Monday, 10 November 2014

Big Interview: Louise Bowden, starring in White Christmas

Louise Bowden is currently starring as Judy Haynes in White Christmas at the Dominion Theatre. She reprises her performance having starred in many of the show’s previous regional runs.

Directed by Morgan Young with choreography by Randy Skinner, White Christmas also stars Aled Jones, Tom Chambers, Wendi Peters, Graham Cole and Rachel Stanley. The limited run of Irving Berlin’s musical concludes on 3rd January 2015.

Louise’s many theatre credits include playing: Kathy Selden in Singin' In The Rain (Palace), Philostrate in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Bridget in Ragtime (both Regent’s Park), Meat in We Will Rock You (Dominion), Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins (National Tour), Florinda in Into The Woods (Royal Opera House/Lowry Manchester), Hot Box Girl in Guys & Dolls (Donmar/Piccadilly), Ali in Mamma Mia (International Tour) and Molly in On Eagles Wing (Odyssey Arena Belfast). She also played Marisa in the workshop of Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown.

I recently spoke to Louise about why she adores everything about White Christmas, working alongside Aled Jones and Tom Chambers, returning to the Dominion Theatre and what song she would belt out if she found herself stranded on a desert island (it’s a good one!)...

You’ve starred in White Christmas several times before; did you need any persuading to return for this West End run?
I absolutely didn’t need any persuading at all! I think it’s something the producers and directors have wanted for years. Anybody who has participated in the show has always wanted it to go into town because it’s such a huge spectacular production. It’s great to go regional and take it around the country but it’s amazing to have it in the West End, especially at the Dominion now that it has been refurbished. It’s so exciting! I was absolutely one hundred percent on board and thrilled when they asked me if I would like to return to the show. 

It must be nice to return to a show you’re familiar with?
Yes! I’ve done White Christmas three times before; I had a little break from it last year so it’s like coming home – it’s like one big family! Lots of people who are doing it now have also done it before which is fantastic.

There is something so irresistible about White Christmas… I even find the posters heart-warming! What do you think makes it so magical? What is its secret?
It’s good old fashioned musical theatre, MGM style with huge big dance numbers and incredible sets, magical love stories – it’s that old fashioned feeling that just gets you at Christmas. It has that ‘feel-good’ factor. The numbers really are spectacular with a seventeen piece orchestra! It’s overwhelming! 

You started rehearsing last month – is it strange feeling Christmassy in October?!
Yes, it is strange! Although some days it was thirteen, fourteen degrees when we were rehearsing and we were absolutely roasted! We are in the Christmas spirit; you can’t help but be when you’re working on this show. 

What have Aled (Jones) and Tom (Chambers) been like to work with?
I’ve actually worked with both of them on this show before with Aled playing the role he’s playing now, Bob. However, when I did it with Tom before he also played Bob, so it’s actually funny that for this run Tom has swapped and is playing Phil. We’re playing opposite each other which is fantastic! They’re both cheeky chappies and amazing guys to work with, so lovely and down to earth. They are so hardworking and such a laugh, we get on really well. It was great that the chemistry was already there! Rachel Stanley plays my sister and all four of us have been getting up to mischief! They are all so amazingly talented. We have all been sweating buckets [laughs]! 

You’ve already mentioned that most of the cast have worked on the show before. What has the atmosphere been like? It sounds like you are all having a ball!
It has been really nice and really comfortable. We all know that we’re back because we love the show. I did the show three years consecutively because I loved it so much and I was fortunate to be able to fit it in with whatever else I was doing. If there is ever any way of fitting this show in I absolutely will because it’s just one of my favourite shows to do! This kind of genre is my favourite – where it is singing, dancing and acting altogether. That’s where I fit really conformably with what I enjoy doing. I think everyone feels the same, there are a couple of people who haven’t done it since the very beginning and then there are people who have done it every single year – I think it started seven years ago. There is definitely an amazing atmosphere within the cast because we all want to be there. 

