinch me moment.
You will be returning to the CBeebies pantomime this year, what do you enjoy most about being part of their pantomimes?
Our CBeebies family LOVE these, we often only see the people we work with on our own shows, so to be all together is wonderful. It’s very hard work as we have very little time to rehearse and only perform four shows which are filmed, but we love being together creating something special for Xmas that is so popular in most people’s houses at Xmas.
What are you looking forward to for performing in Robin Hood and what can the audience expect from the show?
Well, I can’t say too much at the moment as it’s all top secret as I’m writing this, but there will be lots of your favourite CBeebies friends! Including myself, and we will be bringing you lots of songs, dancing, beautiful storytelling and lots of laughs too.
You will also be performing in the Lyceum Theatre’s pantomime of Beauty and the Beast later this year in Sheffield, what do you think you will bring to the role of Fairy and how was it meeting the cast for the first time?
I’m really looking forward to Sheffield, I have never been there before, apart from briefly at the press launch. I worked with Duncan James years ago, he’s such a lovely guy, and Max Fulham and I did pantomime together in Canterbury last year and he makes my sides ache with laughter, he’s such a good friend, I can’t believe we get to play together again. Also, working with the legend that is Damian Williams is a bucket list tick, his Dame is incredible.
Why would you recommend families book to see Beauty and the Beast in Sheffield this Christmas?
I think pantomime is so special for so many reasons. It’s sometimes the first experience a child gets of the theatre, it certainly was mine and it’s when I caught the bug. Damian is a seasoned pro and regular Dame at the Lyceum, I know people book just to see him! I think there is something for everyone, Max and his genius ventriloquist skills, gorgeous Duncan with his velvet vocals and hopefully I can be your cheeky fairy that sings you a few ditties too. The rest of the cast are so talented too, it’s going to be a show packed full of Christmas joy.
What was it like playing Debs in Elf the Musical in the original West End cast, which saw you be nominated for a WhatsOnStage Award, and on the 2019 Arena Tour?
Elf was one of the most special jobs I have ever done. I read the script and wanted to play Debs so badly! The songs are brilliant, the script is joyful, and the show is family fun for all, as is the iconic film. I was part of the original cast in Plymouth and it then transferred to the West End. Unfortunately, my mum died during rehearsals for London, it was incredibly hard but I have never known support and love from so many people. I will be forever grateful for Elf and the incredible people I have in my life now because of it.
How was your time performing at the Chichester Festival Theatre as Matron in The Midnight Gang and Parchester in Me & My Girl?
Chichester is quite close to home for me so to do two shows in that season was really lovely. Parchester was a surprise for everyone, I think, including me! It’s normally played by a man so to play it as a gay character who tap dances was really refreshing and so much fun. Caroline Quentin and I belly laughed every day! Matron in David Walliams’ The Midnight Gang was very different! I do love playing a baddie and it was great to see a young audience enjoy such a brilliant version of the story.
What are some of your favourite memories from being in the UK and International Tour of MAMMA MIA! as Rosie?
Rosie was my first big lead role really, so very exciting when I heard I had got it. I got to see some of the world playing an iconic role, everyone loves a bit of MAMMA MIA!.
Can you tell us about some of the other shows you’ve worked on over your career so far, which have included Singin’ in the Rain, The Lord of the Rings, Mary Poppins, Les Misérables and Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas?
I’d say the highlights here for me are Les Misérables, I understudied and played Madame Thénardier and it was top of my bucket list. I’d love to play her again one day. Singin’ in the Rain in Paris was like a fairytale, walking along the Seine to the theatre each day and performing Stephen Mear’s incredible choreography, I owe a lot of my career to Stephen, including Victoria Wood’s Midlife Christmas. I am so lucky to have worked with her. She was one of a kind.
How did you get into acting and performing and was it something you always wanted to do?
Yep, I got the bug as early as I can remember, I was obsessed with Norman Wisdom, Gene Kelly and then The Kids from Fame!
Do you have any favourite films, TV and theatre shows to watch, and how do you like to spend your free time?
My favourite film is Singin’ in the Rain. As I said above, The Kids from Fame was a huge influence, and I have to admit in my downtime I like watching quite a lot of easy watching, like Below Deck! But I’m also hooked on a heist or a period drama.
We understand you are a choreographer and vocal coach, can you tell us about this and what are these roles like to take on?
I teach mainly at a school in Worthing called Genesis. It’s an excellent school where I get to work with very talented children and young adults, I also teach privately too. I get a huge fulfilment teaching and it’s something I will always want to do alongside performing.
What are you hoping the upcoming months bring for you?
Two pantomimes! Just off to film the CBeebies one and then off to Sheffield! So lots of learning scripts and songs on trains! And lots of lovely happy times with friends along the way!
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