INTERVIEW – Molly Lynch on “Rodgers & Hammerstein (&Me Too)”

INTERVIEW – Molly Lynch on “Rodgers & Hammerstein (&Me Too)”


My interviews with creatives have officially returned, and I couldn’t be more pleased to share just a snippet of the wonderful discussion I had with Molly Lynch about her upcoming one-woman show: Rodgers and Hammerstein (&Me Too)

If you’re having a blank moment about who Rodgers and Hammerstein are, think Oklahoma!, Carousel, The Sound of Music, The King & I… They are the composer/lyricist duo behind these iconic musicals.

As a soprano myself, the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein has played such a huge role in my life, so the minute I saw the announcement for this show, I knew I had to get in touch with Molly to talk to her more about it. The show is described as a “verbatim, musical theatre cabaret” that promises to “smash the patriarchy and challenge R. Kelly and Harvey Weinstein in the form of Musical Theatre’s most beloved composers’ music.” Cool, right?

I’m so grateful that Molly took the time to speak to me in amidst rehearsals and indulge me in my musical geekery. Beyond what’s included in this interview, we discussed the wonder that is Kelli O’Hara’s portrayal of Anna in The King & I, the significance of movie musicals, as well as the many (many) reasons we both love Emma Thompson. It was the feminist soprano’s dream.


Before we get cracking with all things Rodgers and Hammerstein, we’ve got to talk about your recent run in The Light in the Piazza, where you went on for Clara several times. Had you done a cover run beforehand?

No, just one hour of music. We were due to start rehearsals the day after press night which is pretty standard, but it was still previews when I first went on. Neil [Robinson], the Resident Director – which is why Residents are sent from heaven – just walked me through it in like forty minutes. But also I just had a really good company that were totally adaptive. It was amazing to see so many people in the theatre be so supportive.

Because I’m a massive soprano nerd, what was it like working with Renée Fleming? 

I’m exactly the same. I’d had her biography since I was about sixteen and I had all my favourite pages folded over. When I got the job my mum was like “Oh my God, your Renée Fleming biography is still in your bedside locker!” and she took it out and was looking at all the marks I’d made in it. So then when I was onstage towards the end of the show, and she comes towards me with the veil, I was like…this cannot be real. This is not real. She is the world’s greatest singer in my eyes, and she’s also just the nicest human being and is so kind.

I love the range of work you’ve been involved with already; singing legit material for roles like Julie Jordan in Carousel (English National Opera), and then singing brand new, punk rock music in Wasted (Southwark Playhouse). Have you consciously resisted the kind of typecasting that is often associated with soprano singers?

I kind of go for everything and then take what I can get! I really think just because you sing high doesn’t mean you can’t sing other notes. Renée in Light in the Piazza sung super low. What I love about Light in the Piazza is that Adam Guettel writes across the ranges, and his grandfather, Richard Rodgers, writes across the ranges. A lot of the time we have entire shows that are just belt and entire shows that are just legit, and I’d love more shows to have integrated vocal styles. It’s hard nowadays to keep the soprano cool.

Another thing that bothers me is that a lot of the time the strong, sassy women belt, and the cute, pretty girls are soprano…that drives me bonkers! Why can’t the strong character woman be a soprano? That’s why I love Wasted because they [Christopher Ash and Carl Miller] wrote my character singing classically and then belting frickin’ death metal. I think that’s really exciting because human beings are complicated and multi-layered, so it’s really cool when a vocal role reflects that as well. I’m such a voice nerd, I could talk about it all day.

What drew you to create a piece specifically about the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein?

I grew up on that music. My Grandad was a pop singer but my Dad did not like showbiz, and so I think I got into that music from the movies like The Sound of Music, The King & I etc…

I think of myself as a feminist, and there were a lot of articles when Carousel was revived on Broadway [in 2018] saying that Rodgers and Hammerstein are quite sexist. I’m not trying to deny that, but I’m also trying to examine and show how strong their women are. I think I’m a feminist because of a lot of the morals that were embedded into me in those stories and in that music. I think there’s more than one way to be a strong woman – that’s why I think the way Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote their women was really clever and beautiful. And I think I subconsciously absorbed a lot of that information without even realising it.

What was it about the Me Too movement that made you want to incorporate it into a piece with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music?

I love politics and I love feminism – I watched the Me Too movement unfold and how women found the authority to speak about these things. Especially being in this industry and watching so many actresses come out and say “I’ve been sexually harassed in the workplace.” It’s so common for actresses – actors too – but like, it’s such a common thing that happens, that for so long has been so accepted, and only now are we going “that’s actually not okay.”

That conversation feels so current; it’s still so raw and so new. If I can use Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music to talk about that, I think it will really make you listen to the words in a completely new way.

Did working with their material so closely when you played Julie Jordan contribute towards creating this piece? (Molly was the standby for Katherine Jenkins in the ENO production of Carousel at the London Coliseum)

Yeah, totally. I think Julie Jordan is such an amazing character for someone who considers themselves a feminist to play. I read a lot of books when I did it about women who were abused and about how they feel. I think people look at that show and they go “she should have just left; if she was strong she would have left.” And I think it’s a really awful thing to say about a woman when you look at her circumstances and the society she’s in.

I think we’ve got to start being more nuanced about feminism. We look, now, for such explicit feminist ideology; we want her to go “How dare you slap me! Goodbye forever!” and slam the door. And that would be amazing in some ways, but then we can’t expect all women to do that. We can’t have no sympathy for a woman who chooses not to do that.

Julie Jordan had her reasons and had a very personalised approach to what happened to her. I loved playing her and I really got defensive about her, and about people accusing her of being weak.

That production of Carousel with the ENO was directed by Lonny Price. In addition to his hugely successful career as a director, Lonny originated the role of Charley in Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway, so OBVIOUSLY I asked Molly what it was like working with him.

Amazing. I watched the Candide that he directed on YouTube at home and I was obsessed. Obsessed. He’s just so open and has a crazy passionate love for what he does that is so evident when you’re in a room with him. Also, his voice is so iconic, his speaking voice, and so every time I hear it I’m like oh my god I’m listening to the soundtrack of Merrily We Roll Along aaaah! I’m still a fangirl so yeah, getting to work for him…he’s amazing.

Also watching him grapple with the Rodgers and Hammerstein material – someone like Lonny Price who just knows the history of musicals so well, working on how to make this say something else. It was just so interesting and he was so clever with it.

We then talked about the radical new version of Oklahoma! that’s currently on Broadway, and the new ways they’ve interpreted the piece. I mentioned how they’ve been able to entirely alter the way in which the show is perceived by the audience, despite none of the text itself being changed. A friend of mine saw the production in New York and was left pretty speechless.

It’s one of those things where people think Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals are “cute” but they’re not based on cute stories – Oklahoma! is originally based on a really complex play. The era that they came to life in needed that kind of sweet, digestible version, but I think nowadays we need the versions that make us not be able to speak after, you know?

I added the fact that there are often many stereotypes associated with the work of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and we shared our frustration over the fact that many people only view their work as old-fashioned.

What bothers me is when people say their work is dated, and I’m like…have you seen what’s going on?! The guy who’s President?! His excuse for not raping a woman was that she wasn’t his type…I mean… And we go “oh, Rodgers and Hammerstein, those guys – they’re not talking about our world”…yeah they are.

That’s something that’s been so surprising is that their material is SO relevant, and they never had to write in a world where there was something as sexist going on as Donald Trump. He’s the most openly, disgustingly sexist leader, definitely as long as I’ve been alive, and now like…Boris Johnson?! Boris Johnson is gonna be our next Prime Minister?!

(I’m pretty sure we both simultaneously face-palmed at this moment. We recorded this interview on the day it was announced that Boris would be the next PM. It was a lot.)

When his neighbours called the police because they heard a domestic row happening, and people were saying it was a “private matter’…we’ve got Tories saying that “domestic abuse is a private matter” and people try to tell me that Carousel isn’t relevant?! Domestic abuse, race, feminism, sexual assault…they are such relevant topics now and they all happen in Rodgers and Hammerstein stories.

Is there a song in the show that’s been the most interesting to develop during rehearsals?

There’s a song called ‘That’s The Way It Happens’ from Me and Juliet. I’d never come across it before. We’ve reinterpreted it and it’s also just a really jazzy, cool song that is so different to the other stuff they wrote, and you just realise the scale they wrote for women; they gave women so many different ways to showcase their voices. So I think that’s the one that’s been the most interesting because I didn’t know it before.

Also the easiest, because you don’t have any preconceived interpretations. As a soprano we’ve heard all those songs so many times, so subconsciously have made decisions about them. But to do a song that I’ve never seen anyone do before, and can just do whatever completely fresh has been really cool.

How have you found the experience of writing the show as well as performing it?

I’ve loved the creative control, and having such a say in a piece and being able to really make decisions. I think having creative control can sometimes be scary but it’s been really liberating to have it in this small circumstance.

