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..!

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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.

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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 🌹

Rosy Roundup – Oscillate

Rosy Roundup – Oscillate

Described as “a rhythmic surge of communication through sound”, Old Kent Road’s Oscillate was performed for two days only at Sadler’s Wells’ Lillian Baylis Studio, ahead of its appearance in the London Tap Dance Intensive and its run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

I was so intrigued to see this as, for the majority of my childhood, tap dancing was my main passion. So, knowing just how hard it is, it was such a joy to watch these highly skilled tappers in this innovative new piece. This was a completely new league of tap than I’ve ever seen before, with so many different styles portrayed in unique ways.

Whilst the whole company were incredible, I could not possibly write this Roundup without mentioning Dre Torres’ performance, in particular. WOAH. I’m not sure I’ve ever watched a dancer with so much charisma and stage presence. She was sliding around the stage, whooping; this girl did it ALL. She absolutely commanded the stage and somehow barely looked out of breath even after being probably the most frequently featured dancer in the piece….how?! Seriously impressive.

One of my favourite sections of the piece was a solo of hers which I can only liken to the “angry dance” from Billy Elliot but like, on speed, and even cooler. It was insane. I also particularly enjoyed the segment with 3 couples using chairs which resembled a physical theatre/contemporary piece; which further showcased their diversity as dancers.

I’d also like to applaud the lighting design as this was used so effectively throughout. There was a section where the dancers on stage had standing lights, which they switched on and off, which served not only as an innovative way to drive the attention of the audience to certain pivotal moments, but the sound of the lights clicking on and off added yet another layer of rhythm. The piece also featured some amazing body percussion and even used their voices to create rhythms in an almost tribal style.

But on top of all of this, they then took off their tap shoes, and tapped barefoot. I’m just gonna write that again.

*They took off their tap shoes and literally tapped barefoot*

I cannot tell you how impressive this was. It was such a bold decision and a credit to this company’s fresh approach to the dance form. It made their movements so rooted and raw and was extremely effective.

Hats off to the whole company who produced such a dynamic performance. There was such a great energy in the room and, without trying to sound too soppy, there are few things better than watching people do something they clearly love. Every single dancer had such a sparkle in their eye, as if to say “you don’t know the cool bit that’s coming up next but weeeeeee dooooo!” The setup, consisting of the rest of the company sitting on chairs at the side of the stage while others were performing, also allowed the audience to be able to watch them watch their peers dancing with what appeared to be such pride. This seems to be a company with a clear vision and a greater sense of comradary between them.

There’s something really special about sharing the joy of dance and acknowledging genuine skill and talent, from a group of such effervescent performers. The intricate blending of different styles was so refreshing to see.

If you’re up in Edinburgh this summer for the Fringe, I’d HIGHLY recommend seeing Old Kent Road’s Oscillate for a thrilling and hugely impressive showcase of dance.

To find out more about the company, you can visit their website here.

Olivia Rose 🌹

Rosy Roundup – Titanic the Musical

Rosy Roundup – Titanic the Musical

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to discover this show. Admittedly, I’d been aware that there existed a musical depicting stories of those on the Titanic for several years, but I think I’d almost been subconsciously avoiding it. Perhaps I thought it would feel disrespectful to watch people singing about such a tragic event, or maybe that I would feel uncomfortable watching it? Well whatever I was thinking, I was wrong. So wrong.

Oh. My heart.

I want to start by saying how blown away I was by the sheer class of this cast. The energy between them was incredible and, being a true ensemble piece, it was wonderful to see a show where so many different cast members got to portray their story. These were performers who clearly knew what they were singing about and had done their research, and there was an overwhelming sense of respect for the people they were portraying.

Secondly, the SOUND of this cast. Maury Yeston’s score is so gorgeous and the recurring themes throughout the piece are just stunning. The variants of the “There She Is” theme stood out the most for me and I’ve definitely found myself humming this days after seeing the show.

