Sunday, 20 April 2014

Big Interview: Lauren Samuels

Lauren Samuels is currently starring in the world stage premiere of Water Babies at the Leicester Curve Theatre. 

Water Babies  has music by Chris Egan and book and lyrics by Ed Curtis (who also directs) and Guy Jones. Producers claim the production will feature 'landmark special effects' and describe the show as a 'funny, touching and unforgettable' new musical. 

Water Babies marks Lauren’s return to the Curve where she made her professional debut as Wendy in Peter Pan The Musical. After finishing third on Andrew Lloyd’s Webber’s reality programme Over the Rainbow (BBC1), Lauren made her West End debut as Sandy in Grease (Piccadilly Theatre). 

She then starred as Scaramouche in the West End production of We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre) and was nominated for West End Frame's 'Best Performance of a Song in a Musical' award for her rendition of 'Somebody To Love', finishing second place. She later reprised her performance, starring as Scaramouche in We Will Rock You's international arena tour.

Her other theatre credits include: Cathy in The Last 5 Years (Tabard), Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz (Cyprus), Yonah in The Children of Eden (Gala Performance, Prince of Wales) and the title role in Vampirette (Manchester Opera House). After Water Babies Lauren will play Jenny in the Octagon Theatre’s revival of Love Story with Daniel Boys.

I recently spoke to Lauren about the pressures of creating a new role, what audiences can expect from Water Babies and why she would take a Christmassy musical theatre song with her to a desert island…

There was so much discussion and excitement surrounding Water Babies long before rehearsals had even begun. It must feel great now that the show’s on its feet and you’re about to open?!
We’ve all been so looking forward to it. I found out I got the job last November and, as you say, people have been so excited about it and we’ve been doing a lot of press, photo shoots and so on; so to finally be in rehearsals with the whole cast and creatives is so much fun, we are having a great time!

There’s so must talk about the production featuring ground breaking special effects, it sounds like it’s going to be quite a spectacle! What can audiences expect?
On the very first day we were shown some models of the set and scenery and we were all absolutely gobsmacked… I don’t think my mouth shut the whole time we were looking at them [laughs]! They have the most incredible people working on the set and scenery and some of the special effects have never been seen before on stage. We are still being kept in the dark ourselves about some of it which is exciting but I think the audience will be left quite gobsmacked.

How would you describe the music? I love ‘Waiting For You’, is the rest of the score similar?
Yes, it’s very similar. It’s kind of contemporary, poppy, and musical theatre - great storytelling which I think is a key thing about it, you don’t feel like there is a song that comes out of nowhere. Each song moves the story along, it’s so well written! Chris Egan has done such a wonderful job. The prologue is the longest, most complicated opening of a show I have ever done! Without giving too much away it kind of goes forwards and backwards in time while we are singing… it’s epic. I’m just so excited to be involved!

So often I ask performers about their dream roles during interviews, and often people tell me they want to create a brand new role which is exactly what you’re doing. How have you found the process? 
It’s very scary because obviously nobody has played the role before so I’ve got to get it right for everybody. It’s wonderful as an actress to be given that opportunity to be creative and to work with the writers and directors to get it exactly as they imagine, and as I imagine it in my head. It’s certainly something I’ve always wanted to do and I feel very lucky to be doing it!


Lauren rehearsing for Water Babies

What have the cast been like to work with?
It is such a wonderful cast, there is a huge amount of talent amongst the cast and the creatives and we are all getting on so well. It’s all very exciting!

The reputation of the Leicester Curve is insane; it’s literally like a West End theatre which has escaped from London. It must be amazing to work there?
The Curve is quite special to me because I did my first ever professional job there. In the first year the Curve opened I did Peter Pan and it was all brand new and fresh and everyone was very excited about this up and coming, sophisticated theatre but, as you say, now its reputation has gone up so much it’s almost like Chichester in that so many huge shows are going into it and then transferring to the West End. So it’s really exciting to be there and I think it’s the perfect theatre for this show to start out in.

"It’s epic. I’m just so excited to be involved! Creating a role is something I’ve always wanted to do and I feel very lucky to be doing it!"

Imagine you had to move to a desert island and could only take three musical theatre songs with you… which three would you take?
[laughs] Right, well I would definitely take 'On My Own' from Les Mis because when I did singing lessons when I was younger it was one of the very first songs that I heard musical theatre-wise, I was about 13. I was like “This song is beautiful, what is it from?!” Can you believe I didn’t know?!

I love that!
Now, what else would I take? At the moment I would take ‘Waiting For You’, the duet that Louise and I do in Water Babies, because it’s been one of the best songs I’ve ever had the opportunity to record. To be given the opportunity to duet with Louise has been amazing because, as you know, her voice is incredible and she has the kind of CV I can only dream of having one day. 


Lauren and Louise Dearman during Water Babies rehearsals

Your final song!
My last choice... for a bit of fun... ummmm.... this is a really hard question! Can I not just take everything?! I think I would take ‘A Christmas Song’ from Elf The Musical. I heard it for the first time a couple of years ago. It’s one of those songs that made me laugh so much and made me so happy. I did a musical theatre radio show at Christmas and played that song! So yes, I would finish with a Christmassy musical theatre song! 

Ok, so let’s discuss We Will Rock You! So many actresses dream of playing Scaramouche and not only did you play the part in the West End, but you also starred in the show’s world arena tour! You must have such fond memories of your time in the show?
It was always a dream of mine since my dad took me to see the show when I was about 18 and I remember sitting there thinking, “One day, if I’m ever good enough, I’d love to play that part, maybe when I finish drama school.” So to actually be cast in the role was a dream come true – you really do feel like a rock star on that stage, singing all those amazing Queen songs! The cast and crew involved in the show are all lovely. To actually have been directed by Ben Elton was amazing, the way his mind works is incredible. To be on stage with Brian May and Roger Taylor was very special. The international tour was amazing - visiting all those incredible countries and those amazing arenas and playing to thousands of people who just love Queen was a wonderful feeling.

Does Over The Rainbow feel like another world away now?
It’s a bit of a blur, I sometimes think I don’t believe I did that! I look back on it and think, “Yes, I did that show, didn’t I, how weird!” It was a really great show and when I look back on it now I have nothing but fond memories. It was hard at the time and a very difficult programme to be involved in at such a young age, but it gave me such a great door into the West End and I met some amazing people and was lucky enough to work with some amazing people and we’re still really good friends.

You’ve built up such a loyal following from theatre fans, what’s it like having that kind of support behind you?
It is amazing because I just see myself as me, so when I get letters from fans and they come to see the shows and sometimes they travel miles, I almost feel guilty, I think “You’ve done that for me, I’m not worth it!” But it’s always really nice to have that support. It makes me realise that the hard work I put in pays off and brings people joy which is why we do it!


Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Water Babies opens on Tuesday 6th May (previews from 24th April) and runs until Saturday 17th May 2014. Please visit www.curveonline.co.uk for further information and tickets.

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Photo Credit 2&3: Pamela Raith

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