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Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label interviews. Show all posts

In Conversation With... Rachel Tucker | Interview

In Conversation With... Rachel Tucker | Interview

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Rachel Tucker is basically theatrical royalty, with a an impressive resume, an incredible voice and an extremely dedicated following. Currently touring the UK and about to start her second stint at the Zedel in London, Rachel was lovely enough to discuss what we can expect in her concerts, how she stays motivated, her dream role and much more... 

What are some of your career highlights so far?

Wicked on Broadway, it was my absolute dream. The I'd Do Anything programme was a highlight, I loved it, it was great. Oh Wicked 10 is definitely the most recent highlight, it was amazing and a great night.

What keeps you motivated to keep working even when you're knocked down?

I guess the belief in myself, I know I can do it. I think people get confused with not getting the job, they think that it's a personal thing and 99% of the time it's not. It's just you're not right for them or at that particular time or moment for whatever their reasons are. But it's about remembering that it's not me, it's them. I mean not them, but their choice, not because I'm bad but because they don't want me.

Elphaba is obviously a very iconic role. How do you add your own spin on such well known songs and characters?

I try and approach it with a fresh look at it and as close to Rachel as I can because I think it's important to not copy and not be what everybody else thinks you should be and also because it's boring to do it the way someone else has done it when you're not being true to yourself. I'm a very honest person and I think it's very important to be honest with everything you think and how you approach the music and songs and interpret it as close to yourself as you possibly can.

You have a lot of repertoire, so what can people expect when they come and see you perform your solo concerts?

I like an eclectic collection of songs. I've grown up with old school musicals and entertainers and also love very current stuff like Ed Sheeran and I love standards, like some jazz standards. I also love modern musical theatre as well as the old stuff. So yeah, a real mixed bag. A real collection... and a few surprises thrown in for good measure!

If you could bring any guest star on stage with you, dead or alive, who would you pick?

Sammy Davis Jr, Bette Midler and Sting. Oh and probably Beyonce!

You've performed in a variety of venues both in shows and on tour. Do you prefer the bigger, elaborate ones or the smaller, more intimate ones?

They're all different, each of them brings a different thing. The intimate ones I think will be good to start out for me because they're more informal and I love that. You know, I'm not a formal girl, I love being casual and being able to see people and their reactions so that'll be nice. But I also love the big theatres where you have to look up to the balcony and get people joining in and singing along. So I like both.

You're taking this tour to Broadway with 54 Below, but would you ever consider touring it over there?

I think maybe in time, I mean it's taken ten years for me to be able to realistically tour the UK and these things I think take time so I think it'll be a little while longer before doing anything like that in America.

What's one talent you wish you could have?

I wish I could read music or play an instrument. Specifically the piano!

What are some funny moments you had either on stage or off stage?

Oh wow.... funny moments. I'm trying to think what ones I can tell you!  At one point when I first did Wicked, I came back from holiday and I completely left out the whole bit of why Elphaba snatches the green bottle before 'Popular'. I literally couldn't remember a word of it and poor Gina Beck had to prompt me and say "was it because your mum was.....?" and she had to literally recite the whole paragraph and I just agreed with her. It was very scary!

Have you ever sneezed or got the hiccups in a performance?

Oh yeah completely. When I did The Wizard of Oz in Belfast, someone sneezed to me and I couldn't finish my lines cause I was laughing so hard. So absolutely, yes.

If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?

Ohhh which show would I do next? I'd probably do a new show, a brand new show to originate and create a new role, yeah.

If you could go back to any era, when would you go to?

I think I'd go back to the 60s or actually probably the Hollywood MGM era like 20s or 30s

What is your go to karaoke song?

I recently went with my friend and I did 'Simply The Best' by Tina Turner!

What's the best piece of advice you've received or would like to give to someone hoping to get into the performing industry?

You've got to absolutely know your worth, know how good you are and be realistic with yourself and whether you can hack this industry. And think seriously if there's something else you could do then you probably should go and do it because you know, there was nothing else I could do and I think you've got to be very dedicated and very driven and passionate and care a lot about it. And have patience, it takes years and years to get anywhere. It doesn't just happen over night!

A huge thank you to Rachel for taking the time to talk to me. All of Rachel's shows at the Zedel are currently sold out but you may be lucky and get a return! All information about her upcoming dates can be seen here.

In Conversation With... Damian Buhagiar | Interview

In Conversation With... Damian Buhagiar | Interview

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Damian Buhagiar recently finished starring in In The Heights, is currently part of the UK tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie playing Ching Ho and will soon be starring in Mamma Mia  in the West End. Damian was lovely enough to do this interview for Rewrite This Story and I can't wait to see him in the show!