It’s very rare that I see a musical and after each song has finished I have a new favourite. The vocals were just so tight and unified. I’ve seen shows before where I’ve been frustrated at the inconsistency of vocal styles used, with some delivering the material in an entirely legit style and others putting a more modern twist on their solos. Thankfully, Titanic showed no trace of this and clearly has a very diligent Musical Director in the form of Mark Aspinall, alongside a cast with a clear vision, meaning the score itself soars and can be appreciated in its full glory. I, for one, would LOVE to hear a new cast recording from this wonderful production.

The fact that the conductor was (rightly) given a bow at the curtain call, reaffirmed my feelings even more of the care that had gone into the music for this production. With so much happening on stage, it’s easy to forget that throughout the whole evening, the magic is also being created by the equally hard-working orchestra, so it was wonderful to be able to acknowledge this through the conductor’s bow.

It is, of course, a hugely sensitive subject; you’re dealing with one of the most famous tragic events in history and addressing the death of thousands of people. There were definitely tears, but at the same time, it’s not a tear-jerker for the sake of being a tear-jerker. Indeed, a significant amount of the show is so warm and uplifting that it’s this that makes the whole piece so heartbreaking.

I think the fact that I went to see the show with my friend, Nicole, who’s from the US, also impacted my experience. We spoke about how it’s a tragedy that’s shared between the US and the UK as it literally happened in between the two. So many people were on board hoping to find a new life, so along with the death of thousands of people, died so many dreams and plans for a better future. Like so many tragedies, there’s also no single figure to blame as there were so many different factors involved in the disaster, which is certainly a reason the story is still so compelling over 100 years after the tragic event itself.

I also think the portrayal of the actual sinking of the ship was also done in such a clever way. I was dreading this moment as I’d been so impressed with the production so far that I was worried about how they were going to portray the sinking of a ship that was in reality 175ft tall. But, in keeping of course with the class and respect with which the rest of the show was delivered, this moment was equally well-executed. The characters slowly joining centre stage and lightly bowing their heads to each other, before exiting upstage was one of the most simple yet effective pieces of direction I’ve seen. This was definitely helped by the reprise of the waltz and, as anyone who knows me will know, if you put something in 3/4 – I’m gone. That waltz broke me.

It’s a show that moves from highlighting how entrenched the class system and the idea of social hierarchy is in our existence, to proving how ridiculous a concept it is when a group of people find themselves in the face of death.

The combination of Maury Yeston’s incredible score and the production’s beautiful direction by Thom Southerland hit me hard, and I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.

Titanic is playing in Bradford, Liverpool and finally in Hamburg before it’s 2018 tour comes to a close. If you are able to see this production then please, please do. You can buy tickets here.

*Also* my wonderful friend Nicole uploaded a video sharing her thoughts on the show as well, and speaks so eloquently of why this production is so effective. She addresses things like the innovative set, the strong performances of individual characters and even shows off some of the show merch, so you can watch her video here!

Olivia Rose 🌹

Interview – Rebecca LaChance

Interview – Rebecca LaChance

Last week, I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with the lovely and hugely talented Rebecca LaChance. Rebecca was both a featured ensemble member in the original Broadway cast of Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and also understudied Jessie Mueller in the lead role of Carole. She has since starred opposite Michael Ball in the Chichester Festival Theatre production of Mack and Mabel and has now moved to London.

Next up for her is Give My Regards to Broadway at Upstairs at the Gatehouse – a brand new musical revue celebrating Broadway’s best show tunes between 1902-1942. We spoke about training in New York City and entering the industry, her move over from the US to London and, of course, Give My Regards to Broadway.

Hi Rebecca! Thanks so much for being my first guest on the blog. So, you moved to New York City at the age of seventeen to study at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts – what was that like?!

It was definitely a big deal becoming a New Yorker. Tisch was very exciting and cool; it was very inspiring for me. It’s a really big programme, so in my year there were around 250 students in Tisch Drama, just in my studies. That breaks down into studio groups so you end up in smaller groups, but ultimately there’s just a lot of people. Not everybody’s gonna get to be in the main stage productions, not everybody’s gonna get to study in the best classes. So you really have to claw your way through to get what you can out of it, and I feel like I did do my best to do that.

