I’d Do Anything…even rowing!

The Nancys with Phil Simmons (photo from the BBC) The BBC descended upon Molesey Boat Club (MBC) last week for the filming of ‘I’d Do Anything’, the television show searching for the next Nancy for the West End production of Oliver.

The aim of the day was to highlight fitness to the eight remaining girls, with activities on the indoor rower and on the water in two coxed quads. The production team hoped to see fierce competition between the potential Nancys, and give them the chance to prove they are fit enough to take part in eight shows a week. So they decided there was no better sport for this than rowing!


The day began with Phil Simmons, ARA coaching development officer, briefing the girls on their task, kept top secret until their arrival at MBC. This was momentarily interrupted by the men’s U23 4- rowing past, which appeared to distract the Nancys attention – but not for long! The girls started on the indoor rowers, which was a new experience for all. Some of the interesting techniques demonstrated were soon corrected by Phil and Tom Courtney (MBC Director of Rowing).

Visit BBC online for an interview with Phil Simmons.

To get the competition going early on the girls were set the task of racing over short distances on the indoor rowers, all the time receiving strong encouragement from the U23 men. In true West End style, the girls thanked them with a song whilst still merrily ‘paddling’ on.

The Nancys take to the water (photo from the BBC) Despite a rainy start, the sun was shining as everyone took to the water. Crews were selected and the boats were named Nancy 1 (Ashley Russell, Sarah Lark, Samantha Barks and Jodie Prenger) and Nancy 2 (Rachel Tucker, Jessie Buckley, Keisha Banson and Niamh Perry). To ensure it went as smoothly as possible on the water it was decided that Rachel Padden and Tory Sethard-Wright would cox and do their best to keep the crews in line.

Rachel writes: ‘we were rigged up with head cameras with strict instructions to try and keep eye contact with our stroke person so that they could study the girls reactions to the experience. This was easier said than done in a boat of complete beginners, so we are yet to see if our in-boat footage makes the show. The boats had a short period to get to grips with the basics, so there was no time to waste. It was important to try to get the girls to move together, and with numerous repeats from the coxes to try to get the blades in and out of the water, no one was quite sure who would win the 300m race. Whilst Nancy 1 seemed to have a better technique, it was set to be a close race and in the end Nancy 2 pulled it off with a good start and a lot of luck!

A good day was had by all and the production team was pleased to have highlighted how important fitness is to the girls. It was interesting to see how much filming goes into producing such a show, and we will have to wait and see how much makes it to the screen and what lands on the cutting room floor! All that remains to be seen is whether presenter Phil Simmons managed to impress the BBC enough to take over from Graham Norton for the live show…

Report by Rachel Padden and Tory Sethard-Wright

You can watch the show again on the BBC iPlayer