For those who don't know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I have always been attracted towards theatre and musicals from a young age of 3. Being a Maltese student at Stagecoach was a great introduction to this form of career. When you are young, you don't actually realise that this could be a future job so it all starts as a hobby and a recreation from other school work, or activities. 

As I grew older I started taking it even more seriously by taking private singing lessons, dance classes and acting classes. When I hit the age of 15, the time i had my GCSEs back home in Malta, my singing teacher adviced me to audition for Tring Park School For the Performing Arts, a brilliant boarding school. So I did and after  a couple of weeks I was accepted to persue my musical theatre training further as well as do my A levels for 2 years. Without the love, help and support from my parents this would have never happened especially being away from home. After those 2 years I was than chosen to attend the BA Hons musical theatre course for another 3 years which was such a incredible excperience. You learn new things everyday, you learn so much about yourself and the training and the teachers have been fantastic. 

Once my third year was coming to an end we started having people from the business coming to see our shows and showcases, people such as directors, choreographers, producers, agents and more.  To me that was one of the highlights as I got to introduce myself to the business and express what I love most, my passion for theatre which leads me to my second highlight which was being a massive part of Lin Manuel's hit  musical 'In the Heights' playing the role of Sonny at the Southwark Playhouse. The reason I say this was one of the highlights in my life is because it has enabled me to show my passion in my own style of dance and defined me and so it couldn'thave been a better show to enter the musical theatre business with. 

I then moved on to an 18 month UK Tour of Jersey Boys playing the role of Joe Pesci and 2nd cover Frankie Valli which was another highlight in my career as I got to explore England a bit more, see different cultures and make new friends outside of London as well as the insanely stunning theatre built around the country. I have than moved on to playing on stage swing in Bugsy Malone at the  Lyric Theatre, working with the choreographer  Drew McOnie and which then led me to reprising my role as Sonny in In the Heights, this time at the Kings Cross Theatre in London for 4 months. Of course the biggest highlight from this was the fact I got the chance to meet the legendary Lin Manuel Miranda in person. I am now currently on the UK Tour of Thoroughly Modern Millie playing a completely different character to what I normally play called 'Ching Ho', a Chinese role which I am glad to say I am loving.

Was being a performer what you always wanted or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

As mentioned earlier, I have always taken musical theatre, singing, dancing and acting as a hobby up until the age of fourteen. I was mainly aiming to invest time in my studies to eventually become a Mechanic Engineer (seeing I am pretty into mechanics and cars) or an architect.

You recently finished playing Sonny in In The Heights, did you know from the Southwark that you were a part of something special? How was it returning to the show?

In The Heights, has been one of the biggest adventures that has happened in my life. Playing the role of Sonny, literally has been my unexpected dream role straight after grauduating from college. It felt like it was just meant to happen and came at the right time. What made even more special was the company. Seeing how we all become one unit and one family creates something magical. Creates a spark that is unexplainable. As the Southward was a small intimate venue this proved how much of a unit we really were as we all shared our passion with the audiences which gave such a great response. 

Returning to the show after a year and a half this time at the Kings Cross Theatre, created that spark again in a different way. It was interesting to see that my heart was always there, my spirit enlightened and I was just 'Living' and recreating Sonny again, sharing the live with different members of the cast..(some of them from the Southwark).

How was the transition from the Southwark to Kings Cross theatre? What changed in the show?

I think moving to a different style of venue definitley created a change in space and motion however the one thing that made it feel like there was no difference at al was the spirit and the community we as a cast and a team all had.  As the Southwark Playhouse had much of a smaller theatre, there was a lot of intimacy and more of an interraction with auditiences which makes it even more appreciative being that close. Kings Cross had a wider stage being on Traverse stage, so that as a team made us work harder to use eachother to get the story accross morr and put our chatacters on a higher level that in the southwark for audiences to have the same feeling. 

The idea of heritage is very important in Heights, being from Malta, did you face any of the same struggles as Nina and Usnavi?

In The Heights couldn't possibly be a successfull show/production if there isnt any heart and love and care between not just the cast but even the company. Same with everything, if you are working in a lovely safe environment where you feel you can trust and open up your heart to your collegues without being scared, that same feeling will definitely show on stage. Especially for someone like myself being away from home away from my loved family, having a second family in a show like that has made me feel like home and it has always been a job travelling to work to express this love shared with the other talented cast members. Luckily I have never been in Usnavi's or Nina's position however I can relate to how difficult it really is to follow your dreams and what really genuinly makes you happy. Luckily I had ultimate support from my loved family where both my parents have enabled me to follow the dream career I have always wanted. A big sacrifice on their part that without them I woudn't be here doing what I love and hopefully being an inspiration to others.

