Tag Archives: Mamma Mia

INTERVIEW: LOCAL TALENT CHRISTOPHER JORDAN-MARSHALL MAKES WEST END DEBUT IN MAMMA MIA!

It seems like a short while ago I saw you as a student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland starring as the Emcee in Cabaret. Tell us what happened between then and starring in the West End.

Ahhhh amazing, you got to see Cabaret! Definitely one of my favourite parts I ever got to play. So, round about that same time I also signed with a London agent and started to get auditions coming through, including auditions for Mamma Mia! in London and for the tour. I didn’t get past the first round and just kind of forgot about it. I graduated in July 2016, and almost immediately booked my first professional job in London, Floyd Collins at the Wiltons Music Hall. Once that finished, I was back in Scotland at the Tron Theatre for Christmas, in the The Snaw Queen, followed immediately after by Still Game:Live at The SSE Hydro. Luckily, I hadn’t really stopped, and so made the move back to London to start auditioning again. Cut to two months later, and a few rounds of auditions for Mamma Mia! again, and suddenly I was going to be Sky in the West End!

Georgina Castle & Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sophie and Sky
London Cast 2017/2018

Tell us how you felt when you got the call to say you’d be making your professional West End debut.

Well it was about a week after the finals for Mamma Mia!, and I was sort of waiting to hear about a couple of things. When my agent phoned, she said ‘So, do you want some good news?’ and I’m pretty sure I swore at her down the phone and yelled a bit. I was honestly jumping about my house, totally ecstatic. Cliché as it is, this was something I had been wanting and dreaming of ever since I was little and so for that dream to become a reality at the age of 22 is just really special for me. I’m grateful every day.

How are you enjoying playing Sky?

It’s bloody brilliant! I’m honestly having such a good time. Everyone that works at the Novello, the cast, creatives and crew are an absolute joy to work with, and there is a total family vibe amongst us all. We get such amazing audiences every night, and even though it’s been running in the West End for 18 years, there is still something really fresh and new about our cast which is so exciting. When we first took over in June, we performed a slot at West End Live, which is sort of a concert weekend in Trafalgar Square where musicals all around the UK and in central London perform. That was a pretty special moment, singing and dancing an Abba megamix to thousands of people.

Christopher Jordan-Marshall as Sky (front centre)

What do you think makes Mamma Mia! so enduringly popular?

There are so many elements I think. The songs come first obviously. You get the sexiness of things like Gimme Gimme! and Voulez Vous, and then also the heart from songs like Slipping Through My Fingers and The Winner Takes It All. Then you have the story which interweaves these songs seamlessly in a way that lots of jukebox musicals are unable to do. It’s a story about mothers and daughters, about strong female friendship, and about empowerment of women. Certainly back when it was first conceived, there wouldn’t have been many stories like it, and only really now is that starting to change. It’s just such an awesomely feel good show, which makes every audience member leave with a huge grin on their face. They get to escape to a beautiful Greek island for two and half hours, what’s not to love?! People need escape like that more than ever these days, so I’m glad I can contribute to that.

What is life like backstage at the Novello?

Well I’m lucky enough to get a dressing room to myself next to the stage on the ground floor. It’s not a huge room, so I tend to keep the door wedged open and slowly over time it has sort of changed into a mini green room for the other company members to chill in when they aren’t needed on stage. I have a bit of time in between the things I’m involved in on stage so I’m happy for the chat. Usually backstage totally runs like clockwork, everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to be but every so often it becomes a bit hectic. We have two large set pieces that are moved around on stage with handles to create different scenes and environments. One Saturday one of the handles broke off and the pieces couldn’t move. We had to completely make up the rest of the show without them working or moving, which was fun!

MAMMA MIA!
London Cast 2017/2018

How do you keep your performance fresh when you’re on stage eight times a week?

Good question. This is first contract I’ve had which is a year long, so I’m still finding that out to be honest. Something I try to do before going on every night is remind myself that all the events that happen during the show are happening for the first time, so I don’t pre-empt anything, and that usually makes me present. That, and just constantly being open to reacting to whatever Sophie or whoever I’m with and what they’re giving me. That makes it fun every night because you don’t know what you are going to get. And if something is a bit rubbish one night, or something goes wrong, you get to try again tomorrow and be better!

Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become an actor and the path you took to becoming one?

I don’t know if anything particularly inspired me to become an actor, I think I was always pretty sure that was what I wanted to do since I was a little guy. I was put into local amateur shows and went to youth drama groups/theatre schools. Music and drama was something I always kind of excelled in at school, so it started to become obvious what path I was going down. It was a way to express myself whilst growing up, when I didn’t particularly know how to yet. If I didn’t have those groups and shows, I think being a teenager would have been a lot harder. I guess the teachers and friends that were in my life during that time inspired me to pursue it professionally. Oh and my uncle Alan. He was the one who introduced me to a lot of theatre and has always been my biggest fan. He’s a big inspiration for all this.

