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20 Questions With...Kathryn Evans

Musical actress Kathryn Evans, who stars as aging showgirl Sally in the much-anticipated London revival of Sondheim's Follies, might have been an interior designer or, better yet, a ballerina like Margot Fonteyn.

By • West End


Trained as a ballerina, actress Kathryn Evans has been a regular on the musical stage since taking over as Argentina's first lady Eva Peron in Hal Prince's West End production of Evita.

Since then, her additional West End credits have included Nite Club Confidential, Anything Goes, Radio Times, Aspects of Love, Mack and Mabel, The Fix and The Best of Times (The Jerry Herman Revue).

Evans has also worked extensively in regional theatre, most regularly with Paul Kerryson, artistic director of the Leicester Haymarket, where her many productions have included Hot Stuff, Piaf, Into the Woods, The Sound of Music, The Rink, A Little Night Music and, in May this year, Rodgers and Hart's On Your Toes, choreographed by and co-starring the Royal Ballet star Adam Cooper.

She is now working with Kerryson again, this time down south in the much-anticipated production of Stephen Sondheim's 1971 Broadway musical Follies, the first major London revival of the show in 15 years. Follies - which also stars Henry Goodman, Louise Gold and Diane Langton - runs at the Royal Festival Hall to 31 August 2002.


Date & place of birth
Born 6 March in London - I'd rather not say the year.

Lives now in
Suffolk

Training
The Royal Ballet School - Arts Educational. I wanted to be Margot Fonteyn, but they didn't think the same.

First big break
It has to be Evita.

Career highlights to date
Evita. Anything Goes was the first time I created a role in the West End. Piaf at the Leicester Haymarket was a challenge as I had two and a half weeks to learn the whole show in French - it was a bit of a tour de force for me. I also loved Into the Woods because the witch is a dual role; you get to play the haggard old woman and then the young beauty.

Favourite production
I can't pick one out, I've been so fortunate to be happy in every production I've ever done. Each new production you start you immediately think that that's your favourite, but they all give you something different.

Favourite co-star
Peter Purvis, because I married him! We were in pantomime at Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Cinderella!

Favourite directors
Difficult, I've enjoyed working with them all. Obviously, it was a great thrill to work with Hal Prince and Sam Mendes, but I have a soft spot for Paul Kerryson. We've done so much work together that we can almost know what the other one is thinking

Favourite musical writers
I love them all. It's great I've done so many styles of music, I'm so fortunate in that respect. In the revival of the Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes at Leicester, there was a number inserted from another of their shows called "You Took Advantage of Me" which was amazing to sing every night.

What roles would you most like to play still?
I have always wanted to play Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me, Kate. I was offered it and was due to be taking over in the West End production but now it's coming off. For the future, Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd and Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly.

What's the last thing you saw on stage that you really enjoyed?
I've seen lots I've really enjoyed. There was a great occasion at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich. My husband is on the board there, and they reopened the theatre after many years of it being closed. The opening production was Sweeney Todd. It was a fantastic production, the cast were superb and there was an amazing atmosphere in the building.

If you hadn't become an actress, what would you have done for a living?
I'd have been a ballet dancer if I had had the technique! I'd like to have been an interior designer, too; it's my hobby and I drive my husband mad with colour charts.

If you could swap places with one person (living or dead), who would it be?
There are lots of people I'd love to be, but ... maybe Shirley MacLaine, because she's had such a wonderful varied career, starting off as a dancer and then getting into film. Of course the longevity of her career helps!

Favourite books
Wilkie Collins is my favourite author. There's a great sense of theatre about all his books. I suppose Moonstone is my favourite of them - it's a wonderful mystery novel. But he's written a lot of books that no one knows about and I have them all!

Favourite holiday destinations
I don't get chance to go on holiday much, it's hard to have the time together with my husband. I love France though; we go there a lot and have just come back from the Dordogne.

What advice would you give the government to secure the future of British theatre?
The same old chestnut as everyone else - more funding please!

What do you enjoy most about performing in musicals?
All of it, every aspect of it. I suppose the best thing is hearing the overture strike up every night - nothing can replace that.

How does performing in a Sondheim musical compare with other shows?
The music is difficult, and you don't always expect where the melodies are going to go. But when you get it right, it's so rewarding.

Why do you think Sondheim hasn't enjoyed the kind of commercial success of Andrew Lloyd Webber?
I don't know - I could listen to Sondheim all day. Perhaps that's the problem. Like opera, Sondheim needs to be really listened to before you can grasp it all. There's no reason why his works shouldn't have had that success though. They're about such fundamental things - human nature and relationships.

What attracted you to your part in this production of Follies?
It's a very different part for me as I tend to play the wise-cracking dame. Sally is not that, she's very complex. On the surface, she's very bright and bubbly but she's fragile underneath.

What's your favourite number from Follies?
It's one I'm not singing in this production. I did Side By Side at Greenwich and sang "I'm Still Here". It's my favourite, and I'll be jealously watching Diane Langton every night from the wings as she sings it!

What's your favourite line from Follies?
The score's full of great lines. It's impossible to pick one out.

What's the funniest/oddest/most notable thing that has happened during the rehearsals for the show?
It's all been very concentrated so I don't know if I'm allowed to say anything frivolous happens! On the first day of rehearsals, I got into the lift with the younger Sally (Emma Clifford) and we'd just met. We both sort of held our breaths and both said, "I hate lifts."

What are your plans for the future?
I don't know - it was supposed to be Kiss Me, Kate! But I can't think past this now.

- Kathryn Evans was speaking to Sarah Beaumont


Follies opens at the Royal Festival Hall on 6 August 2002 (previews from 3 August) and continues until 31 August.


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