Was there a big pressure to get an agent once you graduated from Tisch?

Definitely. I was lucky enough that, without getting into an NYU showcase, I was involved in the Broadway Rising Stars concert which happens at Town Hall in New York on 43rd Street. It’s actually right across from where Beautiful is so, when I was in the show later on, I thought “wow – how full circle!” as that concert was the first thing I did out of NYU. It sort of functioned like a showcase, so after that I did meet a couple of agents and people through connections from school.

I was able to get my equity card through doing a touring children’s show for a few months, so I was then able to go to the Equity auditions. They have all these required calls so it’s a really great way to meet casting directors. I very rarely would get a job from those kinds of calls, but the relationships I made with those casting directors through seeing them so frequently, like singing 32 bars with them every two months, helped a lot.

Stephen Kopel and Jim Carnahan ended up putting me in the show I did prior to Beautiful which was at Williamstown. I’d compare it to Chichester as there’s a lot of out-of-town, starting things that move to Broadway and just great regional theatre. They then put me into Beautiful and they also put me into Mack and Mabel. So meeting them was really important!

Did you ever have to have a “side hustle” to support yourself whilst pursuing your performing ambitions?

Oh I have had every single side hustle there is! There was a good chunk of time where I had literally every job in the book, and many of them at the same time. And then still struggling to pay my rent and pay my student loans, so it’s definitely not easy. In 2013, I just hit this wall… but then things suddenly turned around for me – I booked Beautiful and my whole life switched around.

What did you do when you found out you’d been cast in Beautiful?

I freaked out completely. I actually found out the night before my sister’s wedding so my mom and I were secretly celebrating that I’d got this job, but we couldn’t tell anybody because it was her day. It was a very bizarre moment.

You were in the original cast and so, for a time, it was only you and Jessie Mueller who had played Carole King. What was that like?

Yeah, for over a year. It was kind of crazy. The first time I went on was when we were still out-of-town in San Francisco. We hadn’t even frozen the show yet so we were still in development. The understudies had costumes but nothing else – you know, we knew the music, we were getting updated pages but they were changing a lot.

Do you remember the first time you went on as Carole?

It was our last day in San Francisco and Jessie [Mueller] just got sick. And she’s the biggest trooper of them all, like, she genuinely has to be so unwell to say I can’t do something, especially knowing how huge it is and what it might mean because we were sold out; it was 1500 seats sold out on our last day in San Francisco. So the Stage Manager called me, and I had been out the night before, my best friends from college were there and we were having brunch. I had, like, a grilled cheese sandwich and an apple pie with ice cream, you know – the most dairy you could put into your vocal chords possible! And suddenly I was like “Oh, I’m about to be Carole King.” Just like weeping, actually – just so many tears. I went and they were fitting my wigs and I was just crying! It was genuinely a complete feat of company ethics because everyone was there holding me up, as you almost never go offstage in that role.

It seems like Carole King herself has been pretty on board with the whole process?

Yes. She saw a reading of it and when she first came, she left at the interval and was like “It’s great – I don’t want to watch it anymore”. The end of Act One is where Gerry’s cheating on her. She had to experience that already herself, and then had to watch it again with other people doing it. But we got to meet her during rehearsals and she came and told us stories. She didn’t come and see the show until about four or five months after we’d been doing it on Broadway but once she came, she loved it. She literally came in disguise, because she doesn’t want to sit there and have people watch her, watch her! She’s got wigs and glasses…it’s amazing.

What was it like coming over to the UK to star in Mack and Mabel?

I hadn’t actually heard of Michael Ball and I think that made a much better dynamic for the show between us and really worked for our characters. Originally I’d thought it was a one-off job but I really loved London, and then being in Chichester it was this idyllic setting in the UK countryside. But really the deciding factor in staying was that I met my now boyfriend working on Mack and Mabel; he was one of the production carpenters for the show. So I decided that when the contract was up, I was gonna get a lawyer and I was gonna try and come back. And that’s what happened – I moved over at the end of February last year. I love London and we live in a suburb-y part of town, and so I have a garden and a guest room; things I would never be able to touch in New York.