Do you have any advice for kids back home who aspire to become a performer?

If you love it, pursue it. There are so many ways to become part of theatre and the arts professionally, which many kids aren’t made aware of in schools. Actors, musicians, hair and makeup, production, agents, casting, it’s all out there. Do not let your parents try and choose your pathways for you, and make you do something you don’t want to; you’ll be unhappy. I was lucky enough to be fully supported by my family in all my endeavours but sometimes that doesn’t happen. I remember my guidance teacher told me that I shouldn’t do music AND drama at the same time in school, and made it out that it was practically impossible to pursue a career in it. Needless to say, I didn’t listen to her. Even if you aren’t the best at everything to begin with, keep learning and growing and trying, because you eventually start to get somewhere. Don’t settle, and go chase your dreams; it can happen!

Christopher Jordan-Marshall (front centre) Mamma Mia! 2017/2018 Cast

Finally, why should people come along to see you in Mamma Mia!?

Our cast is amazing, there’s topless boys, and the tunes are amazing obviously. I also keep my Scottish accent so SCOTLAND REPRESENT. Come get drunk (if you’re over 18) and dance!!

You can see Christopher at the Novello Theatre – more information here

Image credit: Brinkhoff/Moegenburg

 

REVIEW: Mamma Mia! – Edinburgh Playhouse

This post was originally written for The Reviews Hub

Sometimes, all you need at this time of year is to escape the hustle and bustle of festive shopping, freezing temperatures and the shock of your ever-dwindling bank account. 17 years after its first appearance on stage, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus’ Mamma Mia!, still has the ability to help you do just that.

In one small corner of Scotland’s capital city, the sun beats down on the azure blue Mediterranean island idyll of Kalokairi. 20 year-old Sophie is about to marry her sweetheart Sky, and all she wants is her father to walk her down the aisle. The problem is, she has no idea who he is. On finding her former party-loving mother’s diaries, she invites the three most likely candidates to share her big day. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go exactly to plan.

Essentially a thin storyline woven around the hits of one of the world’s greatest pop bands, it’s no less entertaining for that, and while it may seem like the young things are the centre of it all, it’s the more mature members of the cast who are the heart and soul of the piece. Sara Poyzer as mother Donna is a knock-out, both vocally and emotionally, the performance is a pitch-perfect portrayal of a mother losing her only daughter to the world. As Donna’s former band-mates Rosie and Tanya, Jaqueline Braun and Emma Clifford deliver the lion’s share of the laughs and are no slouches vocally either, and as the trio of potential dads Richard Standing (Sam), Tim Walton (Harry) and Christopher Hollis (Bill), imbue life and spirit into characters that could have easily been two-dimensional.

As undemanding as the whole endeavour is, it still packs an emotional punch and the glorious music never fails to get an auditorium on its feet at the end. It’s pure entertainment and does what most great theatre should do – transport you to another time and place for a few hours.

Resist the temptation to hibernate this winter, get yourself along to the Edinburgh Playhouse and bask in the reflected sunshine of this uplifting, feel-good show. A real tonic for the soul on these long, cold winter nights.

Runs until 7 January 2017 | Image: Brinkhoff Mögenburg

INTERVIEW: Shona White

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With starring roles in Chess, Wicked, Les Miserables, Shout, Mamma Mia and Rocky Horror, Shona White is one of the most highly acclaimed Scottish stars in Theatreland. Shona generously agreed to answer some questions about her stellar career for Glasgow Theatre Blog. 

Did your interest in performing start at an early age?

Yes I started singing solos at school services and in my village church when I was wee.

At what point did you decide to pursue performing as a career?

I used to get The Stage delivered and it made me want to go to Sylvia Young’s but my parents thankfully wanted me to get a good education in Scotland first. I did my Highers then moved down to London to go to Italia Conti when I was 17.

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Shona as Eponine in Les Miserables

You went on to study at the Royal Academy of Music; what ambitions did you have when you left there, and since you’ve achieved a huge amount in your career, how have they changed?

Well my first ambition was to be in Les Miserables and I actually left RAM early as I got into my dream show towards the end of my training. (I still got my diploma but unfortunately had to sacrifice the cap and gown ceremony as I was touring with the show).

I then had to rethink my ambitions as I had achieved the big one so early on in my career. Things change constantly and different shows come and go so I guess my goals have changed with them along the way. My next show was Merrily We Roll Along at The Donmar Warehouse directed by Michael Grandage, where I rubbed shoulders with Sam Mendes and Stephen Sondheim which I will never forget.There are still plenty of dream roles on my list but after Eponine the next dream role that came along was definitely Elphaba in Wicked which has become one of the most iconic roles in musical theatre.