Ed [Goggin] has been so good. It’s such a collaborative thing because he’s a Rodgers and Hammerstein expert, and then I bring the feminist passion, so we’ve been able to bounce off each other. Our relationship has been about coming to terms with feminism verses the material and seeing where it matches up.

Running your own thing is hard; it’s so much work and the main bottom line is you have to love it with all your heart because otherwise it’s not worth it. Why would we make ourselves do all this extra work for no reward bar the fact we live and breathe it? And I think it’s really showed me that I do love it – I love it with everything. 


As you can probably tell from how lengthy this post is, this is a topic Molly and I are both hugely passionate about. As self-professed musical nerds, it was so wonderful to talk to someone like Molly who truly cares about the art of musical theatre, and about honouring the material of these composers who were so instrumental in the art form, whilst also ensuring that we allow for innovation and for new perspectives to be highlighted.

It’s clear that Molly has put her heart and soul into this piece, and I hope I’ve been able to convey just an ounce of how great it was to talk to her about it.

If you have conflicting feelings about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work, you should see this show. If you tend to dismiss any composer before the ’80s, you should see this show. If you’re a feminist (or if for some wild reason you’re not), you should see this show.

Rodgers and Hammerstein (& Me Too) is playing at The Bread & Roses Theatre for just five performances from 30th July – 3rd August, so you reeeeeeally need to get on it and book those tickets before it sells out. Here’s the ticket link for you. 


(Above) Rehearsal photo of Molly Lynch, taken by Nadia Forde.

Rodgers and Hammerstein (& Me Too) POSTER

(Above) Official show poster created by Adam Lenson.


You can find all of my previous interviews right here and keep an eye out for more interviews with lovely people who agree to have a coffee with me. 

Twitter: @OliviaDowden (that’s me!) and @ORose_Supposes (for purely Rose’s Supposes stuff)

Instagram: @oliviardowden (me, myself and I) and @orose_supposes (for significantly less Gilmore Girls content)

INTERVIEW – Michael Mott and “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy”

INTERVIEW – Michael Mott and “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy”


Hello, hello! 

At the end of January, I was lucky enough to watch the workshop for Michael Mott and Corey Skaggs’ “Mob Wife: A Mafia Comedy” at The Cockpit Theatre and had SO much fun.  

As is often the case with developmental workshops, it all happened pretty quickly! I’d fallen in love with Michael’s music after his songs popped up on a Spotify playlist I was listening to (thank you, Spotify!) and so I was thrilled when I heard he was bringing a production here to London. I’m massively grateful that Michael has taken the time to answer some of my questions and I hope you enjoy hearing a bit more about him!

For more information on Michael Mott and his work, make sure to check out his website here He’s got some exciting projects coming up, with several announcements coming soon, so make sure you keep an eye out! 


You’ve had a wonderfully varied career so far already, with credits as a performer, composer, lyricist, and music producer. Have you always enjoyed working in a range of artistic areas?

I am a Gemini, so I like to be all over the place.  No, but seriously, all of these roles are different branches of the same tree.  I love being creative, whether that’s writing, performing, recording or producing in the studio.  I have been doing this ever since I can remember, so that I am able to do it and make a living from it now is a dream come true.


You attended the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop in 2012. How do you feel this experience shaped your work as a writer?

The BMI Lehman Engle Musical Theatre Writer’s Workshop was essential in shaping me as a writer.  I am actually still enrolled as an Advanced Member and try to attend every week to surround myself with writers better than me.  It can be an incredibly inspirational space and I feel honored to be among such a prestigious list of musical theatre writers.


Who inspires you as a songwriter?

So many people, but my biggest songwriting inspirations are Billy Joel, Mariah Carey and Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty.  I love melodic storytelling pieces.


Your debut album, “Where The Sky Ends”, features some major Broadway performers such as Laura Osnes and Jeremy Jordan. Is there an artist you’d really like to collaborate with one day?

I still can’t believe I got so lucky to have such phenomenal artists bringing my material to life.  I have worked with some of my favorite Broadway vocalists, but a few that I have been itching to work with include Ben Platt, Shoshana Bean, Alex Newell, Darren Criss and Laura Benanti.


Where did the idea for Mob Wife – A Mafia Comedy come from? Why did you want to tell this story in particular?

As an Italian child of the 90s I grew up watching The Sopranos.  I wanted to write a piece that was The Sopranos meets Noises Off with a Billy Joel-esque soundscape.  I don’t think anything like that has ever been done before.


Could you give a teaser as to what the musical is about?

This piece has quite a few surprises and twists and turns that need to be experienced live, so I don’t want to give too much away.  However, I will say that while Mob Wife is set in 1975 Staten Island, it’s themes and motifs transcend time and place.  Debra Delbono (our mob wife) is longing for a family and her husband Tony has been neglecting her, his job and more importantly himself.  Tony is keeping a dark secret and Debra and her best friend, Joanne, go on a mission to discover what that is. In turn, they realize everything they needed was right in front of them all along, but was lost along the way through miscommunication.


What do you hope audiences take away from seeing the show?

The importance of communication.  Being open and honest with each other and more importantly, ourselves.  Also, society’s “norms” for gender acceptance. I don’t want to say any more because it may give away too much, but that is really what this piece is about.


You’ve presented Mob Wife in various forms before; with its world premiere in 2003, a presentation at The Finger Lakes Musical Theatre Festival in 2012, as well as an Equity reading in 2013. How do you feel the piece has developed over the years?

The biggest thing I’ve learned in my short time in this business is that you have to allow a piece to become what it wants to be.  Whether that’s a show, a song or any piece of art; it doesn’t matter. You can have an initial concept or vision for something, but once you step back and allow it to grow, it reveals itself to you.  Sometimes that’s exactly what you had envisioned and sometimes it surprises you. I think our job as creators is to watch and listen to what the piece tells us it wants to be and then do our best to nurture that.  It’s almost like raising a child. Mob Wife started off as a bedroom farce musical, then evolved into a dark comedy with a massive heart and is now living in a space in-between the two.  Corey (my book writer) and I are doing our best to nurture it and allow the piece to continue to tell us what it wants to be.


What has it been like workshopping the show in the UK?

This workshop was essential to the show’s growth.  We learned so much from seeing the piece in front of an audience and through their eyes.  Thankfully, we were able to make changes every single day. In fact, on closing night, I wrote a new short song for the character of Marino that we put in the show around 2 pm that day.  I brought it to Dan Tomkinson, our musical director, who wrote a quick orchestration for the band, then our director, Harry, staged it with the cast and our phenomenal Marino, Alex Wadham learned it and knocked it out of the park that evening.  It’s little things like that that really made the experience invaluable.


What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?

Write your truth.  Be authentic. Find the passion.  If it moves you, it will move someone else.  Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Don’t get caught up in the business side of things asking yourself if it will sell, if it will have an audience, if it’s good enough, just do it.  Not everything has to be produced, seen or heard. Sometimes you just have to write for you. Everything you write has a purpose and a reason, whether you know it or not. Sometimes you just have to write to write.  The reason will reveal itself to you. Whatever is meant to be, will be.


Finally, if you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

Allow us all to eat anything we want without gaining a pound. 🙂


A huge thanks again to Michael and to be the first to hear about his upcoming projects, you can follow him on Twitter at @Michael_Mott or on Instagram at @michael_mott.

And thank YOU so much for reading! If you’d like to read more of my interviews with creatives who inspire me in industry, here are the links for ya. Go nuts!

Interview – Laurence O’Keefe (Composer of Legally Blonde and Heathers, no biggie)

Interview – Scott Alan (US Songwriter and all round beautiful human)

Interview – Nicole Raquel Dennis (Gorgeous West End actress, slaying The Voice UK)

Interview – Rebecca LaChance (Transatlantic gem, played Carole King on BROADWAY) 

Interview – Annabelle Hollingdale (Emerging British director, she knows what’s up)

Aaaaaand if you can cope with any more of my musical ramblings, you’ll find me tweeting about Stephen Sondheim at @OliviaDowden and posting Instagram stories about Stephen Sondheim at @oliviardowden. Then for all things Rose’s Supposes and for my weekly #weekendplaylists it’s @ORose_Supposes on Twitter and @orose_supposes on Instagram. 

Olivia Rose 🌹





My Top 10 Musical Surprises in Film and TV

My Top 10 Musical Surprises in Film and TV

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a musical theatre nerd. The majority of my favourite films are either movie musicals, or somehow centred around music.

But I realised recently, that a huge amount of the “normal” films and TV shows I loved growing up have some sort of musical surprise, in that there’s a musical number or a scene that’s heavily focused on a specific song, despite the film or TV show itself not being a musical.

I love films that have a really strong soundtrack, and there are so many I could have written about. But for this post I wanted to focus on those musical gems that aren’t necessarily expected in that particular film or TV show. As someone who would always choose to watch something vaguely musical, you can imagine how much I love the moments where I thought I was just in for a regular movie/TV episode to then realise THEY’RE SINGING. PEOPLE ARE SINGING. OH WOW.