You're currently starring in Thoroughly Modern Millie, can you explain the storyline a little and how your character fits into it?

The story is about this new naive girl in town called Millie, coming to new york for the first time when she sets her sights on marrying her whealthy boss. Problem arises when she checks into a hotel owned by the leader of a white slavery ring in China. Where my character "Ching Ho" along with his brother "Bun Foo", helping to kidnap pretty and suspecting orphan girls and shipping them to the Orient. Ching Ho however takes a shine to one of the 4 girls "Miss Dorothy'' and rescues her from Mrs. Meers, who at the end the truth is revealed and Mrs. Meers is captured.

What's the biggest challenge about taking on this role?

The biggest challenge in taking the role of 'Ching Ho', the Chinese part, is because of the obvious....its a Chinese role and I am Maltese. Performing this role everyday has enabled me to discover more aspects of him that allow me to invest and play around with on stage. I have been blessed to have my fellow cast memeber Andy who is actually from Hong Kong himself so has tought me the language patiently. It has been an interesting process however I always love a chalenge and at least I could say I have tested that language and might want to investtime it too in future. I've also learnt a lot about Chinese history and what makes the characters: Ching Ho and Bun Foo work as slaves in the show... their background stories.

How are you enjoying touring life? What do you miss most about being away from home?

I have always loved touring. I just love getting away from london and get to see different cultures in different places in the UK or abroad, make new friends in the digs I stay in as well as enjoy my own company and driving. Being away also makes you apreciate lot of things and miss a lot of things. Having a lot of free time on my hands make you think about your life in depth such as my parents and my lifestyle back home and the time I share with them.

What are your hobbies and passions outside of performing? 

Drawing has always been a massive part of my life that enables me to forget the real world and just zone out completely and focus on one The passion I always had ever since I was 5 years old. 

Can you name a few of your dream roles?

Playing Sonny in the musical In The Heights has already been one of my dream roles. I would say playing Phantom in Phantom of the Opera and Clyde in Bonnie and Clyde would definitely be two of my dream roles in musical theatre however I like variety and a challenge so I love exoloring as opportunities come my way, what a dream role would be.

If you could go back to any era, when would it be and why?

If I had to go back to an era I would go back to 1950s. I love that all men were mostly gentleman with manner, respectful towards their women and also live a fashionable suit. Life back that would have been very classy.

What's the best piece of advice you've ever received and what advice would you give to aspiring performers?

Best advice I have ever recieved have been to just be yourself. If it makes you happy do it. Always follow your gut. If you ever come in doubt just ask yourself 'but why not?'. If you have a dream, fight for it however long it takes to achieve it.

A huge thank you to Damian for doing this interview. Make sure you book tickets to see Thoroughly Modern Millie on its UK tour!

In Conversation With... Billy Cullum | Interview

In Conversation With... Billy Cullum | Interview

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Billy Cullum, has already had an impressive and extensive career starring in shows such as Spring Awakening and Jesus Christ Superstar. He's currently taking on the role of Mark Cohen, the introverted film maker in the 20th Anniversary tour of Rent and wowing audiences across the country with his incredible performance. I saw Rent for the fifth time last night and was as moved as I was the first time. It's truly a brilliant production. 

Not only is Billy a wonderful performer but also a wonderful person and he was nice enough to answer these questions about all things Rent, performing and life in general!

For those that don't know, can you explain a little about your career and highlights so far?

I trained at the Arts Educational School of Musical Theatre and graduated in 2010. My first job was a small scale musical of Alice in Wonderland that toured all around Italy. It was hard work but getting paid to travel all around such a beautiful city made all the early mornings and get-ins worthwhile. I then went on to play Jesus in Godspell at the Union Theatre followed by one of my dream roles as Moritz in the UK Tour of Spring Awakening. I then performed in Hair, Merrily We Roll Along before my West End debut in the RSC’s Matilda at the Cambridge Theatre. Roald Dahl was becoming a running theme as I then joined the cast of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Being an Oompa Loompa was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do! After this I joined the cast of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. It was an incredible piece to be a part of. I understudied and played the role of Jesus. Now I am lucky enough to be in one of my favourite musicals and playing one of my dream roles as Mark Cohen in Rent

Was being a performer what you always yearned for or did you have another career path in mind when you were younger?

