I have always loved musical theatre. From the time I first heard the Jesus Christ Superstar soundtrack – my mum had a copy of the original cast recording on cassette, and many a preteen evening was spent singing along with every number lustily – I was hooked. Growing up in rural Scotland and bouncing around other parts of the UK and Germany as an RAF brat, there wasn’t much scope for attending musicals in person, but I listened to soundtracks like it was going out of fashion. In choirs and ensembles and as solos and duets, numbers from Miss Saigon, Cats, Les Miserables all became like close friends as I learned and performed them over and over again. At home and in the boarding house at school we watched Oliver!, and Grease, and The Sound of Music every time they were on TV.
When I went off to university, I was so excited to join a theatre society. Prior to then I’d done a lot of singing and a lot of ‘straight’ theatre, and a couple of school musicals, but the bug was still nascent. While at Aberdeen I was lucky enough to take part in productions of 42nd Street, Anything Goes and Oklahoma, as well as various student shows. It was also in Aberdeen that I finally started to be able to see musicals, both amateur and professional productions. The city has so much great musical theatre, and the £5 day tickets were a godsend for a student eager for music, dancing and stories. At times I skipped meals to get to musicals – rather like Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City when she bought Vogue instead of dinner, I just felt like it fed me more.
After graduating, the world of teacher training and work kept me off stages (I will go back one day – LOVE a bit of Am Dram), but I loved working on kids shows, whether directing, writing, assisting backstage or choreographing (hilariously. I am not a dancer. Which it turns out is great when you’re trying to corral nine-year-olds in a production of Grease – you’ll never give then moves that are too tricky!). Once I lived near, and later in, London, I was lucky enough to go to so many great shows – the time I’ve spent watching musicals has filled me with joy and that special glow that comes from a show well done. The Book of Mormon, Wicked, Matilda, Billy Elliot, Guys and Dolls, Les Miserables…each show has been a treat and a triumph.
Tomorrow night my little musicals obsession comes full circle, as I head off to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre (a favourite venue – weather, please be kind!) for their production of Jesus Christ Superstar. I’ll be attending with the lovely Shona, who I met all those years ago, doing musicals together in Aberdeen. In honour of the occasion I thought I’d geek out a little and share the ten musical roles I’d love to play. Indulge me if you will, and I’d love to hear which roles you would play in the comments. Happy Friday, all!
1. Mary Magdelene, Jesus Christ Superstar
Where it all began. I love Mary’s songs, and her part is so beautiful. This is a show I like so much I once watched a production in Spanish, which I do not speak (Jesu Christo Superstar!), purely for the love of the tunes. The song below was actually my audition song for years.
2. Rizzo, Grease
Yes, I’m way too old. But this is a dream list, and dream lists know no bounds. This role is brilliant – bright, sassy, cracking songs. I think Rizzo was the first badass bitch I fell in love with on screen. Stockard Channing is the role for me too – what a performance!
3. Reno Sweeney, Anything Goes
Playing Reno in a university production was an utter joy. She’s such a dame, and how can you not love a woman who a) has an entourage of angels (girl squad strong, decades before T Swizzle) and who b) gets 80% of the cracking numbers in the show. I’d love to play this role again one day, now I’m actually closer to Reno’s been-there, done-that life experience.
4. Eva Peron, Evita
Man, I loved this soundtrack. And the movie with Madonna, too. Singing Don’t Cry For Me Argentina with arms alofts, a la the balcony scene, is never not fun. It was also this show that first got me interested in Latin American politics/geopolitics in general, so cheers, ALW.
5. Mme Thenardier, Les Miserables
As my Snapchat would suggest (cmclaire12 on there, if you’re looking for a follow), I love a bit of broad comedy. So this role, with it’s grotesqueness, has always appealed!
6. Felicia, The Witches of Eastwick
I adore The Witches of Eastwick. How wonderful to have a show with not one, but five decent, starring, female roles. The trio of saucepots all get some cracking songs, but the villainess of the piece is my utter fave – this queen bee is all bossiness and mean quips and I love it! Her songs are also a triumph, as is her demise:
7. Kate Monster, Avenue Q
In an often sweary, frequently rude show, Kate is the sweet heart of the production. And she’s a kindergarten teacher, so I empathise entirely with many of her struggles! Her big ballad, There’s A Fine Fine Line, is both wonderful and the only number in the show that contains zero swears.
8. Elphaba, Wicked
Because sometimes you just need to belt! Hannah and I went to see this show together and bought the CD on the way out, and we’ve spent many an evening or a car journey singing along together. At my first teaching post in Northamptonshire the lovely assitant head of music and I would often have singalongs around the piano from this score. So many great songs, but the biggie will always be…
9. Nancy, Oliver!
In my early twenties, I tried out for a few TV talent shows, because why not? The third one and final one I went for was I’d Do Anything, the BBC search for a new Nancy, and the audition was such fun. I didn’t know it was happening until the day of (Naomi texted me on the off-chance). I drove up to Manchester, queued for seven hours, practised my song in the car/the loos (I went for I Say A Little Prayer, in addition to the ubiquitous and required As Long As He Needs Me), auditioned, got through to the next round, got to audition for ALW’s casting director, and didn’t make the cut for the London fifty. But man, what a fun day out. Ten out of ten, would do again.
10. Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, Hamilton…
Like a significant portion of the world, I am obsessed with Hamilton. Own the CD, am reading the book, couldn’t get tickets for Broadway (seriously, who can?), cannot wait for the West End production. Eliza is the heart of the whole thing, and I love everything about the part. Burn is my favourite song from her, or maybe Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story, but as those aren’t on youtube yet, I’ll share this snippet of joy instead.
…or King George III, Hamilton
Seriously, if anyone ever wants to flip the genders in the show, I am ALL OVER THIS ROLE.
Thank you for joining me on this musical journey. And now I will leave you with one of my favourite Ham4Ham performances, the little skits and performances the cast host for the people queueing for the ticket lottery (I’ll be in that queue in a couple of months!).
Happy Friday all – hurrah for almost-the-weekend!