Making Waves – Celebrating the ongoing Success of our Cast Members.
November 13, 2020 brought one of the season’s first holiday offerings, Jingle Jangle, to our screens. With a score co-written by John Legend and an international cast headed by Forrest Whitaker, Hugh Bonneville, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose and Ricky Martin, the Netflix musical has quickly risen to the top of the charts. Writer-director David E. Talbert started writing the story of an inventor who has stopped believing in the power of possibility over 20 years ago before streaming services were ever dreamed of, and his message has unwittingly captured a moment. Shooting in London during the Summer of 2019, the musical ensemble, choreographed by Ashley Wallen (X Factor, The Greatest Showman, Kylie Minogue tour), is primarily made up of British performers including one of NCL’s familiar faces - Martina Gumbs. Martina started dancing on the Norwegian Star almost ten years ago and most recently performed in the cast of After Midnight on the Escape. In 2019, she made her silver screen debut dancing in the Elton John bio-pic Rocketman. We sat down with Martina to ask how her experience on board prepared her for working on set.
Tell us about your experience with the After Midnight family.
My experience with After Midnight was so amazing; every single cast member was so loving, inviting and super talented. My first day in rehearsals with the cast was truly magical. We all got along so well and supported each other. Working with the amazing Stephanie Pope was so inspiring, and the singers sang a birthday song for me this will forever be in my heart. Sadly, due to the pandemic, our contract was cut short, but I am so blessed to have met and worked with such a dedicated and beautiful cast that I can call my family. We are still in very close contact today.
What was the audition process like for Jingle Jangle?
I was blessed enough to have been called directly to be a part of the Jingle Jangle movie. Thank you to Kutes Agency (Agents Jerry Reeve, Ashley Wallen and Jenny Griffin) for this amazing opportunity.
Martina in her costume for the ‘This Day Scene’
How closely did you work with Ashley Wallen? Did he inspire you in any way you weren’t expecting?
I had taken an open class with Ashley Wallen at Pineapple Studios in London and it was such a great class; I did not want to miss the opportunity to learn from and meet him. He rarely teaches open classes due to his busy schedule. Working with Ashley was such an amazing experience. I was particularly inspired by how fast he worked teaching the choreography with his fabulous assistant, Jenny Griffin, by his side.
Who was the biggest celeb you worked with on this project? Any fun stories?
I didn't work that closely with celebs on this project but Forest Whitaker did come on set to watch the dance sequences - no pressure hahaha – the cast and production team are all celebrities in my eyes. The director of the film, David E. Talbert, was a very welcoming person and spoke to us whilst on set. He was so cool wanting to know where everyone was from; he didn’t appear stressed at all.
Forest Whitaker in Jingle Jangle
How was it moving from dancing on ships to being on a film set? Is there anything a NCL director has taught that you took to this new environment?
Norwegian ships have given me so many skills both in rehearsals and the performances, and dancing live on stage for passengers has given me the tools to perform confidently on film. Norwegian shows are very versatile and performance-driven which I truly embraced because it has given me the opportunity to utilize what I have learnt. I have been fortunate to have worked with many outstanding NCL directors including: Ricky Whitfield, who was always so passionate and motivating during the rehearsal process, John Skufca's attention to detail is so particular, which really helped me with jobs on film as you have to be clean and pay attention to detail. During my most recent contract with After Midnight 10.0; directors Jason A. Sparks and Gina Duci made my experience by building my confidence. They really helped me develop my dancing and acting skills for the show, which has been so beneficial for Rocketman and Jingle Jangle.
How was your Rocketman experience different from that of Jingle Jangle?
I will be forever grateful to Free YOUR style Collective Agency (agents Nadia and Ben) for this opportunity. The audition process for this was challenging, but as the energy in the room was so amazing it really helped me to relax. Rocketman was my first film and the whole experience from start to finish was like living a dream. The film celebrated Elton John who came on set to watch rehearsals. Working with Taron Egerton and Richard Madden was an amazing experience; they were both so humble and friendly, working so hard and bringing great energy to dance rehearsal. I truly respected their determination. The cast had so many personalities which was fantastic; everyday was different and it truly made my whole experience as [even] long days on set were really fun with the cast. I had the time of my life.
MM Jazz Company based in Manchester, UK
Tell me about your dance studio and how you’ve adapted to the pandemic.
My twin sister Melissa and I own MM Jazz Company based in Manchester, UK. We have so many talented souls in our company who take our classes on a regular basis. Due to the pandemic, Studio 25 & Nuffield Gym, where we hold our regular classes, are closed down, but this did not stop us from teaching regularly on Zoom. We have noticed how much it has helped dancers both physically and mentally and are proud of every single dancer who has continued to train with us and stayed ready. One of our dearest friends Lamoi Hedrington, who is a part of the Lion King West End cast, is a part of MM Jazz faculty and has been teaching workshops to MM Jazz company members during the lockdown. He truly is amazing. We met Lamoi working on NCL in 2015 and are still friends today. Norwegian brings people together and I will be forever grateful for being part of such an amazing and ever growing company.
We’re always so excited to see our performers attached to new projects and are very proud of Martina (not to mention Melissa and Lamoi)!! Here’s hoping all our paths cross soon. Check out MM Jazz on Facebook for class info. Jingle Jangle and Rocketman are available to stream on Netflix and Rocketman on Hulu respectively.