Performing is the only thing I’ve ever really focused on from the age of 3. It wasn’t until I was about 16 though that I thought it could become a career. I’m a songwriter and a recording artist which is something I love to do as well. I’m just about to release the first single ‘Lost in You’ from my debut album which is released 03.03.17.

Rent is one of the most iconic musicals ever, do you feel a lot of pressure taking on such an important role?

When I got offered the job I was ecstatic. I was so excited. Then it hit me that this musical has such a strong following. It means so much to people. It really has a place in people’s hearts so the pressure slowly started to dawn on me. I then had to go into the rehearsal room on the first day and let all that pressure go and focus on my portrayal of Mark. I like to think I’ve made him my own and I have enjoyed exploring him. He’s very complex and intricate which I don’t think many people realise. 

The cast must be so close with this production, have there been any standout funny moments on or offstage between you all?

There have been MANY funny moments. My favourite though has to be when Layton Williams who plays Angel got his coat stuck in his wig as he was about to go full throttle into 'Today For You'. Somehow, he managed to sort out the issue whilst incorporating it into the song with humour and sass "My Wig! Help me out with my Wig!" It was pure genius! 

Has the show changed at all going from tour to the St James and then back on tour?

It naturally changes to fill different spaces. The St James was such an intimate setting which I loved. It was very intense. Performing in bigger venues such as Edinburgh Festival Theatre lets other moments thrive more. The show always has the same heart but it definitely feels adapts beautifully to each venue.

How are you enjoying touring life? What do you miss most being away from home?

I’m really enjoying it. I love seeing different places I wouldn't necessarily chose to go to. The thing I miss most about being away is my loved ones and my dogs. 

Can you sum up the show in 5 words?

Live and Love without fear.

If you could go back to any era, when would it be and why?

I’d wanna go back to the caveman era. I wanna know how I would survive!

If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next?

Oooh. I think it would have to be Next to Normal

What's the best piece of advice you're ever received and what advice would you give to aspiring performers?

"Just Be You" is the best advice I’ve ever had. It really works. That’s the advice I’d give to any aspiring performers. Don’t try and fit a mould because someone told you to or because that’s how you get work. I like to think I’ve been employed because of my talent and character and I’ve done that by simply being me. To add to this I would also say never give up. Focus on your own path, it’s so dangerous to compare yourself to others. If you really want it don’t give up. Your time will come.

Thank you so much Billy for doing this interview; go see him in Rent and make sure you purchase all his new music!

Rent is playing at the New Victoria theatre, Woking until March 11th. Visit  for tickets

In Conversation With... Cleve September | Interview

In Conversation With... Cleve September | Interview

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Cleve September is a rising star of the West End. He recently starred in Annie Get Your Gun and In The Heights to much acclaim and has just been cast as Laurens/Philip in the upcoming West End production of Hamilton so it safe to say he's destined for stardom! 

Was being a performer what you always dreamt of or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

I've been singing since I can remember but only started dancing about 6, nearly 7 years ago. Before that I was really into my sports.. I played a lot of basketball and rugby. And I also love 100m and 200m sprints. So I was quite athletic because I got into musical theatre. And the dream back then was to be in the Olympics.

You just finished playing Sonny in In The Heights to much acclaim. It just seems like the funnest show and cast to be a part of. Can you sum up that experience?

Really there are no words to describe how incredible the experience was! In The Heights will always have a place in my heart, as will the cast! They were all such incredible human beings! And they really made my first professional job so amazing.

Did you feel any extra pressure joining so many original Southwark Playhouse cast members when you joined the show at the Kings Cross Theatre? How did you put your own spin on the role?

Not at all because everyone was so welcoming and everyone was so supportive! And I wasn't expected to do the things that Damian can do or did in the show so I could do a bit of creating and figuring out how my body wanted to move in terms of the dance routines. And we just found new things.

You definitely became a fan favourite at Heights; did you expect to gain so many fans in your first role after training?

I didn't know that I was a fan favourite... I had no idea what to expect but I am so thankful for the fans because their love and constant support was amazing throughout the run.

The Kings Cross theatre is super intimate. Are you excited to perform in the Crucible and other larger venues in the future? Do you prefer more intimate or bigger venues?

I'm yet to experience a bigger venue... so I'll let you know!

Annie Get Your Gun is such a Classic musical. Did it get a modern twist in your recent production or did it stick to its original roots?

Nope there was no modern twist to it, we very much stuck to the roots and played it truthfully! The choreography was stunning and it was such an honour and a pleasure working for the team of creatives behind that show!

Can you explain a little about Annie Get Your Gun and how your character Tommy fits into it?