How would you compare auditioning in London and auditioning in New York?

It’s pretty similar. I’d say it’s probably a bit more laid back here. There’s the ethic in New York that if you’re not off-book, you’re a fool, because there will always be someone else who is off-book. In New York, if you asked someone if they juggle they’d be like “yup!” even if they don’t, because they’d go home that night and they’d learn to juggle. Whereas if you asked someone in London, they’d more be like “Not really, I might be able to learn.” It’s great and frank, and it’s nice to not lie about your skills! But it is true that in New York you’d just be like “yup!”

We’re here, of course, because you’re about to appear in Give My Regards To Broadway at Upstairs at the Gatehouse.

Yes! I’m really excited for it, I think it’s gonna be great. Some of the arrangements are so different from what I’ve heard before so that’s gonna be really fun for the audience I think. There’s already the joy of going to see a show where you know all the songs and you’re like “Yes! I love that song, and that song, and that song!” and so to hear them in a way that’s unique to what you’ve known before is gonna be really good fun.

Do you have a favourite song you get to perform?

I think Bewitched is among my favourites. It’s just such a great song. The intro is not always used but it’s so good. With so much of Gershwin and Cole Porter and Rodgers and Hart, they have these openings to the songs…Somewhere Over The Rainbow has one too – there’s this opening that’s so beautiful (*side note* we both had a bit of a moment over this as, I too, am in love with the opening of this song…seriously check out the full version!) It’s a very time period specific thing where the lead-in melody gets chopped, but it’ll be nice to bring them out.

There’s a lot of romanticism surrounding the songs of this era (1902-1942) and these classic tunes. Would you say this is a favourite style of yours?

The things I’ve tended to do are either more jazzy or very contemporary. Not even like musical theatre contemporary, more folk-pop stuff. I’ve learned over time that my voice is not a typical musical theatre voice, which is difficult when people want it to be this thing that it’s not. I developed a show for Feinstein’s/54 Below in New York that was called Broadway: What the Folk? I loved that show – it was really fun. I developed that with my friend, Mark, and he helped make incredible arrangements and things. That’s something that is a package that exists so I would definitely be interested in doing that here.

Would you ever consider releasing an album?

I’ve been talking about releasing an album for so many years. That’s a project that would also be a labour of love with my friend, Mark, as his collaboration is just invaluable to me. We have the problem of an ocean between us at this point, which is a little bit challenging when you’re talking about developing an album..! But we’re working on it and it’s definitely something I want to do.

Finally, I’m hoping to ask everyone I interview for Rose’s Supposes this question: If you could do one thing to make the world a rosier place, what would you do?

The thing I would encourage other people to do more of is just volunteer your time. I did a tonne of volunteering in New York and I’ve always been very service-minded. One of the first things I did when I came here was reach out and found places to volunteer and it’s my favourite way to spend my time other than acting and making music. I think there are so many organisations that need help and people, myself included, are like “I don’t have money” or “I don’t know how to offer this”, but the thing you can always offer is your time. There are so many ways to do it and you can use your skill set; find the thing that speaks to you and it’s fun. If everyone put in even a few hours a month towards helping other people or giving their time to an organisation, the world would be a better place.

(Great, right?)

I, for one, will definitely be going along to Upstairs at the Gatehouse to catch Give My Regards To Broadway. It’s running between 17th July – 5th August and promises to take audiences on “an exciting journey down the Great White Way.”