Maybe it’s the knowledge that a whole bunch of “normal” viewers are unwittingly entering the wonderful world of musical theatre for a few minutes and realising the writers were actually Broadway nerds all along. It’s a real thrill.

So before you despair about the absence of Meryl Streep running up a mountain with her flowy pashmina on the list – don’t worry, musical fans. I might just have to make another post of my favourite moments in films/TV shows that are musicals. But for now, here’s some of my favourite musical numbers that we didn’t even know we needed in film and TV.

*Disclaimer* I originally included the links to watch each of the scenes on YouTube, but I’ll be honest in that I’m not exactly sure of the copyright technicalities here. Let’s just say I very quickly found all of the scenes I’ve mentioned online so if you’ve got no clue which part I’m on about, then give me a shout.


1) The Makeover Scene in Mrs Doubtfire (1993)

I truly love this film. I have to prepare myself for getting extremely emotional whenever I watch a Robin Williams movie, but the amazing scene where we see the creation of Mrs Doubtfire never fails to make me smile. In this classic makeover montage, we get a glorious homage to not only Fiddler On The Roof, where Williams (along with Harvey Fierstein and Scott Capurro) sings a snippet of ‘Matchmaker‘, but we ALSO get an iconic Babs moment where Williams whacks out a bit of ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade‘…truly spoiling the thespians among us. Had to be my number 1 choice.


2) The Wedding scene in Love Actually (2003)

You know the bit. We’re as distracted as the smitten cameraman watching the actual angel, Kiera Knightly, get married and then BOOM: gospel choir, trumpets, flutes, TROMBONES – genius. It sets impossibly high standards for hopeless romantics everywhere, but genius all the same.


3) “Your Crowning Glory” in The Princess Diaries 2 (2004)

You guys. My love for The Princess Diaries is inexplicable. The fact that we live in a world where we get to witness Julie Andrews as the Queen of Genovia is a blessing in itself, but giving us a funky remix musical number with Raven Symoné?? It’s surely a dream. If you’ve not seen this movie, I DARE you to try and watch this scene and not melt just a little bit.


4) “Alone In The Hallways” in That’s So Raven (2004)

If you’re going to check out any of the scenes from this list then please let it be this one. Following on from my last choice, a TV show I absolutely loved growing up that also starred Raven Symoné is That’s So Raven. In an episode called ‘The Road To Audition’ we see her best friend, Chelsea (played by the incredible Anneliese van der Pol) sing a Liza Minnelli style number complete with a top hat, a cane, Fosse choreo…it’s the theatre nerds fantasy. As much as it’s a comedic moment, her performance is classy AF and makes this number a firm favourite of mine.

*Side note* I’m a bit in love with Anneliese, I won’t lie. She played Eva Perón in Evita in LA when she was f i f t e e n and is the youngest person to have played the role in a professional production. Like what? An actual legend. Since her Disney Channel days, she’s starred on Broadway, including playing Belle in Beauty and The Beast and also does a cracking Barbra Streisand impression. Anneliese, please can we be friends???

Okay back to the list…

5) “I’ve Got The Power” in Bruce Almighty (2003)

Jim. Carrey. I watched this film a lot growing up, and always loved the moment Bruce first discovers his new powers, strutting down the street to this banger of a song. Classic moment. A solid number 5 on the list.


6) Sideshow Bob’s performance of HMS Pinafore in The Simpsons (1993)

Whoever had the idea to feature a murderous serial killer that’s obsessed with traditional musicals and is voiced by Kelsey Grammar – I salute you. There are so many great musical moments to choose from with this character, but my favourite has to be from the episode when Sideshow Bob performs the entirety of HMS Pinafore to Bart, who’s literally sat there holding a Playbill with Sideshow Bob’s face on it. I can’t. If a murderer gave me one last request before killing me, I’d probably ask for a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan too, so fair game to Bart.


7) The Yule Ball scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

While the film is albeit about wizards and magic, the characters still aren’t exactly prone to bursting into song, so a particularly musical scene definitely counts as a pleasant surprise in my book. I’m a sucker for a waltz and this one is absolutely gorgeous. I could write a whole post about my favourite waltzes which would probably be my nerdiest feat to date. But, you know…I totally could.


8) The Handshake in The Parent Trap (1998)

Keeping it short and sweet with this one. The Parent Trap is one of my all time favourite films and I still love this moment so much. If anyone knows who to call to get a personal big brass section to play a theme song at emotional high points in day to day life – let me know.


9) “Holding Out For A Hero” in Shrek 2 (2004)

Okay I know that Shrek has now evolved into a musical as well, but in its humble beginnings as a Dreamworks animation this moment was a definite surprise. In the epic final battle of the movie, we get the one and only Jennifer Saunders as the Fairy Godmother singing some Bonnie Tyler. Iconic.


10) “Thriller” in 13 Going On 30 (2004)

So I originally chose a song from Family Guy to end this list, and as much as I love Seth McFarlane’s odes to musicals in various episodes, I thought I’d keep this list a bit more wholesome and go with the classic ‘Thriller‘ dance scene from 13 Going On 30. Check it out to watch Jennifer Garner giving it her best zombie.


If you’ve reached the end of this post and you’re thinking “huh, I really wish I could read more of Olivia’s musical wonderings…” then firstly FOR REAL?! And secondly you’re in luck! Check out the links below if you want to find out…

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Ultimate TV Show for Theatre Kids (where I share my favourite songs from the show and why it’s both an ode to and a parody of musical theatre)

My Favourite Movie Musicals (I enter total musical nostalgia mode…buckle up)

Thanks for reading and if you’ve got any favourite musical moments from unsuspecting films/TV shows then let me know! I’d love to check them out!

Olivia Rose 🌹

Twitter: @orose_supposes

Instagram: @orose_supposes


INTERVIEW – Annabelle Hollingdale

INTERVIEW – Annabelle Hollingdale

Here on Rose’s Supposes, I love using this blog as a platform to share the stories of creatives working in all different areas of the arts. Whilst interviews with performers aren’t too tricky to find, I’ve always found it harder to gain a proper insight into the careers of those working behind the scenes. The writers, composers, directors, choreographers and all other creative brains are so integral to the theatre industry and often don’t get the recognition they deserve.

Now, I’m WELL aware that my humble blog is just a tiny smidge in the beast that is the internet, but just humour me for a second. The thought of someone reading an interview with a creative and thinking “Huh, I never knew you could do that as a job…I want to give that a try!” is ABSOLUTELY what I’m all about.

So, while I will shamelessly admit that interviewing industry professional is hugely fulfilling and inspiring for me personally, if there’s a certain role in the Arts that you’d really love to hear more about, let me know! I’m going to be asking questions for as long as anyone will let me, so if you want to join in on this messy journey of artistic discovery with me, give me a shout!

Today’s interview is with the lovely Annabelle Hollingdale, who is a Director.

*Side note* Funnily enough, we recently realised we actually already knew each other, and for probably the most stagey reason there is (she was in a production of High School Musical directed by my Mum around ten years ago, so naturally – I was at every rehearsal.) I can’t begin to tell you how nice it was to see her again and hear about all the incredible things she’s been doing.

In addition to what is written below, we also discussed the importance of reaching out to those who inspire you, knowing what your strengths are and embracing the multitude of interests we have as creatives, without feeling the need to pigeon-hole ourselves. We also chatted until our coffee got cold. It was wonderful.

You studied Acting at University – when did you realise you wanted to be a director?

I originally did a three year degree in Acting, going in with the intention of graduating as an actor, but always with the secondary intention of being a director in my late forties/early fifties. At the time I thought a director needed to be older to have that level of experience and knowledge, and it didn’t occur to me that young females could be directors and people would listen to them.

I got half way through my actor training and wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would be. There was a particular guest director that we had come in to the school and his way of working just completely clicked with me, and my interest shifted to what he was doing, how he was working with actors and how they were responding to him. It sparked an interest that that was potentially what I wanted to do. So in my third year, I pulled out of some of the acting projects and said “please can I shadow this director when he comes back to work with the year below.” And then for my dissertation I chose to direct and that consolidated it for me.

The school had its strengths but for me, I regarded the teaching and material we were given as somewhat dated and slightly sexist…and I initially graduated feeling rather bitter and astray.

It took me a little while to work out how to use that positively, and then after a few months I realised that it had actually taught me the biggest lesson I could ever have hoped for: it showed me the kind of work I want to make and how I wouldn’t do it, and actually how I would go about doing it. So I don’t regret the training at all and I think to know how actors work is an invaluable part of a directors work.

What was it that drew you towards directing during your time on your Acting degree?

I realised so much about myself during that time and the kind of work that initially I wanted to be doing as an actor, but then I wasn’t seeing enough of that in the industry. I felt more empowered as a director and I thought I would have more of a voice and a vision as to the kind of work that is out there for people. For me, I just got bored and frustrated with not being in control of the kind of work I was making, of sitting waiting for the phone to ring for auditions, and disagreeing with creative decisions and not having the power to say or change anything. It had always been in the back of my head for some time, and it got to the point where I thought there are so many female directors leading the way and paving the way for others, that now seems like a better time than ever, and why not?

