Devon-Elise Johnson stars in Award-winning writer Allan Knee’s ballroom-inspired play Syncopation, coming to London this Spring. Known for musical Little Women and play The Man Who Was Peter Pan, Knee’s comedic drama follows two lost souls in New York in 1912 who come together to dance in a stirring and tender tale about finding yourself and moving to your own beat.
Inspired by Irene and Vernon Castle – ballroom superstars of their day, who laid the foundation for ballroom dancing as we know it and were the subjects of a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film – meatpacker Henry Ribolow and seamstress Anna Bianchi decide to embark on a journey to become renowned ballroom dancers in pre-war New York. Responding to Henry’s advertisement in the paper, Anna finds herself drawn into the freeing and passionate world of dance, set against the backdrop of exciting, revolutionary ideas at the turn of the century, the urban rhythm of New York City, and Ragtime.
From Manilla Street Productions, this is a unique version of Syncopation, with a carefully curated Ragtime and jazz score specifically selected for the London production, including classics like By the Light of the Silvery Moon and Little Brown Jug, Scott Joplin’s Elite Syncopations and Irving Berlin’s Always.
Syncopation is at Bridewell Theatre Thursday 14th March – Saturday 13th April 2024
You’re starring in Syncopation when it comes to Bridewell Theatre, what can you tell us about the show?
Syncopation is a fabulous play set in 1912 New York. It’s an endearingly beautiful story about the coming together of two seemingly very different personalities, Anna and Henry. It’s a heartwarming piece in which the pair are brought together through the art of ballroom dancing. Both on their separate journeys and unsatisfied with the lives they have, they find a love and common ground on the dance floor.
What was it about this ballroom inspired play that made you want to be a part of it?
As soon as I read the script, I just knew I had to be a part of it. Anna’s journey unfolds so beautifully and it’s a piece I can really get my teeth into! This will be my first 2-hander play, and to take on an incredible character like Anna was a challenge I was ready for!
How does it feel to be putting your dance skills to use in a play rather than a musical?
Honestly? I’m a little nervous! I have never ballroom danced before. I started having private ballroom lessons a few months before rehearsals began, and all I can say is- the professionals make it look super easy! It’s a completely different discipline, but one I have always admired.
You’re playing Anna, what do you love most about the character?
I love everything about her! Anna reminds me a lot of myself if I’m honest – careful, inquisitive, understanding, accepting and has a whole lot of love to offer! Her character is heartbreakingly relatable, as she attempts to understand the world outside of her family’s protection, and she makes mistakes along the way, but in the end she really comes into her own. She is strong, determined and knows what she wants!
And what do you think will be the biggest challenge for you in this show?
I think the biggest challenge will be stamina! This show doesn’t stop – once you’re on that train, you’re not getting off! It’s just me and the wonderful Jye Frasca the entire time. So I think keeping the momentum going all the while keeping the audience engaged will require a hearty amount of stamina – but we’re up for the challenge!
What would you say to anyone thinking of booking to see Syncopation?
Book it! It’s not often such a beautiful piece like Syncopation comes to town! We promise you won’t be disappointed – beautiful costumes, incredible set design, stunning live music – what’s not to enjoy!