Actress and singer Helena Blackman shot to fame on the TV show How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? in 2006. Since then she has been a regular on the musical theatre scene. We catch up with her before she tours to the North West in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.
What attracted you to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers?
I saw my friend in the show about 7 years ago and I knew it would be lots of fun. I've done a lot of intense book lead roles recently which I've adored so it was lovely to balance my work as I've never been part of an all singing all dancing show before.
And the role?
Another thing that was a bit different for me...she's feisty and compassionate, she's struggled with loss and wants to start a new life. I heard there was a brand new song put in for Milly as there is for Adam, which I loved and vocally it's much much character lead. Usually working as a soprano, this has been great as I get to focus more intensely on other parts of my voice and use techniques I've only dabbled in. I've also been able to have the flexibility to use some of my vocal range in the show....I've found ways to get my soprano in there...so I'm really using all I got.
The show is a classic. What are your favourite songs and why?
I love "Wonderful Day", it reminds me of falling in love....when you really fall but haven't realised it yet and it's a whirlwind & you're swept up in it. I also love "We've Got To Make It Through The Winter"...the boys rip their shirts open...I enjoy watching this from the wings!
Have you attempted to modernise Milly?
No, it's not been a conscious thing but I'm aware that the entire company were cast because they want a fresh, vibrant, updated show, I've purposefully not become too familiar with the other versions so can't compare. It's a young cast and there is real energy on the stage which I think serves the piece amazingly.
How is it working with Sam Attwater?
It's lovely, he's completely with me & supportive on stage, we're in it together and I think we play off each other really well. I've been told our Adam & Milly have real chemistry which only means we're on the same tracks & that's good enough for me.
Why do you think the show is still popular?
It's not really been one that's been prevalent in my repertoire, I never considered Milly a role I would be playing as she's not a soprano and they are the roles that primarily come my way. So when I learned of how popular it was I was thrilled. I think because the show does everything...big ensemble dance numbers, ballads, intense emotional scenes, it's sat paced, funny and moving...I'd be surprised at anyone not liking it!
What's been your favourite role to date and why?
Wow, this is tough. I've generally loved the parts I've played & have been fortunate that I've never taken a role just because it's work and I hope I'm never in that position...I'd rather work in an office! I've a great team around me who really only select and suggest what they think is appropriate...my dream was to play Eliza Doolittle & I got to do this over the summer at Kilworth House.
Would you recommend TV talent shows to young performers?
I recommend anything where you get to perform. I believe in saturating yourself in opportunities as life's too short & the experience you gain...good or bad is so valuable in a tough industry such as ours....you're able to gage if you can survive...that's something I think everyone needs to be able to do regardless of talent.
Helena then (How do you solve a Problem...) and Helena now. How have you changed?
I feel I have immensely and I keep changing. I'm always searching for new opportunities & questioning my art and I hope this makes me a more truthful performer, but it doesn't get easier, life gets in the way & it's a juggling act. I believe I'm a survivor and I'm proud of my conduct in my career and that I'm still able to do the thing I love and find passion.
In 8 words, why should audiences see Seven Brides?
A triple threat show: singing, dancing and acting!
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is at Crewe's Lyceum Theatre - 14 - 19 October, Manchester Opera House from 21 - 26 October 2013, Blackpool's Grand Theatre 11- 16 November & the Liverpool Empire from 24 Feb - 1 March 2014.