You were the Assistant and Resident Director on Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre. How did that opportunity arise?

Spring Awakening has been one of my favourite plays and musicals for a long time, and there was a real buzz around the Hope Mill in general which I was excited by. Then I saw that Luke Sheppard was directing Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill and so, for me, the three hand-in-hand was just a dream and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I emailed Luke’s agents and we ended up Skyping. We seemed to be on the same page with what the show was, as it was a revival but with a new setting and feminist overtones, empowering the character of Wendla a lot more. It was a very special production and a pivotal point in my directing career. Luke Sheppard was an amazing mentor and I’m very grateful that he gave me that opportunity when he didn’t have to.

What does being an Assistant and Resident Director actually involve?

It does vary depending on the project and the director you’re working with as to how hands-on you can be as an assistant, and what they require from you and are willing to let you do. I was particularly lucky with Luke [Sheppard]. Luke and I also work in very different ways; I’m annoyingly organised and he has the amazing ability to go in with an open mind and let things work organically. We had a kind of Ying and Yang relationship which worked really well.

And then once we were through with rehearsals, and Luke had another job lined up, as a Resident Director I went in three to five times a week to watch the show. I kept an eye on it, fed back to actors and gave notes, just making sure it was maintaining its standards.

* I then boldly interrupted here as I just couldn’t help telling her how incredible I thought it was that she’d already been a Resident Director so young. But of course, Annabelle’s modest response was this… *

That all comes from Luke – he was the one that opted for me to have that title and felt comfortable that someone would be there for the course of the run. He was only the other end of the phone and I was the go-between between him and the show, which was an amazing experience and one I’m very grateful for, especially to have had so soon in my career as well.

What was it like working at the Hope Mill Theatre?

The Hope Mill is an absolute powerhouse! The work they create and the collaborations they endorse are to London standards and above. Joseph [Houston], William [Whelton] and Katy [Lipson] are a creative dream-team and they have founded a hidden gem which I am ever grateful to have on my doorstep.

What do you think can be done to support female creatives?

What a few theatres have done amazingly recently is employ female Associate and Artistic directors, and companies in residence led by a female Director. Emma Rice at the Old Vic and Tamara Harvey at Theatre Clywd in Wales to name but a few. There are now an increasing number of theatres that have strong female directors at the forefront, whose creative vision is the pivotal force behind its running. So I think it’s to keep supporting theatres like that and to keep making contacts with female directors…and to not give a f*ck what anyone thinks because there’s always going to be hurdles, but now’s a better time than ever to try your hand. There are a few amazing males out there who are excited about collaborating with and giving voices to females. Times are changing and I think as long as people are being open minded to that and saluting that, it’s the only thing we can do really.

Who or what inspires you in the industry?

It’s probably an obvious answer really but I think Vicky Featherstone (Artistic Director of the Royal Court theatre) is incredible. She would be an absolute dream to work with. Just the Royal Court in general, their work always excites me. I love the collaborations with the new writers and I think their work is so innovative and topical. One of the best pieces of theatre that I think I have ever seen was at the Royal Court, and it was a play called Violence and Son, directed by Hamish Pirie. I was absolutely blown away and I thought about it for days afterwards, and no production had had an impact on me quite like that. That was maybe five years ago and it still stays in the forefront of my mind as the kind of theatre I think people should be making – that’s the kind of theatre I’d love to direct.

What’s something you’ve seen recently that you would recommend?

I’m a big fan of anything Jonathan O’Boyle – I think he is incredible. Recently he did Aspects of Love at the Hope Mill, which is transferring, so go see it! I also went to see Rain Man, which has Mathew Horne in it, which again, he [Jonathan O’Boyle] had done. I think he has an incredible ability to breathe new life into theatre, and take stories that are widely known and bring them into today’s world and give them a fresh life. That’s exactly what I think theatre should be – I’m all for classics being revived as long as it’s saying and offering something new, and he does that amazingly.

Are there any projects you’re working towards that you’re able to talk about, or something you are particularly drawn to?

I want to put something of my own on in the new year, whereby it’s completely my own vision. I’ve had the best time assisting but I think it’s time I take that leap of faith and put something on which is entirely my own. Musical theatre I absolutely adore, that goes without saying, but my passion and strength has always been working with naturalistic text. I love plays that are set in real time, in one location and the audience are rendered as a fly on the wall. I love playing the truth and dynamics of a relationship and how much can change in the space of an hour/an hour and a half. Even working on musical theatre, my priority is always the truth of the acting – for me, that’s the heart of any performance. I have to believe what the characters are saying. I would much rather hear a singers voice break through emotion than hit a note perfectly and me not believe a word they say.

What advice would you give to aspiring directors?

I think as long as you know the kind of work you like and why, that’s the best starting point you could have because you can develop from that. It’s fine for your tastes to change after every show that you see as long as you ask yourself why you like it or why you didn’t like it, or what you would do differently. Your brain is constantly engaging with the world of theatre and of directing. I think just see as much as you can, speak to as many people as you can. Formulate your own initial way of working and then you can be flexible to take essences of that from different things you see and different people you speak to. What I like and what I think I know now will probably be so different in a years time and that’s, for me, what keeps it exciting.

You were also recently involved with Heathers during its run at The Other Palace, ahead of its West End transfer to the Theatre Royal Haymarket. What was it like working alongside the (no less than iconic trio of Andy Fickman, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe) creative team?

They made it look so easy, because it’s their baby – they know that show inside out and they lived and breathed it. They loved it so much that everything fell into place. It was so perfectly cast and the relationship between the three primary creatives is just…you can’t manufacture that. That’s something incredible that I think translates. It’s an absolutely incredible team that was treated like a family. For me, the biggest thing I took away from working on that production was the importance of the environment that’s created. I think that stems primarily from the director and Andy has an incredible gift of making an environment feel so safe and so fun, but equally encouraging utter professionalism and hard work. We ate lunch together every day, and that sounds like a small thing, but actually it all feeds into it and it is so important. You can see that resonate onstage as the relationships they’ve created are incredible. They’re an amazing group of people and the show deserves every success. It has its following for a reason and the show itself is more apparent than ever. Andy’s just a wonderful human being and an amazing director.

Finally, I like to celebrate the rosy things in life here on this blog, so I ask everyone I interview this question – if you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

Listen to each other, just don’t be an arsehole! Because there is no excuse and there is no need…and everyone is capable of not being an arsehole!

It was so inspiring to speak with Annabelle, and I can’t wait to see what she creates next.

Until next time,

Olivia Rose 🌹

INTERVIEW – Scott Alan and The Distance You Have Come

INTERVIEW – Scott Alan and The Distance You Have Come

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek into the rehearsals of Scott Alan’s upcoming song cycle, The Distance You Have Come, that opens at The Cockpit Theatre on 16th October.

From just the short glimpse of rehearsals I saw, I have no doubt that this production is something special. There was such a great atmosphere of collaboration in the room, and with a lineup of six stellar performers, audiences are in for a real treat.

I can’t thank Scott enough for agreeing to speak with me, despite his crammed schedule of rehearsals alongside his private voice lessons while he’s here in London.

This song cycle provides an opportunity to hear Scott Alan’s uniquely heartfelt and honest music in a whole new light, so you really don’t want to miss it.

The Distance You Have Come stars Andy Coxon, Adrian Hansel, Emma Hatton, Jodie Jacobs, Dean John-Wilson and Alexia Khadime.

How did this new song cycle come about?

I’d been approached various times to do a song cycle of my work. They’ve been done in Brazil, Portugal, Germany…but I’d never actually been involved and so they’d never told the exact story I thought my music would be telling.

I don’t think this story could have even evolved until now as there’s a whole new approach to my music through my last album; finding love, settling down with my fiancé…

So when I was surveying the outline of the show, the first thing I started building was the relationship with Brian and Samuel. I wanted to tell a relationship like mine which is that we don’t do drugs, we don’t go out at night, we stay at home with the dogs, we don’t have an open relationship, we want kids… I wanted to tell that story through them.

Building from there, I started thinking how they would know the other characters. So I had Samuel have a sister, Laura, and started to think what was Laura’s story. I then gave her the component of Anna. I didn’t want to just tell this secret story of homosexuality, but I wanted to show the complications and what it’s like to be in your early thirties and really wanting love. Anna goes in and out of discovering herself through different partners, whether that be a female or a male. She falls in love with her best friend and that unfortunately doesn’t work out.

And then from there I wanted to build the next story of Anna and one of their best friends – Maisey, who was in a relationship for ten years with an alcoholic, who’s Joe.

What’s it been like working with this group of actors?

It’s like being with friends – they’re an incredible group of giving people.

Despite the many songs you’ve released out into the world, do you still get nervous when you’re about to share new work?