AGYG is about a woman called Annie who is an incredible shooter. She falls in love with a 'swollen headed stiff' named Frank Butler and their story of how they fell in love through the circumstances that they were put through. My character had his own little love story going on with a character called Winnie Tate, who's older sister Dolly, forbids them to be together.

What was your biggest challenge with taking on this role?

I had more than one big challenge haha. The style of Choreo and also singing in a legit style were the two biggest challenges for me as they were both very new to me. However once I managed to kinda wrap my head around it I had the most incredible time! 

If you had a magic wand, which show would you do next? 

Hamilton 👀👀

You have a five minute break during rehearsal, what do you spend that time doing?

If there is food near my I'm eating, or trying to wrap my head around something that may have confused me or I might have done wrong..

You studied at Mountview, what was the best piece of advice your were told during your time there?

To be a sponge and soak everything up that works for me!

It's just been announced you're going to be playing Laurens/Philip in Hamilton; how did you find out you'd got the part, what was your reaction and who did you tell first?

I was out with the cast of Annie Get Your Gun for a drink to end the first week of rehearsals in Sheffield... so it was quite late, and I got a call from my agent. I answered and she asked me if I was alone and I said nope I'm out with the cast. She told me to go somewhere quiet. So I walked outside, she then told me to keep walking and find a place further away so that I was completely out of sight, so I did! And she told me that an offer had come through for John Laurens/Philip Hamilton. And I froze. I completely dropped to the ground and started crying! I was shaking and just couldn't believe it. I was told that I was the first one to find out and that I had to keep it a secret. Only my agent knew at the time so she had had to wait for everyone in the office to go home before she could call me. I had to keep it a secret from everyone!

What are you most nervous about with taking on such a huge role? 

Right now I'm not too nervous about anything... I'm so incredibly excited that I don't really have any space in my mind for any other feelings.. it still doesn't feel real! I guess I could say that I'm almost nervous that I'm going to wake up one day and it was all a big dream. But I'm so thankful to be in the position I am in right now and I can't believe that I get to say to people now that I will be playing John Laurens/Philip Hamilton in the Original West End Cast of Hamilton! It's the most amazing feeling!

Thank you so much to Cleve for taking the time to answer these questions. Make sure you go see Cleve in Hamilton and any other shows he does- you'll love him!

Follow Cleve on twitter here

In Conversation With... Shoshana Bean | Interview

In Conversation With... Shoshana Bean | Interview

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Firstly I want to apologise for how late this interview is. I interviewed Shoshana back in September but unfortunately my phone glitched and I couldn't retrieve the interview so it had to be put off. Thankfully I got it back so you lovely, stagey people can finally read it! So I hope you enjoy this late, but still very interesting and relevant interview from the wonderful Shoshana Bean!

Shoshana is a Broadway veteran who's starred in Wicked, Funny Girl, Hairspray and Beaches to name a few. She's released 3 solo albums, done countless solo concerts as well as those with the Postmodern Jukebox AND she sung back-up vocals for Michael Jackson! There's really nothing this lady can't do!...  

In Conversation With... Sarah Naudi | Interview

In Conversation With... Sarah Naudi | Interview

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Sarah Naudi is currently starring in Lin Manuel Miranda's glorious brainchild In The Heights as the feisty, loved up Vanessa. Her other credits include the short film In The Name of Bjorn and By The Sea in which she acts alongside Angelina Jolie, to name a few.

After a wonderful performance of In The Heights, Emilie (from and I interviewed the lovely Sarah. We found out about her journey to becoming a performer, her love for Lara Croft, her future aspirations and so much more. So without further ado, here is our interview:

In Conversation with... Victoria Hamilton-Barrett | Review

In Conversation with... Victoria Hamilton-Barrett | Review

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Rewrite This Story recently caught up with the wonderfully talented Victoria Hamilton-Barritt whos had a fabulous career from Gypsy and Saturday Night Fever to In The Heights most recently. Victoria told us all about her upcoming musical Murder Ballad, her career so far and her advice for aspiring performers...

You've had a fantastic career that many performers would dream of. What have your highlights been?

Paul Kerryson cast me in Gypsy at Curve Theatre playing Louise/Gypsy and I had an absolute ball in that role. Finally I was playing a role that had so many layers with an epic journey. Paul gave me the greatest opportunity with that show and I absorbed every drop of that incredible production. Another highlight close to my heart is creating the role of Daniela for the London run of In The Heights, Southwark Playhouse and Kings Cross Theatre. I had the best time in that role and changing it up a for a London audience. 

