The sky’s the limit for Jessica

Jessica Balderstone in her British Airways uniform. (s)
Jessica Balderstone in her British Airways uniform. (s)

When a teenage actress was dashed into A&E, her replacement had less than four hours to learn her lines, songs and dance routines.

Jessica Balderstone, of Barrowford, was on leave from work when asked to fill in as “Ronnette” in Basic Junior Theatre School’s “Little Shop of Horrors”.

Following Ellie Cook’s asthma attack, Jessica had only half an hour to rehearse at least four dance routines and was assigned lines in eight or nine songs while prepping in hair and makeup.

A mere hour and a half later, with no time to practice her tracks, the star was on stage performing in front of 400 people.

Director Richard Sanderson said: “During the interval, an audience member told me she’d been worried when the announcement was made that Ellie had been taken into hospital. But when she heard that Jessica would fill in, she’d relaxed. If anyone can do it, she’d said, Jessica can.”

The actress is certainly at home on stage, having been involved with Pendle Hippodrome Theatre Company, Pendle Youth Theatre and Basics Junior Theatre School as a child, earning her numerous Pendle Stage Awards.

She is also a former singer of “The Ardenettes” and trained in dance with Susan Chippendale and Basics’ choreographer Helen Cheung.

“She just knew the choreography,” Richard said. “It was bizarre. But she’s familiar with Helen’s dancing.

“Susan had said to me, ‘I don’t know what you’re worrying about - it’s Jessica.’”

After two nights on stage, she had one day to recover before flying to Dubai as a member of the cabin crew for British Airways.

“Jessica was born to be on stage,” Richard added. “She played Ronnette effortlessly. You wouldn’t have known [she wasn’t an original cast member].

“To go on stage with that little rehearsal time and that much confidence - it’s something I’ve never seen before.”