What’s interesting about this one, is that I am nervous for the fans because so much of the music is different. I know that they’ll hear Anything Worth Holding On To, but it’s now Anything Worth Holding On To with another song called Stay, plus Once Upon A Time and it all comes together at one time. So for fans who are so dedicated to that particular song might be like “why didn’t I get the song I want?” but it’s been recorded like 700 times and been performed 9000 times, so it’s time to find a story to build and I’m excited about that.

You’ve performed in London several times before. Do you enjoy it here?

Oh, it’s my favourite city in the world. Whenever I come here though, I come for work and so I’ve never really seen the city. But I always do an Afternoon Tea at the Covent Garden Hotel.

By putting your songs together for this song cycle, has it given you a new perspective of your music?

Totally, but it also allows me to release them into the world and they now have their own identity as they’re really looking at the lyrics through other organic characters. There are so many new colours and vibrancies that are coming across with every new step. Having Scott Morgan come along and arrange and orchestrate the entire piece, and I gave him free liberty to do so, it’s a whole new experience for me and it’s nice to give it away.

When you’re writing or working on a project, do you have specific musical influences you like to surround yourself with or do you enjoy listening to new work?

It’s funny, I started listening to Tori Amos again – she’s one of my favourites. It’s one of those things where I gravitate towards things, so when I’m here I have an hour commute and so I listen to music that makes me calm.

You’ve performed your music all over the world, but are there any venues that are on your bucket list?

That’s a good question – I mean, anyone would want to perform in Central Park. But I like the intimate venues. I would also like to see my show, Home, take the stage one day.

What advice would you give to aspiring songwriters?

Trust your heart. Reach out for those people you are passionate about. When I have performers perform with me it’s not always the biggest names in the world, but people I love hearing sing my work. I think for any writer, it’s trust yourself, trust your heart, trust your passion, trust your gut. Don’t just try to rhyme or be predictable – try write something that’s honest and poignant. Because every song, even Good Morning Baltimore, there’s fun it it but it still has a dramatic arc.

As my blog is called Rose’s Supposes, I like to ask everyone I interview this question – if you could do one thing to make the world a bit rosier, what would you do?

I would give ice cream to everyone. I love ice cream and I think ice cream makes people smile. And I think I would remind people what they were when they were a child and without bigotry in their lives because they weren’t emotionally connected to that yet. I would give hugs, because people don’t hug enough. Ice cream, hugs, all the good stuff.

Olivia Rose 🌹

For more information on The Distance You Have Come or to buy tickets, click the link here:

To follow Scott Alan on social media and for all the news regarding his music and upcoming projects, here are the links you need:


Twitter: @ScottAlan

Instagram: @scottalanmusic

What’s on my Rosy Radar?

What’s on my Rosy Radar?

So it’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here! The last few weeks have been a bit mad, with stagey announcements and openings left, right and centre.

So, I thought I’d share what’s currently on my “Rosy Radar” at the moment…

First up are some things I’ve already had the pleasure of watching and think you should check out too:

Unexpected Joy at the Southwark Playhouse

I ended up seeing this fairly last minute and am so pleased that I did. It’s a brand new musical and I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. If you looked at the synopsis written down, you’d probably be pretty alarmed that it’s a musical and not a heavy family drama, as the piece touches on so many different and very “real” issues. I’m being purposefully vague as I think I loved this show largely because I went in with no preconceptions, and had no idea what the next scene would hold. You’re just going to have to take my word for it and believe the title of the show.

The cast of 4 astounding women, each vocal powerhouses in their own unique way, consists of Janet Fullerlove, Jodie Jacobs, Melanie Marshall and Kelly Sweeney. For the vocals and music alone you’d have a great evening out, but the story was honestly so clever and had me belly laughing then welling up just minutes later.

It’s running at the Southwark Playhouse until 29th September 2018 so it’s one that’s really worth trying to catch before it’s too late. For some reason people are so apprehensive about new musicals, as though despite reaching a stage where we’re embracing more diverse styles of music and finally portraying a wider spectrum of human experiences than ever before, that writers might have somehow lost the knack? It’s time we had more faith in new work and took a risk, and if you’re wondering how to take the plunge – this show is a pretty good place to start.

Club A cappella at The Other Palace

Guyyyyyyyyyys. I had so much fun at this. It was part of a series hosted by WeAreTrackless, and showcases the best a cappella groups in the UK.

If you don’t know (but I’m sure it will come to no surprise), I’m a HUGE a cappella nerd. Like, think Ben Platt’s character in Pitch Perfect level nerd. It’s wonderful. From my days being a Pitch Perfect wannabe and running an a cappella group at school (we were iconic), I can appreciate the huge amount of work that goes into writing the arrangements and creating a tight sound. I will also never not be crazily impressed by anyone that can beatbox. My mind was b l o w n.

If you want to watch some seriously skilled performers and be slightly baffled for a few hours that what your hearing is all 100% live right in front of you, you’re in luck! The next Club A Cappella is on Sunday 21st October, at The Other Palace again in their studio space, and will sell out really soon so make sure you book your tickets!

Heathers at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

I’ve shared how much I love Heathers a fair few times on this blog, but if anything has been on my ‘Rosy Radar’, it’s this show.

With a new song, additional dialogue, even more killer choreography, the production team have done such an incredible job to adapt the show to suit the Theatre Royal Haymarket for its West End transfer, following a sell-out run at The Other Palace. I’m so excited for even more people to discover the beauty of Heathers.

All I can say without repeating myself again is go see it go see it go see it go see it go see it. You’ve only got until 24th November and there are some cracking deals around for tickets so honey, watcha waitin’ for???

*** If any hardcore Corn Nuts are here and want even MORE Heathers content, check out my interview with Laurence O’Keefe, one of the composers of the show and my ‘Rosy Roundup’ of the show after I somehow found myself watching the dress rehearsal ahead of their run at The Other Palace) ***

And now, a few shows that haven’t opened yet but are most DEFINITELY on my ‘Rosy Radar’:

Company at the Gielgud Theatre

Struggled to start writing this one. I only realised quite how excited I was to see this when I saw a poster for the show on the tube and squealed a little bit. I will proudly admit to being well and truly obsessed with Stephen Sondheim and his work, so when I saw Marianne Elliot was involved and oh yeah QUEEN PATTI LUPONE, it’s safe to say I was on board pretty quickly.

I cannot wait to experience this show in a completely new way as they’ve changed the lead from a male “Bobby”, to a female “Bobbie” starring the incredible Rosalie Craig. There’s so much buzz around this production already and it really feels like something special is about to happen in the West End.

Company opens at the Gielgud Theatre on 26th September and will run until 22nd December 2018.

Movie musicals galore

Okay this isn’t actually the title of a musical (I just like the word galore). But recently there’s been a huge wave of movies being adapted into musicals and some that I am SO excited to see develop. There have been talks of a Mrs Doubtfire musical, a Nanny McPhee musical and even adaptations of 13 Going On 30 and 17 Again in the works. I’m really intrigued to see where all these projects will go and no doubt we’ll be hearing more from them soon.

I would LOVE to hear if there are any particular shows that you just can’t stop talking/tweeting/singing about. I’m considering posting a “What’s on my Rosy Radar?” every month or so, so if you liked this post and would be interested in another one then let me know!

I’ve got some *really* exciting interviews that I can’t wait to share, with some creatives who I have huge respect for, so check back soon!

Olivia Rose 🌹

Rosy Roundup – In The Heights (Stockwell Playhouse)

Rosy Roundup – In The Heights (Stockwell Playhouse)

When I heard that In The Heights was coming to the Stockwell Playhouse, I was so excited.

I was introduced to this musical a few years ago by my wonderful friend Olli, and it was the first Lin Manuel Miranda piece I’d seen. For those who might not know, In The Heights was Lin Manuel Miranda’s great success before Hamilton was unleashed into the world.

This vibrant musical, set in Washington Heights, New York, is presented here by RicNic London – a charity which gives young people the opportunity to present full-scale productions. What’s unique about this company is that it’s free to get involved and the productions are created and performed entirely by 16-21 year olds. Pretty cool, right?

The cast delivered the piece with so much energy and I love watching performers who are genuinely enjoying themselves onstage. To avoid missing anyone, I don’t want to single out specific performers but trust me when I say there are some CRAZY good vocals in this cast. They sing with real spark in their eyes and there are many moments throughout that are really moving.

In The Heights is full of so many great numbers, including “Breathe” which is actually one of my favourite musical theatre songs. It’s also such a fast-paced piece, with a huge amount of material and plot to portray, (if you’re familiar with Hamilton, you’ll know what I mean!) and so to see it so well-executed by such a young company was hugely impressive.

With an enigmatic young cast and a really slick band, showcasing Lin Manuel Miranda’s genius in all its glory, you really don’t want to miss this one.

You’ve only got until Saturday 25th August to catch it, so get down to the Stockwell Playhouse before you miss this absolute gem of a show!

You can book tickets for RicNic’s In The Heights at the Stockwell Playhouse here.

(Their opening night, Wednesday 22nd August, SOLD OUT, so get booking!)

For more information on RicNic and the great work they do, you can visit their website here.

Olivia Rose 🌹

Rosy Roundup – What Would Julie Do?