Was being a performer what you always dreamt of or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

I worked in London Zoo when I was younger and was told if I stayed on I would one day be made a zoo keeper. I absolutely love wildlife so I know that's where I would have ended up otherwise.

You went from A Chorus Line to In The Heights, both of which received amazing audience reactions. How was it to be a part of that? Both shows must have felt like a true family!

I've never felt family in a show to the degree of what In The Heights delivered. What a special place. We all shared an obsession for the show which was heartbreaking when I left. A Chorus Line was tricky because there were no interval and we were on stage for a solid 3 hours. The cast were so lovely but because of this obstacle we never fully got to know each other in that 8 month period. Talented writing in the sense where its an audition and keeping distance. Clever.

Both Diana and Daniela are kickass characters; how do you bring so much sass on stage? Do you have any diva inspirations?

I was always Inspired by Joanna Lumley, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. Ruby Wax and all women who make you laugh whether it be with an aggressive undertone or just damn right silly.

So last time you were performing you were heavily pregnant (how did you manage to still dance in heels!?) Since then you’ve had a beautiful baby (congratulations!) Has this changed the way you approach material?

Thank you! She is gorgeous and has made my life. I would have had a harder Pregnancy had I not been in a show. It's better to just get on with things and do what makes you happy. Pregnancy was tough for me as I got so big where I looked full term at 4 months so come 8 months I looked like I was going to pop which caused discomfort for audience members who new I was pregnant for real. People really didn't believe I was pregnant though, where there were a lot of gasping at stage door. Some critics thought it a character choice... honestly.

You’ve gone from the Palladium to the Southwark Playhouse to the Kings Cross Theatre and now you’re going to perform at the Arts Theatre.  These venues couldn’t be more different. Do you prefer the bigger theatres or the more intimate settings? 

I love intimate spaces where you can see every expression and subtle choice. Small venues grant that, which always makes the connection with the audience more connected.

Can you explain a little about Murder Ballad and how your character fits into it?

I'm the narrator of the show which shares a story of a love triangle which gets complicated and things go wrong. Very wrong. That's all I will say for now. 😉

Can you describe it in 5 words?

love, lust, betrayal, sexy, oops.

Your talent and career make you an inspiration for many people hoping to get into musical theatre, whats your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

Work hard but don't take yourself too seriously. If it doesn't make you happy find the right time to stop. If you'd like to pick it up again do so when it feels right for you. You're enough and they're lucky to have you in their room.

You can watch Victoria in Murder Ballad at the Arts Theatre London from September 30th. Tickets can be purchased here:

Read an interview with Victoria's Murder Ballad co-star Kerry Ellis:

In Conversation With... Natasha O'Brien | Interview

In Conversation With... Natasha O'Brien | Interview

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Last week I had the pleasure of sitting down and chatting with Natasha O'Brien who is currently starring as Eve/Mama Noah in Children of Eden at the Union Theatre (which I reviewed here.) Natasha is an incredible performer and I got to pick her brains about all things stagey, see what we discussed below:

For anyone that doesn’t know, can you explain a little what Children of Eden is about?

So Children of Eden is, its a show in two parts, its almost like, each act, they're very closely related but they’re almost like two separate shows. The first act is the story of Adam and Eve and Father, the creation and act two is the story of Noah, and the Ark, and all the animals. But ultimately Christian Durham the director wanted to stray away from the tendency to get too religious with the show and he wanted to make the show about family and parenthood and what it means to create something and to raise something and ultimately the difficulty of letting it go to become its own thing.

Have there been any challenges with bringing this script to life?

I think trying to make this show palatable for a wide audience can be a challenge sometimes, especially nowadays the show has a tendency to be picked up a lot of religious amateur groups and it really lends itself well to those kinds of theatre groups but to take it into a broader arena maybe with a more professional cast and crew can be a challenge. I think Christian’s done a really good job making the themes very universal and just making the material watchable.

Are Eve and Mama Noah anything like you?

Yeah totally, we all bring elements of ourselves to our characters, you have nothing else to go on than your own experience. Mama Noah, she’s definitely very no-drama , she’s very chilled out, very grounded and i elected to make her that way because thats what I  immediately took from her and I mean that was just sort of my first impression and I branched from that to create her. With Eve I think her precociousness and her, I don’t wanna say petulance but just a little  bit of cheekiness, I really identified with that. More so in my younger years, I think that there’s a sense of wonder there that I just admire and love about that character, the way she's written and hows she's so flawed. I mean for all intents and purposes she is sort of the antagonist in the first act. You know, if she didn’t  eat that apple… there would be no show, but at the same time you love her for it  and you see the humanity of it and she is the embodiment of humanity and their flaws and how we have to learn how to love ourselves in spite of it all. 

