Amara Okereke, former student of a Wetherby and Harrogate singing teacher, lands lead West End role in My Fair Lady

A young actress who appeared in the Harrogate Advertiser as a budding performer nine years ago has landed the lead role in a West End show.

By Gemma Jimmison
Thursday, 5th May 2022, 3:46 pm

Amara Okereke, 25, will play Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady, which comes to the London Coliseum 
this month.

She follows in the footsteps of Martine McCutcheon, who played Eliza when the show was last performed in the West End.

Amara has already played Cosette in Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre in London - the first black actress to do so, and has appeared on the cover and inside of this month’s Tatler.

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NYMT Megan Gilbert and Amara Okereke

Back in 2013, the Advertiser reported how Amara had been cast in The National Youth Music Theatre’s West Side Story, along with Megan Gilbert and William Leaf 
Puvanesan.

The three teenagers - who were pupils of Wetherby singing teacher, Helen Leaf - auditioned with thousands of others and landed lead roles in the production which was directed by Nikolai Foster, one of the country’s most 
exciting directors.

Amara, from the Grammar School at Leeds, played Maria, while Megan, also from GSAL, was her friend Rosalia and William, who went to St Aidan’s School in Harrogate, took on the role of Chino, at The Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.

Singing teacher Helen, who also teaches at Brackenfield School in Harrogate, said: “To have three children from a small Yorkshire town appear in the show, it was a wonderful achievement. I was very proud of them all.

“Amara is one of the most talented people, but she is also one of the most humble. She is very charming and inspirational - she’s a role model for other performers.

“I am planning on going to see Amara in My Fair Lady. It is wonderful.”

One year before the Harrogate Advertiser’s article, Amara appeared in our sister paper the Yorkshire Evening Post, pictured inset, which correctly predicted that Amara Okereke was a name to look out for in the future. Tatler has now called her ‘the new face of British theatre’.

The other two teenagers who appeared alongside Amara have also been successful in their own right. Megan went to Cambridge while William - who is Helen’s son - is now a lawyer.

Helen, 61, from Moorlands in Wetherby, added: “A lot of my students have seen success. One pupil has just passed her grade 8 musical theatre exam with 100% while Lucy Sherman has starred in lots of productions, including the Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse. Not all of them go on to be performers, but having been involved in performing arts can help in almost 
any journey.”

My Fair Lady is on at the Coliseum from May 7, to 
August 27.

Amara will perform alongside Harry Hadden-Paton (as Henry Higgins), WhatsOnStage Award-winner Vanessa Redgrave (as Mrs Higgins), Sharif Afifi (as Freddy Eynsford-Hill), WhatsOnStage Award-nominee Stephen K Amos (as Alfred P Doolittle), Malcolm Sinclair (as Colonel Pickering) and Maureen Beattie 
(as Mrs Pearce).

For My Fair Lady tickets, visit: https://bit.ly/3OX7GR9