Rosy Roundup – What Would Julie Do?

I had the absolute pleasure of watching Rosie Williamson’s What Would Julie Do? Live – Soldiers in Petticoats on 2nd August.

Part of the Pizza Express Live series, this was a cabaret style concert led by Rosie Williamson, described as an evening of “showtunes and self-help” all inspired by Dame Julie Andrews.

So if you know me at all, you’ll understand why this is RIGHT up my street and why I wanted to share how much I enjoyed it.

Rosie was joined by fellow “Julies” Lucy Clough, Elise Allanson, Rebecca Ridout and Joanna Thorne. Each one of them have such an individual sound and it was lovely to watch a concert with really diverse voices, where each performer confidently held their own as a soloist, yet flourished in the ensemble pieces too. The witty comedy numbers, with re-written lyrics to Julie Andrews classics such as “Just You Wait” from My Fair Lady, were definite crowd-pleasers and acted as Rosie’s self-professed feminist rant (but like, the best kind of feminist rant, don’t worry).

I have to applaud Musical Director Matthew Samer, who not only accompanied the concert (on an extremely lovely Steinway grand piano) with so much energy, but also wrote a show-stopping mashup of Beyoncé’s “Who Run The World?” and “Sister Suffragette” from Mary Poppins which was a definite highlight of the evening. I am a *huge* fan of clever musical mashups and they delivered the humour so well in this number.

The concert was also in aid of Cancer Research UK, which made Rebecca Ridout and Joanna Thorne’s rendition of “Some Things are Meant to be” all the more moving. I wasn’t expecting to get so emotional at this song as I’ve known it for so many years but yup…it got me good.

Act Two saw West End performer Lara Denning, currently appearing as Mrs Wormwood in Matilda, take the stage. If the audience wasn’t loving the evening enough already, Lara’s incredible stage presence and bubbly personality seemed to lift the energy even more. My personal favourite that she performed was Brunger and Cleary’s “New Best Friend” from The Secret Life of Adrian Mole aged 13 3/4. Lara is such an engaging performer and was an excellent choice of guest for the evening.

I know I’ve used the word “energy” a lot, but there really was such a great atmosphere in the room. With Rosie’s words of wisdom woven in amidst the musical numbers, the evening truly highlighted not only the healing power of music, but music as a comedic tool, a vehicle for solidarity and a means of empowerment.

It was a wonderful mixture of funny, poignant and, if you ask me, practically perfect.

Olivia Rose 🌹

The next “What Would Julie Do?” concert is on Sunday 21st October at the Pheasantry in Chelsea, so make sure you catch the next one!

In addition to her concerts, you can also follow Rosie’s blog, which she states is her “little online space to share musings on living a happier, healthier life; inspired by Julie and other favourite things.” So what’s not to like about that? Go say hello!

Interview – Laurence O’Keefe

Interview – Laurence O’Keefe

Dear Diary,

Picture the scene…it’s June 2018. After another wild performance of Heathers, the Other Palace is buzzing as usual. Among them, of course, the brains behind the production: Andy Fickman, Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe. I spotted Laurence/Larry in the crowd and genuinely couldn’t bring myself to leave the building without saying hello.

For those who may not know, Larry is not only 1/3 of the brains behind Heathers but he also wrote the musicals Bat Boy and Legally Blonde.

Skip ahead to early August; just after Heathers has closed at The Other Palace. I still can’t quite believe this happened, but there I was, chatting to Laurence O’Keefe about music, lyrics, comedy, ARISTOTLE…and it was marvellous.

So, here is just a snippet of the wonderful conversation I had with Larry. He was so generous with his time despite just a short trip back in London and I can’t thank him enough for agreeing to meet with me. Beyond what’s written here, we discussed the wonders of Gilbert & Sullivan, Bat Boy and why Larry believes “I Will Survive” is the greatest song ever written (trust me – he makes a very convincing case.) He also shared so many musical gems and techniques that quite frankly, I’m not ready to share until I’ve used them myself..!


You went to Harvard University and then went on to study at Berklee College of Music and the University of Southern California. What was that like?

Berklee is a great school – very unique. In a way it’s, and I mean this in an incredibly complimentary way, it’s a trade school; where you learn hands-on music, so you can work immediately as soon as you get out. There are music departments in many brilliant universities that think about it as a theory, and think about it as a topic to be looked at and explore, as opposed to be practised. So Berklee is the antithesis of that and it was wonderful.

I went there knowing that I needed to fill in gaps in my musical knowledge if I wanted to go to USC, which is the film scoring grad school where you get your Masters. It’s one of the only times in my life where I thought “Oh, I have a cool multi-year plan!” and it was the smartest thing I ever did.

As I spent the year there, I became increasingly aware that film scoring was not something I was naturally drawn to. I thought I was, because I love film music, but you realise that film music is in the back, while the film is in the front. One of our teachers said that film music is designed to be felt, not heard. And that if you’re doing your job right, they will not notice the melody until it comes out on CD. We got a real world education in what happens to your music. The art of film music is incredible and the practitioners are brilliant, but I found myself drawn to theatre.

Do you think the music you listened to growing up has influenced your work?

Oh yes. I’m ashamed to admit it, almost. I think the first albums that I owned as a kid were Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat and My Fair Lady, Elton John’s Greatest Hits, I got into Billy Joel very early. My brother had a lot of Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin which I listened to. As a teen I got into The Police, Sting, then later in High School lots of musicals. I was in Godspell, Pippin… I think the musicals I saw as a kid were certainly a major influence but I didn’t necessarily know that’s what I would do for a living, and I don’t think it was my primary form of musical entertainment. I also did a lot of community theatre. A wise teacher once said “all theatre is community theatre”, it’s only the big fancy ones that have forgotten that.

On any given song of mine, you can probably count ten or twelve different influences all thrown into a melting pot. If you find yourself too accurately portraying one kind of style, and you don’t mix it up, you might miss an opportunity.

So we’re rather proud of the new songs in Heathers. I knew the certain kind of sounds I wanted for “I Will Never Shut Up Again” [Heather Duke’s new number written for this latest production.] I was kind of going for a mid-eighties Tina Turner sound. I also knew I wanted some Prince in there, some fabulous eighties stuff. And then by the time I was done, I was like “Oh, there’s more ABBA in this song than I thought there would be…”

Not many ABBA songs are about triumph and destroying your rivals. So when you take the tone of ABBA celebration, and you mix it with something that doesn’t match…to take that much joy and mix it with that much cruelty. So it’s good to try to jam them together to see what happens. I do that with chords too.

What is a trick or technique a writer can use to get across the comedy in a song?

It’s nice to stay ahead of an audience; to make them feel they’re getting one thing and then pull the rug out from under them, and there are several ways to do that. The number one is to let them feel comfortable and that they recognise a musical theatre trope, but then wrecking it mid-song. I don’t mean musically, but wrecking it in terms of expectations or tone.

When you were adapting the film into a musical, how did you begin the process of envisaging where the songs will go?

Kevin and I spent several weeks, if not months, talking about things from how eighties it should sound like, to who should sing for what reason. We both had gone in with a couple of shows under our belts and our own philosophies of why people sing.

It’s usually when a character is at a moral crossroads: “What will I do? I have this insurmountable obstacle, what am I going to do about it?” That’s always where I gravitate.

Do you often get “eureka!” moments when you’re writing or does it often take presenting the work to others in order to recognise the standout moments?

It’s a mixture. Sometimes you just know if something’s gonna work. With Kevin and I…Kevin is one of the best writers I’ve ever met and he’s incredibly inspiring. But we’re pretty competitive, and so every once and a while I like to remember “I wrote that!” We work at everything together; we hash out the music together, the lyrics and the book together. He’s a little more the initiator of things like plot events and story beats. I’m a little more the closer on things like musical execution and orchestration, but we’re all back and forth… With that said, I am very proud of having thought of the line “Jesus, I’m on the frickin’ bus again ‘cause all my rides to school are dead!

The music in Heathers is so varied. You’ve got the opening number, “Beautiful”, that’s eight minutes long, then there’s “Lifeboat” which is just one and a half minutes. Did you approach these differently when writing?

It’s exactly the same. You need to get from one transaction or one surprise to the next. A sign of a good song is that you have a surprise at the beginning and a surprise at the end. You need something to jolt the story in a slightly different direction. Someone has to propose something new that boosts the energy, and suddenly you’re singing. But, then what? Sometimes you can come up with new surprises every sixty seconds and then you can sustain eight minutes. So in “Beautiful”, the surprises are how cruel the school is, then the fact she stands up for Martha, then in come the Heathers. That’s all in the first three minutes.

In an opening number you also have the benefit that the audience will give you extra time to meet the villagers. The audience hears big music, the lights go down and you get put in that vulnerable caveman state where you’re willing to listen to someone who stands up on a rock and says “Hey, everybody in the tribe: shut up and listen to me.” Audiences will listen and give you the benefit of the doubt, but you need to lay out what the whole show is going to be about; what the values and tone of the whole show are.

