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My Top 5 Showtunes: Emma Williams

The actress tells us the musical numbers she couldn't live without

Emma Williams
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

In 2002 Emma Williams made her professional stage debut playing Truly Scrumptious in the original West End cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium.

She has received four Olivier Award nominations for her performances in Zorro (Garrick Theatre, 2008), Love Story (Duchess Theatre, 2010), Mrs Henderson Presents (Noel Coward Theatre, 2016) and Half A Sixpence (Noel Coward, 2017).

She is now starring in An Officer and a Gentleman, the musical adaptation of the 1982 film, which opened in Leicester this month and is touring around the UK until September.

We caught up with Emma and asked her: "If you were stranded on a desert island which five showtunes could you not live without?"


1. "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" from White Christmas

I'm a huge Irving Berlin fan but this particular song has a very special significance for me, despite it being an anti-love song. I sang it every night in White Christmas at West Yorkshire Playhouse as I fell in love with the drummer playing right beside me, my (as of 29 April!) husband James. This is Rosemary Clooney in the original movie being sultry, seductive and sublime.

2. "She Used To Be Mine" from Waitress

I first heard this Waitress song out of context on a Spotify shuffle and wept uncontrollably at the beauty of it. It's a stunning show, a phenomenal role, and this particular video of Jessie Mueller in rehearsal shows the astonishing depth of vulnerability, fear and power in a broken woman. There's something magical about seeing Mueller in her civvies doing this, rather than in a theatre setting. Just glorious.

3. "Summertime" from Porgy and Bess

One of the simplest songs on paper and yet the most insanely difficult to sing. I love that juxtaposition – it seems so easy, but only the truly gifted can really make it feel effortless to an audience. This version features legendary soprano Audra McDonald, surely one of the purest voices around and a masterclass in performing in everything she does.

4. The Entire Album of Hot Shoe Shuffle

I've loved tap as long as I can remember. It's the one dance style I'd actually say I'm good at, and seeing this show on tour in Halifax was my first experience of being properly overwhelmed by a musical. I'd kill for them to bring it back so I could play April. It has everything I could dream of in a show frankly. This is the highlights video of the Australian production.

5. "All the Wasted Time" from Parade

This amazing song from Parade never fails to break my heart. That music can continue to be so powerful even after so many repeat listenings astound me. Another show I'd love to see onstage again.

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