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Merrily We Roll Along

The roles you’ve been lucky enough to play have been diverse; can you explain how you go about preparing for a role?

The practical side of the preparation is to learn my lines, music and lyrics but I find this needs to come hand in hand with setting the show in rehearsals. It helps to be familiar with the material before I start so I can have a framework to build on but I tend to cement my learning as I’m getting the part into my body physically in the space as well as vocally and mentally.

It is important to research the character and find as much information as possible from the existing material to have a background as a starting point. Relationships to other characters is also important so I can see how my character fits into the story.

With roles that require vocal stamina I try to sing the part into my body as a lot of performing it will become muscle memory and the voice, being a muscle, needs to be trained just like any other muscles in our body. By the same token with a big singing role I also try to rest my voice as much as possible when it is not required so it has time to recover before it’s next workout. Rehearsal periods are tough but necessary to build up stamina and put together all the relevant components.

I also think about what the character looks like physically and sometimes become a bit obsessed by this subconsciously and it can cross over into my everyday life. I was constantly wearing 60’s clothes when I was in Shout, In Mamma Mia I got blonder and blonder and more tanned by the day and wore turquoise obsessively. Thank goodness Wicked didn’t manifest itself in the same way. It might have been a bit hard to explain the green face in Sainsbury’s!

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A glimpse of the turquoise Mamma Mia outfit!

What’s been your favourite role to play so far?

It’s a close call between Elphaba in Wicked and Florence Vassy in Chess.

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As Chess’ Florence Vassy

What’s the moment in your career you’re most proud of?

I think performing the end of Defying Gravity in Wicked the night my Mum and Dad were watching the show and seeing how proud and emotional they were afterwards.

I’ve interviewed many Scottish performers for this series, and something that rather a lot have in common is Wicked; you’ve played the ultimate role in the show, Elphaba; tell us what it’s like playing such an iconic part.

Yes a lot of us Scots have been in Wicked. I love this fact!

What can I say? Elphaba is the most iconic female musical theatre role we’ve seen for years. It was a huge challenge to get my teeth into and an incredible thrill to play. I love the journey she goes on through the show and the music is so powerful. My favourite song to sing was definitely No Good Deed.

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As Elphaba

Craig Revel Horwood’s new production of Chess has been very well received, especially your performance as Florence Vassy; what was it like taking the performance to Toronto? Did the audience reaction differ to the UK?

It was an amazing experience taking the show to Toronto. It’s a fantastic city and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I hope to to perform there again one day. We were made very welcome by the people there. I don’t think they’d witnessed anything quite like Craig and Sarah’s incredible actor musician interpretation of the show. The arrangements were wonderful and the cast were amazing playing,singing and dancing simultaneously. If I had a pound for the amount of people who thought the music was on a CD I’d be a very rich girl!

Your album I’ll Bring You a Song, is fantastically diverse; tell us how you selected the songs.

It was nigh on impossible as there are so many great songs to be sung. I will just have to keep doing more so I can get through them all! My producers had a big hand in choosing the tracks thank goodness as otherwise I don’t know how I would have narrowed it down. We tried to make it as varied as possible and include a lot of new writing which I am huge fan of as well as songs people would be familiar with. I also really wanted a Scottish song on there too to reflect my roots.

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Part of the series is to give advice to aspiring performers in Scotland; what would you say to someone contemplating a career on stage?

I’d say it is very important to get a solid education first. I am very grateful my parents made me do this. It is a highly competitive industry with a lot of ups and downs so really make sure it is the route for you. If it is your passion and you believe you have a real talent then work hard and follow your dreams…

Is there any production past or present you wish you could have been involved in?

Not that I can think of offhand but I have a list of parts I’d love to play which I won’t bore you with now. I would love to play Ellen in Miss Saigon which is rumoured to be having a revival very soon.

What do you do to relax when you’re not working?

I like to spend time with my nearest and dearest, watch movies and I love cooking. I am a huge Come Dine With Me fan and would love to be on it one day.

Finally, tell us what’s next for Shona White in 2013 and beyond?

I have just recorded a Friday Night is Music Night with the BBC Concert Orchestra singing alongside Hadley Fraser. Available on BBC iplayer here until 12th April.

I have a few projects in the pipeline including solo concerts and a new show involving the other two Shonas in the industry (One Scottish, one Irish so both Celtic).

I am also now a voice-over artist so maybe you’ll hear me randomly on adverts or perhaps singing on the next Brave movie… You never know.

Besides that I am waiting for the next amazing theatrical role I can throw myself into. Watch this space.

For more information on Shona visit www.shonawhite.com

Follow Shona on Twitter @singinghaggis