Portuguese ballet trained … highly acclaimed actress Josefina Gabrielle plays Orfelia Ortiz, Prima Ballerina of the Cuban Ballet performing Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake … with whom Oz becomes totally infatuated … she is his gorgeously classy Prima Ballerina girlfriend … in Series 4 of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet … Havana Days (2004).
There is something about, 30 something, London born Josefina Gabrielle that reminds us of the nation’s most decadently erotic cook, Nigella Lawson. In appearance – though distinctly more svelte than the domestic goddess, Gabrielle has the same pale skin, thick, wavy black hair and pronounced cheekbones – and in manner. In a similarly refined voice, Gabrielle speaks about her new role with the same enthusiasm Lawson would have for a chocolate gateau. Everything is “a joy”, “absolutely wonderful” or “terrific fun”. Gabrielle is gorging herself on her role like Lawson in a late-night fridge raid.
Josefina trained at the Arts Educational School in London. While still at school she was invited to join the National Ballet of Portugal, and as a soloist with the company she performed in a diverse international repertoire including Giselle, Swan Lake, Don Quixote, Balanchine’s Apollo and Serenade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Firebird, The Green Table and The Moor’s Pavane.
Her theatre work has included Nicholas Hytner’s production of Carousel at the National and Shaftesbury theatres, Dream Laurey in a national tour of Oklahoma!, Iris Kelly in the original London cast of Fame at the Cambridge Theatre, Maggie in A Chorus Line at Derby Playhouse, Jenna in The Goodbye Girl at the Albery Theatre, and Cassie in a national tour of A Chorus Line.
Josefina’s big break came in 1999 when Trevor Nunn cast her as Laurey in his production of Oklahoma! at the National and Lyceum theatres. The choreography was by Susan Stroman, and Josefina made history as the first actress ever to dance her own Dream Ballet. For her performance, Josefina was nominated for an Olivier award as Best Actress in a Musical. She also plays Laurey in the 1999 television film of the same production opposite Hugh Jackman.
Her theatre work includes Dot/Marie in Sunday in the Park with George at the Leicester Haymarket, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Cannizaro Park and Roxie Hart in Chicago at the Adelphi Theatre, The Marriage of Figaro (National Theatre Studio) and in The Woman in White (Symdonton Festival).
Josefina’s recent West End theatre credits include playing Alexandra Spofford in the stage musical version of The Witches of Eastwick at the Prince of Wales Theatre London.
In 2006 she played all the Gertrude Lawrence roles in a bill of six Noel Coward short plays at Chichester, and in 2008 performed as Arabella, Pamela and Margaret in the highly acclaimed, frenetic West End comedy The 39 Steps (which recently won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy).
Her CD, video and DVD full cast recordings include Carousel, Fame, The Goodbye Girl and Oklahoma!
Television and film credits include … Debbie Bellamy in Heartbeat, Orfelia Ortiz in Auf Wiedersehen Pet,
Marion Pilmer in Doctors, Rachel in Totally Frank, Jacqueline Williamson in Born and Bred, Receptionist in Sunburn, various roles in Ronni Ancona and Co, and Laurey Williams in Oklahoma!
Concerts include One Enchanted Evening and Chess with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, guesting with Sacha Distel at the Café de Paris and various cabarets.
She has an eight-year ballet career and 15 years in musical theatre behind her, but Josefina Gabrielle still feels the thrill of a new role – particularly if it is something completely different.
The actress, who is perhaps best known for the musicals Oklahoma! and Chicago, and as Oz’s gorgeously classy girlfriend Orfelia Ortiz, Prima Ballerina of the Cuban Ballet in Series 4 of Auf Wiedersehen Pet … Havana Days … tells Caroline Bishop of the Official London Theatre Guide, why she is so pleased to have joined the cast of the award winning comedy-drama The 39 Steps.
‘As one quarter of the new cast of hit comedy The 39 Steps, the actress has not one, but three roles to feast on – the mysterious Arabella, prim Pamela and farmer’s wife Margaret. Gabrielle has - in a show of indulgence worthy of Nigella herself - splashed out on three perfumes, one for each character and each appropriate to the 1930s setting of the play (Chanel No 5 for Pamela), which lend her dressing room in the windowless bowels of the Criterion a touch of glamour. She has, after all, come straight from Chicago, one of the West End’s most glamorous shows.
In fact, the transition was so swift that Gabrielle was still wearing Roxie’s fishnets every evening while rehearsing for The 39 Steps during the day. “I expected to be exhausted, and I’d come in to do [Chicago] in the evening and people would say ‘how are you, are you tired?’ And I said ‘I’ve just laughed all day, I feel fine!"
A frenetically fast-paced comedy pastiche of Hitchcock’s 1935 film, The 39 Steps involves the four actors portraying a bevy of roles as they tell the firmly tongue-in-cheek tale of Richard Hannay’s flight from the police after a woman is murdered in his apartment. “It’s like four actors jump down four water shoots and land at the end,” laughs Gabrielle. “You have no time to stand in the wings and appreciate each others’ performance.”’
Adapted and edited from sources: actors and actresses.co.uk/Official London Theatre Guide/What’s on Stage/IMDb/Wikipedia/New York Times.com/Broadway World.com/Broadway.com/aufpet.com/BBC