Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Big Interview: Sophie-Louise Dann

Known as one of the West End’s most talented divas, Sophie-Louise Dann is currently starring in the London revival of ​Maltby and Shire’s Closer Than Ever at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Later this year she is set to, once again, return to the cast of Forbidden Broadway at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

​The original version of Closer Than Ever premiered at the Off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre in 1989 where it became an instant hit, running for over 300 performances. New songs have been added into this revised production, directed by Maltby.

Sophie-Louise Dann recently starred as Velma in Hairspray (Curve). Last year she starred as Dot/Marie in the Théâtre du Châtelet production of Sunday in the Park with George and in 2012 she received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Supporting Role in a Musical for her portrayal of Diana Divane in Lend me a Tenor (Gielgud).

Her West End credits include: title role in Iolanthe, Pitti-Sing in The Mikado, Edith in Pirates Of Penzance (Carl Rosa Opera/ Gielgud), 42nd St (Dominion), Jolson (Victoria Palace), Forbidden Broadway! (Albery) and, for D’Oyly Carte Opera, Cousin Hebe in HMS Pinafore, Leila in Iolanthe, Kate in The Yeomen Of The Guard and Peep-Bo in The Mikado (Savoy).

Sophie-Louise’s theatre credits also include: Gay Daventry in Gay’s the Word (Finborough/Jermyn Street), Fairy Godmother in Cinderella (Hackney Empire), Liz Imbrie in High Society (UK Tour), Hannah in A Chorus of Disapproval (Theatr Clwyd) and Alma Hix in The Music Man, Smitty in How To Succeed… Marya Artonova in The Government Inspector, Venus in Out Of This World (Chichester Festival Theatre).

I recently spoke to Sophie-Louise about what makes Closer Than Ever such a special show, how much fun she had in Hairspray at the Curve and why she loves belting her tits off for 2,000 people...

How familiar were you with Closer Than Ever prior to your casting in this production?
It’s one of those scores which I’ve known since I was a student at Arts Ed in… I’m not going to say the date – but it was a long time ago [laughs]! ​Maltby and Shire’s work was the stuff to sing, of course we were twenty years too young to sing it. Now, all these years later, it’s thrilling to be singing it and to be directed by ​Richard ​​​​Maltby​, Jr. 

I can imagine! The fact he has directed the production makes it very special!
It’s fantastic to have that luxury of being able to talk about the song with the guy who wrote the song… and then for him to say he likes the way you sing his song [laughs]. It’s thrilling on so many levels and to be back at the Jermyn Street, which is my studio space of choice shall we say, is wonderful. 

Closer Than Ever is described as this rollercoaster ride of emotions. What do you think an audience member can expect to go through? What journey are you going to take them on?
The joy of this score is that it’s about everybody’s different take on life. We all know what life throws at you – it can be great, it can be challenging, it can be s**t – but our emotions deal with it. The beauty of Closer Than Ever is that every audience member is going to go away relating to different parts of the show and Richard actually pointed out something, he said when they did it in New York people would come up to him and say “thank you”. They were thankful for him writing about all these emotions we have to deal with every day. 

You’re working alongside a very small, but very talented cast. What has everyone been like to work with?
There’s a great camaraderie between us, I’m fortunate enough to have known ​Graham (Bickley) and ​Issy (Van Randwyck) for many years. I’ve worked with them both so we were already friends to begin with which was great, we picked up where we left off! There’s also a lovely guy ​Arvid (Larsen) who is new to me, but he’s delightful! We couldn’t be in safer hands with ​Nathan Martin at the piano! He’s just superb and has accompanied me before in my one-woman show. He makes you feel absolutely safe and can make one grand piano sound like an orchestra – that’s a real skill.

You’ve already mentioned your love for the Jermyn Street Theatre, why do you love working there so much? It’s certainly one of my favourite fringe theatres!
It’s a place that’s close to my heart. I did Forbidden Broadway there, I did my own show, Gay’s The Word and I will always, if there’s a project I want to be a part of, go back – I love it.

And how do you find performing in a tiny theatre like the Jermyn Street compared to performing in a huge West End venue?
It is completely different! Those who know me and my body of work will know I love to wear different hats! But this is my favourite; I absolutely love to be in an intimate space and to be able to communicate close up, but also I love donning the lashes, putting on the wigs and belting my tits off for 2,000 people [laughs]! I guess that’s the luxury of this game!

Sophie-Louise in Lend Me A Tenor

You’ve just finished playing Velma in Hairspray at the Curve. It was such an incredible production; did you have as much fun as it looked like you were having?
I ate up that role! Velma was such a monster, but such fun to play!

I think the moment during ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ when you marched down the front row and literally screamed in an audience members face was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life!
[howls with laugher] I have Paul Kerrison to thank for that, we made a very big decision at the beginning that breaking into the house was going to be my domain! They were her studio audience and she put the fear of God into them! 

Sophie-Louise in Lend Me A Tenor
Another incredible role you played is Diana Divane in Lend Me A Tenor which is still one of my all-time favourite musicals!
Aww gosh! To be given the luxury of having something written for you was what Diana Divane was all about. Brad Carroll (music) and Peter Sham (lyrics/book) got it right and we put all the tricks in my box into one number which I will always be grateful for. Diana Divane will always have a great place in my heart!

If you had to go to a desert island which three musical theatre songs would you take with you?
[gasps] Ok! I’m going to take ‘It’s An Art’ which is the opening number in my cabaret. It’s from a small show called Working by Stephen Schwartz (the musical ran on Broadway for 24 performances and 12 previews starring Patti LuPone). It’s about a waitress and about how she doesn’t want to be a waitress but has to be to pay the bills. There’s an inner diva in there [laughs], are you sensing a theme here?! I would have to take ‘May I Have A Moment?’ (from Lend Me A Tenor) because it was written for me. Finally I think I would actually take ‘Move On’ from Sunday in the Park with George. I did the show last year in Paris and it kind of got under my skin [laughs], I didn’t think it would! It encapsulates everything – if you’re in a quandary you just have to move on with your life and what will be will be.

Over the years you have become a theatrical legend and have so much dedicated support behind you from theatre fans. It must be lovely knowing you have that support behind you?
It’s fantastic! I don’t do Twitter and only a little bit of Facebook, but what always thrills me when I do my cabaret is when the people I don’t know – not my friends or family – come up to me and say “I saw you in…” It’s wonderful to have that support and to have somebody appreciate the gift you are given. If I can entertain people and make people happy, that’s what makes me happy. I’m a very live theatre animal. I don’t do much television; I absolutely love the medium of live theatre. There’s nothing like it, there’s such a buzz!

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

Closer Than Ever runs at the Jermyn Street Theatre until Saturday 7th June 2014. 
Please visit www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk for further information and tickets. 

Forbidden Broadway begins performances at the Menier Chocolate Factory on 18th June 2014.
Please visit www.menierchocolatefactory.com for further information and tickets.

No comments:

Post a Comment