The hospitality industry is noted for its use of resting actors and musicians, so when ‘naturally fast food’ chain LEON opened its latest branch in the heart of London’s theatreland near Leicester Square, they decided to let the staff sing to the customers.
The forty-strong team at the branch come from all over the UK and are all ages and stages in their careers, but all are united in their hope that performing at LEON will help propel them on to the West End stage and beyond.
They were cast after impressing a panel of seasoned professionals in auditions. The panel included Helen George (Call the Midwife), Alexander Armstrong (Armstrong and Miller), Anna Shaffer (Harry Potter) and Jay Aston ( who won Eurovision, with group Bucks Fizz).
Co-founder of LEON, John Vincent, who was also on the audition panel, said ‘In just six weeks we auditioned, hired and trained a team who can both prepare the full range of LEON’s menu AND belt out a show tune or pop classic in between times. I’ve watched them perform both individually and as an ensemble – they gave me goosebumps’.
The cast comprises drama and musical theatre students (past and present) and others with no formal training but who secured a spot on the team when it became clear they had undiscovered talent. All have a range of personal favourite tracks; everything from Queen’s ‘Somebody to Love’ and Sinatra’s ‘That’s Life’, to West End classics like Les Mis’ ‘I Dreamed a dream’. Guests can expect a live track every two to three songs and can watch as team members switch from taking orders and making coffee to moving around the restaurant, performing live.
Staff have all had professional head shots taken by well known theatre photographer Manuel Harlan, and these will fill the ‘Hall of Family’ picture gallery and populate the bespoke restaurant page online, as part of plans to help promote the team. LEON will also give team members professional vocal training, quarterly masterclasses to prepare successfully for castings and time off to attend auditions.
The restaurant is also decorated to reflect its theatreland surroundings. A deep red carpet will lead guests to the counter, a lift has been redesigned as a Royal Box, the seating areas are named stalls, there are posters in tribute to classic musicals and musical costumers, as well as theatre memorabilia.
LEON is located on Shaftesbury Avenue and opens Monday 13th February from 7am to 10pm.