Despite winning five 2006 Tony Awards for its Broadway production, including Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical, the 1920's pastiche musical failed to achieve the same success on this side of the pond. It ran for only two months at the West End's Novello Theatre in 2007 where Elaine Paige took the title role in a cast that also featured Summer Strallen. The cast for the revival includes Michael Howe, Ashley Day and Matthew Lloyd Davies as the eccentric Man In Chair.
Can you tell us about The Drowsy Chaperone and the role of Janet?
It’s a show within a show set in the 1920’s. An anorak of a musical theatre fan treats the audience to a LP of his favourite musical (The Drowsy Chaperone) which then runs wild in his living room. He takes us on a roller coaster of a journey. It’s funny, camp, touching, heartwarming and fun! Janet, my character, is a famous showgirl who on a whim has decided to give up the bright lights of show business to get married to a man she has only just met – but will she or won’t she?
How do you think the show translates to a more intimate venue?
I think it works really well at The Gatehouse as it’s all set within a sitting room and it really makes you feel like the audience are part of the show. As you say the venue is extremely intimate which really makes it feel like everyone is sat in ‘his’ sitting room. The Gatehouse has a fantastic record for musicals, Buddy recently went down amazingly well, and hopefully this will be right up there. From the people I've spoken to it's either a show they saw in the West End a few years ago and never got the chance to see again or one that people wanted to see but didn't get a chance - it's great that the Gatehouse are giving people that opportunity.
You're starring alongside an Olivier nominee, Siobhan McCarthy, as your Chaperone. What is it like working with a West End veteran?
Amazing... I’m learning so much from her. As you say she's an Olivier nominee and has been a part of some of the biggest West End musicals... so you can't not learn from somebody with that level of experience. I just have to remember not to laugh at her jokes on stage as she is so funny. We have such a strong cast and creative team all round, it's fantastic.
Can you tell us a little bit about the audition and rehearsal process?
It was very rigorous. I had three auditions with Racky Plews (director), Tim Whiting (musical director), Michael England (musical supervisor) and the producers and was then put through my paces by Fabian Aloise (choreographer) in the dance department, but rehearsals have been so much fun. It's such a benefit being able to rehearse in the theatre... to be able to play and experiment with the space from day one. It's such a fun show to be a part of... we can't stop giggling. We also have a wonderful cast and we all get along really well which makes it a joy to come to work every morning.
Looking back, did you enjoy your Over the Rainbow experience?
Yes it hasn’t done me any harm at all. Looking back I would have done things differently but I made great friends and got live TV experience.
Do you still keep in touch with any of your fellow contestants or the judging panel?
Yes all the girls keep in touch and I love and support them all in everything they do. Claire Hillar (who was in the final 20) and I are very good friends and meet up every week.
Finally, why should people come and see The Drowsy Chaperone?
People should come and see The Drowsy Chaperone because it’s like nothing else in London at the moment. It's glitz, glam, comedy, drama and takes you back to the Roaring Twenties and the golden age of musicals... and it’s loads of fun. Our aim is to entertain and we're having a ball on that stage. The cast are incredible so it’s well worth a watch.
The Drowsy Chaperone runs 28 September to 31 October 2010 (previews from 23 September) at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.