BWW Interview: Peter Land Talks TO GILLIE, WITH LOVE
Peter spoke to BroadwayWorld about Gillian and the Lynne and Land Foundation, due to be launched at bespoke concert To Gillie, with Love at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on 2 July.
When did you first meet Gillian?
I met Gillian at the meet and greet for the stars of the first revival of My Fair Lady - the Cameron Mackintosh production - in October 1978 in the Crush Bar at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. This was my big break in the West End, my first leading role, and I was feeling very "un-starry".
I was trying to leave the bar, as I didn't know what I could say to the likes of Dame Anna Neagle, Richard Caldicot and Tony Britton, when the door opened and in walked Gillian Lynne with blond hair and dressed in black lycra; she was rehearsing downstairs in the Ballet Room.
We took one look at each other and married a year and a half later. I worked with her that very afternoon and had never met anyone so intuitive to my needs as a performer, and definitely nobody as fun. Her work on My Fair Lady was intricate, musically deft and enormously fulfilling to perform.
Can you please tell us a little bit about your life together?
Our life together - 40 years of marriage - was very much full of love, consideration, support, laughter and more love! She was and still is my guiding star.
We definitely travelled the world together, as there are only a few major cities NOT to have had a long run of Cats and/or The Phantom of the Opera. Beyond the travel, we gave our love and attention to creating our lovely homes; into each other's careers, of course; and into Bess, our dog, a smooth-haired English Fox Terrier.
What are the advantages/challenges associated with having a fellow performer as a partner?
The advantages of having my wife in the same profession were immensely helpful - although we never ever crossed the line in terms of each other's jobs. If I was performing for Gillian (and I was in 16 Gillian Lynne productions), she was always the director/choreographer in the rehearsal room. But as soon as that door closed afterwards, I was in charge. Simple rules, but my very feminine and knowledgeable wife loved to be taken care of - and that is something I was very capable of doing.
There were challenges - when I had to turn down work to make sure she survived intact while working on some very difficult and taxing productions - but I was always of the opinion that my wife, through her brilliance, earned more than me and so, therefore, our family thrived because of that. I loved protecting her.
How has life been since Gillian's passing?
Horrible. For a long period of time, I was in a lot of trouble - I caught every bug available and was frankly grief-stricken.
I got away and dealt with my loss and felt that Gillie wanted me to continue to work, so I completed a day's shoot on an American series called Autopsy: The Last Moments of Howard Hughes, playing a dying and dead Howard Hughes. You couldn't write it.
So, with Gillie around when I need her - I'm managing to move forward, but I do miss our silliness and her care of me, and she was the best listener to all my jokes.
Can you please tell us about To Gillie, With Love?
This is first and foremost a celebration of standout parts of Gillian Lynne DBE's career. There will be the obvious blockbusters represented by the best performers available, and some surprises that will thrill a savvy audience.
You're launching the Lynne and Land Foundation as well, inspired by those who helped you in your careers. Who in particular has been a mentor?
It was him who suggested I could do OK in the UK, and he always kept a weather eye out for me - supporting my choices, and even helping me choose my name, seeing as someone in Equity was already on the books with my birth name.
How can aspiring performers find out more about the foundation?
All the information will be available on the website above very soon. Several scholarships and grants a year will be given out to enable help in the continuation of study of the choreographic arts, drama and musical theatre.
You've gathered quite the line-up of special guests! How has the planning process been going?
It's been a constant flow of organisation. I am very proud of all the performers, chosen specifically for their brilliant talent, also because I approached all of them personally - something Gillian believed in doing.
I have asked for everyone to commit way in advance and I expect there will be disasters, but so far all the names that I have announced are all there for Gillie. They all want to have a chance to thank the great Gillian Lynne and to say as loudly as possible: "To Gillie, With Love".
Any advice for aspiring performers?
Keep. On. Going. Our profession is full of ups and downs, full of rejection, and then suddenly you hit a fine vein of comprehensive work and then there's nothing. So, in your mind, you must keep going and believe that there is something special in you that will someday be right for a project. Keep going - with belief.
Why should people come see To Gillie, With Love?
The night will be one of many jewels, not just the ones mentioned, shining brightly - all wanting to give back in performance the love they received from Gillian Lynne.
Every one of these performers owes her a lot. Her support meant a lot to many actors, dancers and singers, and with the Foundation's launch, this legacy will stay strong and vibrant for years to come.
To Gillie, With Love at the Gillian Lynne Theatre on 2 July
A trailer for To Gillie, With Love can be viewed here.
Photo credit: Alamy and Greg Gorman