Read an extract from Louise Dearman and Mark Evans's Secrets of Stage Success
In their new book, published today, the West End stars shine a spotlight onto how you can follow in their footsteps
Q: Is success down to talent or luck?
Louise: I think you need a lot of both! Of course, you stand a much better chance of succeeding if you have talent, but you also need to have worked hard, always be at your physical and vocal best, and well prepared. But there's a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. What good is buckets of talent if you sit on your backside and don't get out there and grab every opportunity?! I have been an understudy, I've been a swing covering lots of ensemble roles, I've played parts in small productions, and worked my way up to leading roles in huge productions - but along the way I have met people who have taken me under their wings and introduced me to composers, producers, artists, who have all in turn given me the most wonderful opportunities. For this, I count myself very lucky.
Mark: I don't really like the word 'luck'. I don't believe in it and never use it myself. Many people within the industry have casually said to me, 'We can't all be as lucky as you' - and, whilst I know they mean well, I somewhat take offence to it. Clearly they're not aware of how much I've sacrificed to achieve the things I have, and the tough decisions I've had to make to carve out the career I wanted for myself. I believe you need talent to get on in the industry, of course. But I think instead of luck, you need ambition, determination and focus.
Here's an example of what I mean. Back in 2011, during my run as Fiyero in Wicked, I had a night off and went to see Ghost: The Musical. I decided there and then that I would do everything in my power to play the lead role of Sam Wheat at some point in the future. Luck was not going to win me that job, so I called my agent immediately and asked him to talk to the Ghost casting director, expressing my interest in the show. I bought a guitar and learned to play 'Unchained Melody', as the role requires, I continued working hard at the gym, and I took voice lessons to sing through all the songs in the show. I turned down two other good job offers because I wanted to make sure I was still available if I got an audition for Ghost. This was all before the audition period had even started, and I didn't know if the casting director and creative team wanted to call me in for a meeting.
At first they weren't sure if the role of Sam was going to be available when the original cast's contracts were being renewed, but I asked my agent to invite the casting director out to dinner and suggest that they go and watch Ghost together and persuade him that, if the role became available, they had to consider me for it. I was eventually invited in for an audition, and after two more meetings I was given the job, replacing Richard Fleeshman, who was leaving the West End company to open the show on Broadway.
I had other jobs booked for the same time - four concerts, two Welsh TV shows, and my own one-man Christmas show in North Wales - so I regrettably had to withdraw from them in order to rehearse Ghost whilst still performing in Wicked at night. My point is that I didn't wait for luck (or the role in Ghost) to land in my lap, and it meant that I had to make difficult decisions and sacrifices. But if you want something badly enough, get out there and do what you can to make it happen. If it doesn't work out, for whatever reason, then at least you'll know that you tried your best and that it just wasn't meant to be. If you focus hard enough, you'll surprise yourself with how often you get what you wish for.
Secrets of Stage Success is out now, published by Nick Hern Books. Get your copy for just £6.74 (25% off) plus free UK p&p using the code SECRETSWOS at nickhernbooks.co.uk
Louise Dearman and Mark Evans will be signing copies of Secrets of Stage Success at the Theatre Café, Shaftesbury Avenue, from 10-11am on Saturday (20 June)