(*Nerd alert* I suddenly found myself interrupting him and blurted out “kind of like a modern overture?” And Larry replied “Exactly – that’s exactly what it is.” So I’m pleased to announce I’m definitely also a musical genius now and will gladly speak at weddings, graduations and corporate events. Drop me an email. Okay, back to Larry…You’re not even ready for this next paragraph.)

I’m obsessed with Aristotle’s The Rhetoric because he had us pegged three thousand years ago. Everything we do in theatre is something he already described in his book. It’s the art of persuasion; the art of somebody getting up in front of everybody and saying “Hey everybody, shut up, I’m a little better than you (if only temporarily) and I’m a little wiser than you – I’m gonna tell you something. But you need to know who I am first.” Then you’ve got to say why you should all listen to me because I’m going to imbue you with my emotion. First you’ve got to show your ethos; who you are, then pathos; your emotion and then logos which is your argument – what do you want people to do differently when you’re done talking? That’s the interesting thing.

Musical theatre is the preachiest of all the arts and so if you don’t have a logos, you’re wasting time a little bit. You can go to an art gallery and have a great time and be moved deeply by a series of abstract images that don’t want to actually recommend anything. I mean, that’s brilliant and I’d love to learn to do that. But, if you go to a piece of musical theatre and you’re not given some useful prescriptions about how you can live a little better, or treat yourself or others a little better, you’ve missed an opportunity.

So the common thing between writing the eight minute song and the one and a half minute song is: what were the transactions and the proposals in each moment, and what are you recommending? What are you advocating? I don’t know if there’s a hard and fast rule on how many surprises or turns you need in a song, but I often find that if you get to the end of one verse and one chorus and then nothing has changed in your plot…your song is over.

In the case of “Lifeboat”, there was nothing more to say. There’s that one moment where [Heather McNamara] a simple person who we haven’t really heard from, has come to the end of a rope. And she’s asking for help.

When you’re writing for a new musical, how do you strike the balance between ensuring the show has longevity, while also catching the zeitgeist?

That’s a good question. There’s different ways you can aim for timeless. Mean Girls decided to not try to sound like the most modern music around. You could try to sound like 2018, like Kendrick…and that would be great now but in two years, what if they’re forgotten? What if new sounds have completely rendered them obsolete? I love that Mean Girls has moments that sound like the James Bond movies because the James Bond sound is still so powerful; it still evokes emotions when you hear that sound. So, go for what’s eternal. And make sure the topics you’re talking about are timely great.

Heathers in the 1980s was very much a scathing satire and an antidote to the comforting lies of the Reagan era, in which we were lulled asleep by people saying “America’s good again, America’s strong again. And America’s right again.” And it was just cover for a multitude of cruelties. Consumerism and the hurt mentality was a large part of why Heathers was a very truthful antidote.

Nowadays, the bullying is front and centre and the ability to hurt masses of people. Times change, values change, and we’re stunned and delighted that this show still has something to stay.

Many people have expressed their interest in a new cast recording with the London cast, as well as hopes for a Broadway production one day. What do you think the future looks like for Heathers?

Anything is possible. All it takes is a couple of visionary people and money. It’s gotten to the point where I keep finding new reasons to be grateful. If Heathers had never gone anywhere past the production in New York I’d be like “that was great, I had a great time, I learned a lot.” The album has taken off and become its own thing. And if it were nothing but a bunch of well-received productions all over America plus kids doing animatics on YouTube, I’d be like “great!”

But to get to keep working on it has been a blessing and a miracle. So if something happens further, great! If it doesn’t, great! I currently have a career people would dream of and I’m very very lucky. There’s usually no correlation to someone’s talent and brilliance, and what they get to do in their lives…and I really lucked out.

We always felt that we wanted to keep working on Heathers. We never felt like the end of a production was the end or the end stage. Everybody tinkers – it’s what we do. If Heathers never does another thing, I’m incredibly blessed. It’s gonna be hard to top it as far of things I’m proud of and things I’m excited about. I’m incredibly excited about the next couple of things I’m going to do with Nell [Benjamin]. I’ve learned to shrug and smile the way Kevin Murphy does.

You’ve highlighted before that a lot of your work focuses on misfits. Do you think this is why your work has resonated with so many people, as we’ve all felt like a misfit at some stage in our life?

I think the misfits thing is one of the easiest and most fertile sources of story.

If you go see a play or a musical; a drama, you expect a certain shape. A hero is, at rest, in a state of relative contentment, or thinks they’re content. But no, something’s wrong…they want something. They go out to get it, they seek it, they cross a threshold into an uncomfortable world they don’t really know, they find it, they return but they are changed forever. I don’t know why that particular caveman narrative is what we crave most, but it is. And if you don’t have every one of those elements then you’re missing something.

A misfit by definition is in a state of crisis, which is a good generator of story. Elle Woods doesn’t know she’s a misfit until she’s suddenly told she is.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers and composers?

Get something down on paper. Or GarageBand, or SoundCloud, or YouTube. Put something down. Get it out of your head and onto a page, into peoples hands, or get it recorded in some way. Put it in front of people; to your relatives, at a cocktail party, rent the theatre at your local school. Do something with a deadline and an opening night, make a schedule, rehearse it and perform it. It could be in your common room at your dormitory – do it. Find live people, do live things.

What is something you’ve seen or listened to recently that you would recommend to others?

Mean Girls, but I’m biased. (Larry’s wife, Nell Benjamin, wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical alongside book-writer Tina Fey and composer Jeff Richmond.)

Mean Girls is one of the greatest scores ever written, and people will discover that. I mean, it’s a big hit right now, but the actual music and the compositions are a classic – it’s brilliant. People are going to realise in the coming years how innovative it is. The innovations in Hamilton are very discernible to the naked eye. The innovations of Mean Girls are much more subtle and are going to come out over time.

One of my favourite things about that show is that it actually embraces the Broadway sound in many of their songs. There’s a reason why that sound keeps coming back. It’s our national American sound in many ways; it’s what we like to hear. And it’s not coincidental, it’s what sounds great in these theatres. The sound of live horns and saxophones and flutes. She [Nell Benjamin] also wrote Dave the musical, based on the Kevin Kline movie. It’s phenomenal.

Finally, as my blog is called Rose’s Supposes, I like to ask each of my guests this question. If you could do something to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

If I had unlimited resources, I would probably set up McCarthur foundation level grants for people who spread positivity. The McCarthur grants are this American foundation, and every year they name ten to twenty people in all walks of life like economics, science, arts…they’re called genius grants. A community organiser could get one, someone who’s working to fight disease could get one. In my case I might set up something like that to specifically promote positive interactions and kindness. I might call them the kindness grants! Or the Heathers grants, or the Veronica grants…

(In this moment, I couldn’t resist mentioning the wonderful Carrie Hope Fletcher, who leads this production as Veronica Sawyer and is a well-known advocate for kindness and positivity in the theatre community.)

Oh she’d be the first winner, absolutely.


So there you have it.

Without making this blog post too self-indulgent, if “2017 Olivia” knew that “2018 Olivia” would get the chance to speak in depth with the writer of music that’s played such a huge role in her life, she’d lose her freakin’ mind.

So Larry, thank you.

Olivia Rose🌹

Interview – Nicole Raquel Dennis

Interview – Nicole Raquel Dennis

I recently had THE loveliest chat with Nicole Raquel Dennis. She’s currently 1st cover Effie in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre and has also recently appeared in The Book of Mormon in the West End.

She’s also such a genuine, lovely human being and it was a pleasure to interview someone so down to earth. I hope you enjoy our chat!

What was your journey like leading up to being in Dreamgirls?

After I left sixth form when I was 18, I auditioned for drama schools and didn’t get in anywhere. I auditioned for three or four years straight but just didn’t get in anywhere, so I thought “I guess I’m gonna have to get a normal job!” But then I went to the open Dreamgirls call, and I was in that casting process for about ten months…then I didn’t get it.

(I literally gasped “ten months?!”)

Yeah, it was long!

I was working an office job as well so it was fine, but ten months was a very long time. But it was amazing because I’d never done a big West End audition before, and for a lead part, so it was an amazing experience. I didn’t get it, but it was the same casting team that cast Disney, and they said “We’re casting Disney as well, do you want to audition?” So I was like…of course!

So then I auditioned for Disney and got my first job, which was called Mickey and the Magician at Disneyland Paris. It was a dream job – the best first job for me. I think if I was thrown straight into a West End show then I wouldn’t have been ready. I was definitely not ready for Dreamgirls at 21.

I was in Paris for around ten months and then, because it was the same people who cast The Book of Mormon, they got in contact with me and so I auditioned for that, got it, then left Disney to do that. Then because it was also Sonia Friedman Productions, I ended up auditioning for Dreamgirls again and got in. I actually left Mormon early as well to do go into that, so it’s been non-stop!

Did you feel the pressure to get into a drama school and enter the industry that way?