What will the audience be thinking about in the car as they drive home after this show?

I think the show really goes out with a bang, from my experience, what I’ve witnessed and what people have said to me is that from ‘Ain’t it Good’ onwards you can tell that we’re rapping up the show and there are two really big, beautiful vocal numbers. You know, ‘Ain’t it Good’ is such a big piece, for me personally but just for the whole cast, energetically its really joyous and then ‘In The Beginning’ is just really vocally beautiful, the harmonies are so rich and we really get a chance to showcase the true chemistry and  love and fun that we are all having together as a company and that seems to really  resonate with audience members. I think vocals and the score are something people remember, they leave the theatre and they’re really happy and singing. At least I hope so!

Can you sum it up in 5 words?

Sum up the show in 5 words?! What! I just got so nervous, I just got so anxious! Okay, Family. Love. Encouragement. Belief. Trust. They’re off the top of my head without thinking too much about it which I shouldn’t anyway!

Have you found any differences between Canadian audiences and UK audiences so far?

Yeah! When I think about it the average theatre goer in Canada is  much much older and we don’t have as thriving a theatre scene in one city. In London theatre is so engrained in the culture and so much indie theatre is supported by so many age groups and people from different backgrounds, there’s theatre being produced that is really so marketable, like on the West End you’ve got the massive tourist attractions but on the smaller scale, the local community with come to smaller venues like Children of Eden at the Union Theatre and we just have a much more young, excitable and supportive theatre community here in London. Its incredible and its what helps to keep the theatre industry alive. Its struggling in Canada which is one of the reasons I left, we have such a small populations spread over such a huge land mass and in order to work in Canada you have to travel all across the country, which I did. I worked everywhere from Alberta to Montreal and everywhere in between. Whereas in London you can kind of keep it, if not London based then UK based and have an actual career because there are always interesting projects coming up. There’s an actual scene here. And without an audience there’s no industry, so the audience members are younger, more enthusiastic, more supportive, more critical as well. They’re just more seasoned.

Was being a performer something you always yearned for or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?

Yeah. I did my first musical when I was 6 and I just kind of always did musical theatre and have always known that was it for me. There was a brief moment in my life where I had a dalliance with the idea of maybe becoming a lawyer just because I liked the sound of my own voice and I considered quite strongly becoming a paramedic. I think its like that seeking of  thriving under pressure and drama, but ultimately I chose musical theatre. But it was definitely what I’ve wanted to do my whole life and something that I’ve always had as a part of my life. I’ve always done shows, I’ve always had music and performance in any form like speech competitions or saxophone exams, just always some kind of performance.

What’s the last thing you do before you step out on stage?

You know what, I always look at myself in the mirror. Not like, “how am I looking?” but I spend a moment, have a sip of water and just focus. Its more to tune out everything around me, sometimes backstage before a show can be quite frenetic, the energy can be quite crazy and especially with this show the energy is so high and everyone is having such a good time and we’re all very much in love with each other but I need to make sure that I’m really focussed because the first act of this show goes by in like 10 minutes for me. I never stop so I just sort of stare and myself in the mirror for a few minutes and zone out, almost like an open eyed meditation in a way. Have a sip of water, make sure I pee and I’m good to go!

If you had a magic wand, what show would you do next?

Oh my god, if I had a magic wand! I would love to be in Wicked, oh god I would love it! When it first came out I was just starting drama school so it was just a part of a really magical, exciting time so my feelings attached to the music and everything, its visceral. And I mean, come on, its Wicked! It’d be amazing although part of me gets scared at the concept of that cause its like ‘oh god, every night!’ its a lot!

Alternatively I’d love to do Into The Woods, I mean any role, obviously I’m too old  and too tall to play little red now but I think the bakers wife and one day I would love to play the witch. I would love to do Into the Woods and I really love Urinetown! Its so clever and good and the music just takes the piss out of every musical ever written. I would love to be in Les Mis; speaking of musicals it takes the piss out of, it just rips into Les Mis and I would just love to do it because its just a classic and to play Fantine- have a Wicked first act and then boom done!

Whats your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

I will share a piece of advice that Nancy Sullivan and David Thaxton shared with me back in February. There’s this amazing company called W1 workshops who I heard about from my friend Carrie O’Dowd who's also a performer and they run these incredible intensive workshops that are super affordable and always in a centrally located area and Nancy and David are both incredible, well respected established performers.  

