Opening on 13 February, the restaurant will serve Leon’s usual menu of salads, wraps and hot food ‘hotboxes’, but will be staffed by a cast of 40 drama and musical theatre students (past and present), plus others with no formal training who showed undiscovered singing talent.
Staff will perform one live song number for every two or three tracks played, including covers of favourites such as Queen’s Somebody to Love, Sinatra’s That’s Life, and West End classics such as Les Miserables’ I Dreamed a Dream.
Décor will reflect the Theatreland surroundings, including a ‘red carpet’, a lift designed as a ‘royal box’, posters of classic musicals, photos of staff members dressed for performances, and the ‘Leon lady’ logo displayed draped in glitter.
Team members will also receive professional vocal training, masterclasses to prepare for auditions, and time off to attend auditions.
Each performer secured their role after impressing a professional panel, made up of Helen George (from BBC’s Call the Midwife), Alexander Armstrong (TV presenter and comedian with Armstrong and Miller), Anna Shaffer (actress in the Harry Potter movies) and Jay Aston (Eurovision winner with the band Bucks Fizz).
First opened in Carnaby Street in 2004, rapidly-growing Leon was founded by John Vincent, Henry Dimbleby and chef Allegra McEvedy. It now has 42 stores across the UK, plus one in Amsterdam.
“We did it!” says Vincent, who was also on the audition panel. “In just six weeks we auditioned, hired and trained a team who can both prepare the full range of Leon’s menu AND belt out a show tune or pop classic in between times.
“I’ve watched them perform both individually and as an ensemble. I’m biased as I’m from a household that LOVES musicals, but it’s going to be incredible.”