When I’d go to workshops and things, I was always told you have to go to drama school to get into the industry. I was never told you could make it with another path. And I think that’s the worst thing to have when you’re 18 – to be told that there’s only one way into an industry that’s already the hardest thing. When you’re young, I feel like you’re never told to celebrate how unique you are, and a lot of drama schools do mould people to be more similar, rather than celebrating you as an individual.

So that’s why I’m really vocal on Twitter about celebrating yourself and making sure you stand out, because I didn’t have that when I was younger. I didn’t have anyone I looked up to that didn’t go down that route [of drama school], and I didn’t have anyone to talk to about that. I kind of had to discover it on my own, so I want to be there for people who are going through the same thing.

One of the reasons I love New York and their theatre culture so much is that they always have open casting calls, and it’s very rare here to have open calls for West End shows. It’s a shame because there are so many talented people out there who don’t have the opportunity to go to drama school, or don’t have the money or resources to go, and they’re just sitting there undiscovered – they could be the lead in the West End but would never know. I really want to get rid of the stigma around people who haven’t trained.

When did you first go on for Effie and what was that like?

February 21st [2018] – that date will never leave my head! It was very surreal. The day before, we’d had a dress run – it was meant to be a normal rehearsal but then they said we were gonna have a dress run just in case we were on the next day. I was swung off in the evening to watch the show and then at ten o’clock the next morning, I got a call and I was like okay…this is it, it’s actually happening!

I sent a message out to everyone on Facebook and Twitter and then just left my phone. It went by so quickly but it was the best day of my entire life.

When I’m not on for Effie I’m in the show every night in the ensemble, and I went back to my ensemble track that evening. It was really humbling actually doing the matinee as Effie and then straight back to ensemble in the evening. It was nice because, when you’re on as Effie you don’t see anyone as your paths don’t cross with the ensemble. I’d actually missed being with the cast! So it was lovely going back to that.

There are three Effie’s so I never thought I’d get to go on this year, as there didn’t seem like there would be a window for me to go on. I’ve played Effie seven or eight times since, but even just to get a second show I was so over the moon. Every time I find out I’m going on you just get this adrenaline you can’t describe – nothing will ever compare to that feeling.

What is it like playing a character like Effie that goes through such a huge transformation throughout the show?

It’s massive. She starts off as an 18 year old girl, and by the end she’s in her thirties. I’m known as the “Baby Effie” as I’m the youngest Effie in the cast. I relate so much to Act One Effie as she’s so young, whereas the other Effies are more Act Two Effies. Getting into her character for Act Two was a big struggle for me, and it was tough but it’s so so satisfying at the end.

Do you have a favourite number to sing as Effie?

I love I Am Changing – I think it’s the most beautiful song. It’s the first time you see Effie after her big meltdown and so to see her rise up again is just so inspirational. I also love the duet between Effie and C.C when they first see each other again – vocally it’s just such a joy to sing.

You also got to perform as Effie at West End Live this year, what was that like?

I wasn’t expecting it at all, and then I got told I was doing it and the matinee as Effie that day as well! It was a dream come true because I went to West End Live year after year, and had always queued up at 8:00 in the morning to get to the front row, so it was such a full circle moment for me. It was ridiculous – I’ve never seen that many people! It was insane. We were so hyped and the atmosphere was so amazing. I’m very very lucky to have done that.

What have you learnt so far from your time in Dreamgirls – both artistically as a performer and personally?

When I’m onstage as Effie, I’ve really learnt to pace myself. When it was the dress rehearsal, I was so excited and felt like I needed to go full out for every single number. It got to the end of Act One and my voice had blown out completely. So the other Effies have all taught me to pace myself and I think that’s the best advice I’ve ever had.

Personally, I’ve learnt that life’s too short to get worked up about the tiniest things. We literally dress up and sing songs as our job! I think a lot of the time we’re so serious about everything and we’re so hard on ourselves when we make mistakes, but we’re all human. I’ve also learnt not to be so apologetic.

The cast of Dreamgirls seem to be a really close unit. Has that helped?

Definitely, the cast is mental. I’ve been very very lucky with the three shows I’ve done so far to have really loving casts. We’re together all the time and it really is a bubble. Especially in a show like this where it’s very emotionally heavy, you have no choice but to depend on each other a lot of the time. I’ve been very lucky with this cast – they’re my rocks, especially the girls in my dressing room. They’re literally the funniest, most entertaining girls I’ve ever been around.

I love the videos you’ve posted on your Instagram singing a cappella with your fellow cast members, Ashford Campbell and Ashlee Irish. Is that a style you’d like to explore more?

My two boys! I would love to do more of it. Whenever we get a chance to, it’s usually on double show days, we love to just sit down and have a jam. I love a cappella and such close harmonies. We’ve all got such different voices as well so it’s fun. For all three of us, our roots and our base was gospel, but we definitely love singing songs from musicals together too.

(I then mentioned the video she posted of them singing an iconic moment from Mean Girls the musical, where Janis belts “It’s fiiiiiiiiine.” If you know, you know…)

Oh my god, (*Nicole then leant closer into the microphone*) this is a PSA…I want to play Janis! I would love to be in that show here.

Do you have any other dream roles?

This is so cliché to say but Effie really was a dream role for me, from a very young age – about 10 years old. I watched a bootleg of Dreamgirls and it literally changed my whole life. So as that’s always been a dream role I haven’t really focused on other stuff I’d like to do…but I’d love to do Mean Girls! I’d love to do Spring Awakening and Bare, I’d also love to do Porgy and Bess when I’m older.

There’s so much I want to do and I don’t really want to put myself into a box so I’d love to do gender blind roles one day. As long as I’m telling a story I think that’s the main thing for me.

You’ve recently teased that you may have a solo concert coming up. What can we expect?

I’m not allowed to say anything yet but I’ve been hinting loads of things…I’m planning a solo concert at the moment. Whereabouts and who’s singing with me will all be revealed later on but it’s very exciting. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and it feels like a really important time in my life to do it.

Dreamgirls is closing in January ahead of its UK tour. For Londoners who may not be able to see the show at its regional venues, why should people catch the show while it’s still in the West End?

So many reasons! I’m not being biased at all, but it’s the best show in the West End. The costumes are so detailed and so visually stunning – they tell their own story alone. The music is sublime, the voices are everything, the story is just so relatable, and you leave feeling something. Our show always leaves people with a message in their head or some sort of dream in their heart. It’s an incredible show – come and see it!

You’re refreshingly honest on your social media platforms talking about mental health and the highs and lows of working in an industry that’s infamously unpredictable. What do you think we can do, as creatives and as individuals, do help support each other?

I think we have to talk. People don’t talk enough; people don’t open up as much and I struggled with that a lot. Also to not disconnect from people – as a community, we all need to stick together. It’s such a small community and the second we start shutting down and closing off, is the second we lose ourselves and get sucked into the industry, and our whole lives become this industry when that’s not the case at all. We have to really think about ourselves as people before anything else.

I really want to start up a support group for people in the industry where people can talk, because there’s not a lot of that. Obviously you talk to the people you’re in a show with, but to talk to someone you’ve never met, maybe, you might open up and say things you’ve never said before.

I also think not feeling apologetic for feeling a certain way and to take the time you need to heal. I don’t know how they do it, but I feel like leads always have to put up a front and appear like they’re this perfect person who doesn’t go through anything. I think it’s time we break that stigma completely – so many times that lead will have gone through a bad day and no one will ever know about it.

I really loved the reaction to Patti Murin’s decision to call out of a performance of Frozen on Broadway because of her anxiety.

I’m so happy she spoke up about it because she could have not said anything and just called off the show, go back the next day, and act like nothing happened. But the fact that she spoke up about it gave so many people out there the thought that they’re not alone. So many people just think they need to get on with it, suffer in silence and then go home and cry for hours, and no one will know about what’s going on. When I saw her post, I was literally just like “Oh my God. Finally someone from a higher status is talking about what needs to be talked about.”

I’ve always opened my arms to people who need to talk about things. I think it’s so hard, especially for people coming up into the industry going through drama school. As I didn’t go to drama school I don’t really know what happens, but a lot of my friends have and it’s tough. So to have people in the industry to talk to I think is so important.

I’d never want to put up a barrier where people feel like they can’t talk to me, just because I’m in a show. Tomorrow, everything could switch and you could be in a show and I could not be and want someone to talk to, and I’d hope it would be the same if the roles were reversed.

Finally, as my blog is called Rose’s Supposes, if you could do one thing to make the world a little bit rosier, what would it be?

I’d love for schools to focus more on diversity in theatre and for the government to support theatre in schools. Growing up, we’re told theatre is only one way and one colour. I had to do my own research to find people that were like me in the industry. So I’d love for there to be more education on diversity in theatre, and it would make the world a bit more rosy!

I really hope this interview conveys what a lovely person Nicole is, and the huge heart she clearly has. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

If you’d like to follow her on social media, written below are Nicole’s Twitter and Instagram handles.

Twitter: @NicoleRaquel_D

Instagram: @nicoleraquel_d

Olivia Rose 🌹