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Helena Blackman On ... Journey to the Past

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BBC How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? finalist and West End star Helena Blackman is set to come to Chetham’s School of Music, Manchester on Friday 10 February as part of her first ever UK solo tour entitled Journey to the Past - a celebration of music from the wonderful world of classic animated movies. Since capturing the nation’s attention and the unfailing support of Andrew Lloyd Webber on the BBC talent show, Helena has gone on to headline a  UK tour of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and starred in the West End première of Stephen Sondheim’s Saturday Night.

In 2011, Helena released her highly successful debut album "The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein" before going on to perform the unforgettable songs which appear on the album at the prestigious Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall. She has also recently toured the UK as a guest artist with number one charting classical singer Jonathan Ansell. We caught up with her this week.

What has life been like for you following How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria?
It has been good and very hectic, although nothing seems to just plod along. It is everything or nothing. On the quiet times I am sorting my life out and at the other times I am doing ten things at once! The most time consuming thing is preparing material, because I will be doing gig after gig after gig, possibly singing one-ten numbers each time. My album "The Sound of Rodgers & Hammerstein", which got released last year, has also been a lovely experience. July to August was nice and quiet for me. But I've done panto and I'm now working on Journey to the Past - nice things always come up. It would be nice to have a year's contract, so that I can commute to work.

What was the inspiration behind Journey to the Past?
I was originally going to do a tour with Roger and Hammerstein songs, which was also a nice idea. It basically came from my first gig at The Pheasantry in Chelsea, which is a really lovely place. I finished with a Disney medley and everybody went mad about it, singing along and clapping. The producers of my album said “would you like to tour with animated movie songs” and I was like “why not?”. I am visiting some lovely venues all over the country and singing beautiful songs from beautiful shows. I love singing songs I loved as a kid. It doesn't matter what age group you are. There's songs from Tangled and Princess and the Frog for the younger ones.

What’s your favourite song to perform in the show, and why?
My favourite at the moment is "Out There" from Hunchback of Notre Dame. It is a male song and it just gives me goosebumps. I thought “I am going to have a go at this” - it's very exciting.

Who has been your influence in musical theatre, and why?
Oh my goodness, that is so hard. I admire anybody that goes on stage. I really admire George Styles and Anthony Drewe, who wrote Mary Poppins and Betty Blue Eyes. I interviewed them for Bush Theatre and I love the way they think about writing  – they really influence me.

What would be your ideal role in musical theatre?
I would still love to do stuff like Phantom of the Opera but I'm a bit too old for it now, I would also like Les Miserables, Wicked and Mary Poppins.

What’s next for you?
I will be starting rehearsals for Gay is the Word (very camp), where I play a character called Linda, so I will be performing in that every Sunday and Monday. It's all rather hectic!

Helena Blackman was speaking to Rebecca Cohen.

Helena Blackman - Journey to the Past is at the Chetham's School of Music on 10 February.


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