Last time you were at the Dominion you were in a totally different show (We Will Rock You) wearing a slightly different costume! How does it feel to be back?
I know!! I’m really excited about it actually! When I went there for a costume fitting I completely lost my way! I thought, ‘oh I’ve been here before so I’ll be fine’ but I couldn’t remember which way to turn. Backstage is quite a maze, it’s so huge. But yes, I’m so excited to be back in a completely different costume [laughs]! The characters couldn’t really be more different! They are polar opposites. I’ve never actually returned to the same theatre in the West End ever, so it is nice to be back in a familiar place doing something new.

However, you’re also no stranger to playing these iconic, old-school roles. Playing Kathy in Singin’ in the Rain in the West End must have been another dream come true?
Yes, absolutely. It was a complete dream role! I got to perform opposite Adam Cooper who I also did White Christmas with several times so I fell into a partnership immediately where there was already chemistry. We knew what ways our bodies moved and how we worked. When you go into a new cast sometimes and are meeting a whole new bunch of people you have to build all those relationships, so it was nice that I knew Adam and I also knew Stephane Anelli. Kathy is such an iconic role in such an iconic show. For any actress who wants to do the ‘triple threat thing’ Kathy is just THE role! I was thrilled to be involved in it!

Are you one of these people who has dream roles, or do you like to wait and see which parts pop up?
I am very open minded. I get asked about dream roles quite a lot but I never really think about it because each time a role comes up and I invest in it, that character suddenly becomes my dream role. I put every inch of myself into every part and suddenly it becomes everything I’ve ever wanted! I just love seeing what comes up and what’s different. I don’t like to pigeonhole myself, I like to keep all doors and options open. The more varied your career the better, it keeps you interested, alive and on top of your game. 

Right… I’m sending you to a desert island and you can only take three musical theatre songs with you. Which three would you take and why?
Oh my gosh… what a question!! I think I would probably have to take songs that I’ve done before, just because of what they mean to me now. Going back to what I said before, when I get a role and invest in it that is when it connects to me more than just learning a song for an audition. One of them definitely, definitely has to be ‘Lucky Star’ from Singin’ in the Rain! It’s just a beautiful song. It means a lot to me because Kathy is just onstage on her own and it’s actually an audition piece, she’s nervous but then she comes into her own and gets more confident. I just think it’s a beautiful transition, and then of course it’s an old fashioned song which I love! 

Umm… another song I loved which I did when I was in Mary Poppins was ‘Being Mrs Banks’. That was another transition! It’s about this woman who sees her husband is struggling and says, “I can help you with this” and “I can be the person who is strong for you.” The transition through that song is incredible! She realises how she can help her husband and fight for him. 

What is your last one going to be?!
Umm… gosh I don’t know! Actually, I absolutely love ‘Being Alive’. It’s just one of those songs I love to belt out! I don’t know what it is! When I was younger and heard Bernadette Peters sing it I just fell in love with it. I love how the song grows and it’s a good old fashioned belter [laughs]. 

It has to be done!
They’re just my three off the cuff ideas! I don’t know what I’m saying, I’m just thinking off the top of my head [laughs]! I like so many different songs, it’s impossible to just pick three. Singing ‘Being Alive’ on a desert island… I mean… that works… right? [laughs]

Finally, there is so much support behind you in theatreland from people who will see you in something and then come and see your next project and so on. It must be so nice having that support behind you?
Oh my gosh, I guess it is part of why we do it. Obviously I love what I do, but the response and the way you can touch people’s lives in such a small way is amazing. What we’re doing isn’t brain surgery, but sometimes it really touches people and to have fans come and wait at the stage door or tweet you to say “hi” really is incredible. We wouldn’t have an audience without them so the support of the fans is one hundred percent needed and it never goes unnoticed! So hopefully if there’s any fans out there [laughs], they will come to the Dominion stage door and say hi! 

Interviewed by Andrew Tomlins (Editor)

White Christmas runs at the Dominion Theatre until 3rd January 2015.
Please visit for further information and tickets.

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