“Bad Girls: The Musical” Breaks in to the West End

From Mandana Jones‘ silent entrance to Nikki and Helen’s quiet exit, the Bad Girls: The Musical London gala in mid-September illustrated how much has changed since the Bad Girls television show (now airing on Logo, AfterEllen.com’s parent company) first aired in Britain in 1999.

Jones, who played Nikki Wade in the TV version, arrived just minutes before the musical began. She made her way toward the Garrick Theatre on a crowded sidewalk filled with paparazzi and celebrities, including former British tennis star Greg Rusedski, actors from the British TV series Footballers’ Wives, and former Bad Girls stars Victoria Alcock (Julie S.), Alicia Eyo (Denny Blood), Claire King (Karen Betts) and Kika Mirylees (Julie J.).

Before Jones could enter the theater, a photographer accidentally shoved her, shouting "Danielle, Danielle, over here!" as he scrambled for a picture of Danielle Lloyd, the former Celebrity Big Brother contestant who was stripped of her beauty pageant title for posing nude in Playboy. Jones later said she laughed at the irony of the moment, before slipping unnoticed into the theater, relieved at having avoided the spotlight.

Compare that entrance to the frenzied greeting Jones and Simone Lahbib (the TV show’s Helen Stewart) received at a Mission Impossible II premiere and after-party five years ago (shown in the video below), and you get a sense of just how much has changed in the U.K. since the TV show first became a hit.

Jones told AfterEllen.com that she attended the gala to show her support and to "see some of the other bad girls I haven’t seen in a long time." She added, "I was quite curious to see the musical. I was part of that show, early on, and this is part of its journey."

It is, in fact, a remarkable journey, one that began with an independently produced women’s prison drama that won over a country while featuring one of prime-time television’s first lesbian relationships.

And now, eight years later, a musical based on the TV show — the first major musical written by lesbians — has opened in the historic West End, in a late-Victorian theater that once housed a production starring Laurence Olivier.

The musical opens, appropriately enough, with the loud clanging of a gate — welcome to the misfits, madness and mayhem that make up G-Wing at HMP Larkhall.

The stark first image is of Rachel Hicks, the mousy young mother from the first season of the TV show. She stands at the front of the stage wearing nothing but her underwear, shivering as she awaits a coarse and humiliating inspection by Sylvia "Bodybag" Hollamby (played, as she was in the TV show, by Helen Fraser).

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