Anyway, the piece of advice that they gave and this resonated so strongly with me, they said: change your environment, surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do and join in. Do it. Do the workshops. Take the coachings. Go to the classes. If you want to be in this industry, put yourself in the thick of it and surround yourself with  people who are doing what you wanna do. 

Its really easy to shy away and get overwhelmed and to let our ego and jealousy kind of cloud us but the most important thing you can do is surround yourself with people doing what you want. Its inspiring, it kicks you in the ass, it gives you an idea of whats going on and from a very practical perspective, you’re networking which is so important. I think networking gets such a gross name but networking is really just talking to people, being a normal, interesting human being with something to say and if I can’t have a conversation with someone and  make them feel comfortable then I do not belong on a stage! If I can’t talk and make you feel comfortable, I am not an actor! 

So I think that is probably the best piece of advice and it is exactly what has  afforded me this opportunity. I mean, I’m brand new to this city, I knew no one in this industry when I moved here and it was just about throwing myself into these workshops, finding them online, going in, shaking hands, getting up with your rep and saying, “Hey Danielle Torento, we’ve never met but I’m gonna sing this song for you now” and you know, follow up emails and just do it! 

Change your environment. It might  be one thing you do differently a day, just one thing at a time and as you change your environment you start to develop this foundation and confidence in yourself that you are in fact, doing it.  Because being an actor isn’t just being on stage, its really hard  to explain that to people who aren’t in the industry. I don’t just show up somewhere 9 to 5 and have people tell me what to do, its all offstage. That [the performance] is the holiday, thats the treat, the bulk of the work is an unbelievable amount of groundwork, so, change your environment. That would be the advice… and its not even mine, I’m just passing it along because I think its a golden nugget of wisdom.

A huge thank you to Natasha for a wonderful chat! 

Children of Eden at the Union Theatre is booking until September 10th, make sure you book to see this fantastic show! Tickets are available here.

Read my review of the show here.

In Conversation With... Kerry Ellis | Interview

In Conversation With... Kerry Ellis | Interview

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Rewrite This Story caught up with the fantastic Kerry Ellis about her upcoming musical Murder Ballad, working with Brian May, Wicked and more. Check out what she has to say below:

For people that may not know about your career, what would you say some of the highlights have been?
There are so many highlights I've been very fortunate to do some incredible things I guess one of the biggest was playing Elphaba on Broadway which was a childhood dream, another was performing in Verona with Brian May live on Italian television in an incredible venue that is like the Colosseum in Rome.

Was being a performer what you always dreamt of or did you have a different career path in mind when you were younger?
I always knew that I wanted to perform I just didn't know how my career would work out, it sounds very cliche but it was in my blood and still is. 

I got to see you perform at the Hampton Court Festival with Brian May and you both seemed so natural and at home with each other… Why do you think you work so well together? What have you learnt from one another?
I think the reason Brian and I work so well together is because we both share the same passion for music and performing, or shows and albums and performance is now very simple it's all based around a voice and the guitar the things we care about so it just seems very natural. There is a lot of drama and atmosphere but also a lot of laughing and fun.

Lets talk about Wicked a little bit. Elphaba has become such an iconic character in musical theatre, what was your favourite and least favourite part playing her? Would you like to don the green paint again for the upcoming film?
Playing Elphaba was an incredible experience, in the West End and on Broadway, of course I would love to be involved in the film in some way and I can never say I wouldn't go back to the show ever again however I have such wonderful memories that will stay with me forever.

It's tough so it's like running a marathon eight times a week physically, emotionally and vocally it's tough but also one of the most rewarding roles I have ever played.

You’re an inspiration for many people hoping to get into musical theatre, whats your best piece of advice for an aspiring performer?

You have to love this industry, it can be so competitive and hard at times but also it's one of the best jobs in the world, there are many knock backs many tears but if you are strong enough and passionate enough it's worth the fight

You’re set to star in Murder Ballad from September, can you explain little about the shows storyline and how your character Sara fits into it?
I think you just need to come and see the show. I'm really excited about it it's a forehand are very intimate show something I've never done before. All the cast are stars and I think it's going to be show not to be missed.

Murder Ballad is set in a bar right? You’re used to performing in much bigger venues, how do you feel about performing in the more intimate Arts Theatre?
I'm a little nervous if I'm honest but I like the challenge and I always like to try new things, it's going to be a very new experience of performing so intimately as a character. 
Sam Yates will be directing us and I have full confidence that he will make this show incredible.

Can you describe ‘Murder Ballad’ in 5 words?
Dangerous passionate electric emotional and fun

A huge thank you to Kerry for taking the time to answer these questions!
Book tickets to see Kerry in Murder Ballad here
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