For more information and to book tickets, here’s the link you need: http://www.upstairsatthegatehouse.com/give-my-regards-to-broadway

You can also follow updates of the show over on their Twitter account, which is:@BroadwayRegards

A huge thank you to Rebecca for being such a wonderful first guest here on Roses Supposes! To stay up to date with her work, her Twitter is @RebeccaLaChance and her website is http://rebeccalachance.com

Olivia Rose 🌹

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Ultimate TV Show for Theatre Kids 🙌🏼

Why Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is the Ultimate TV Show for Theatre Kids 🙌🏼

I first stumbled across Crazy Ex-Girlfriend a few years ago, probably scrolling through Netflix avoiding my A Level revision. To say Rachel Bloom and the whole creative team behind this show are inspirations to me would be a HUGE understatement. I think the tagline to the theme tune of Season 1, “The situation is a lot more nuanced than that!” pretty much sums up my feelings about this show.

Perhaps due to its name, when I’ve mentioned the show to others (because I do, like, all the time) I’m often met with that familiar sceptical look about another teen tv series. But Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is nothing like you’d expect just from the title. It has so much depth and meaning, and addresses some serious issues in such a unique way.

To give some context for those who are unfamiliar with the show, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend follows Rebecca Bunch, played by Rachel Bloom who also co-writes and produces the show (I KNOW right??). She tries to reconnect with her first true love from Summer camp, Josh Chan, by following him all the way back to his home town of West Covina, California from her well-paid but dreary law career in New York. The show explores mental health in such a unique way that I haven’t seen in any other TV show. Did I mention it’s also hilarious and heartwarming all at the same time?

The amazingly witty dialogue reminds me of all the reasons I love Gilmore Girls. In the same way that Gilmore Girls is crammed full of pop culture references, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend feels like a love letter to the theatre kid of the room who makes jokes nobody else understands. It’s like I’ve finally found a TV show that GETS my sense of humour, without having to explain the whole plot of a musical in order for someone to get the joke or *gasps* who Stephen Sondheim is (which I have to do on a soul-crushingly regular basis).

Another reason it’s so perfect for theatre kids, aside from the fact that there are several original musical numbers in each episode is that, as a form, it so cleverly makes fun of itself. It’s both an ode to and a parody of musical theatre.

I can’t explain what I’d give to be able to sit in on some of the creative meetings on this show. Imagine working with a writing team that’s focusing on tackling the stigma surrounding mental health, promoting self-worth and also casually writing literally hundreds of original songs with niche Broadway references throughout – seriously, where do I sign up?? 🙏🏼 I can only hope that one day I’m able to create something that makes people feel the way Crazy Ex-Girlfriend makes me feel.

Now, onto the frankly iconic guest appearances. Can we talk about the fact that QUEEN PATTI LUPONE casually swoops in during Season 2?! If that isn’t enough to tempt you to watch the show, Broadway stars Lea Salonga and Josh Groban have also appeared. It’s like Rachel Bloom went “who would make theatre kids FREAK if they appeared on the show? Cool, let’s give them a call!” and then she only went and got them.

I thought I’d put together a list of a few of my favourite songs from the show. I should say that, when going through all the songs from the 3 seasons so far, I tried to put a playlist together of my favourites for this blog post. Guys, there were twenty-eight songs on the playlist I made. TWENTY-EIGHT. That’s more than a lot of musicals have in their whole score and these are just my highlights??? The sheer volume of work produced by the creative team is astounding. So here are just five of my all time favourites from the show so far:

(*side note* The fourth and final season is yet to air and I know this is gonna have some absolute bangers as well)

The Moment Is Me

Serving some major High School Musical vibes, Vella Lovell is hilarious in this “finding yourself” number. It’s just another example of how clever the writers are in poking fun at the very thing they’re doing, with the character of Heather reluctantly breaking into song.

Settle For Me

Santino Fontana (aka actual Prince Charming from Cinderella) and Rachel Bloom dance around like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. It’s magical.

(Tell Me I’m Okay) Patrick

I’m not even kidding, I’ve genuinely considered using this as an audition song on several occasions. It’s SUCH a good song. The camera shots in this number are just genius as well.

We Tapped That Ass

Tap is my all time favourite form of dance and so I absolutely love this song and dance routine. It’s similar to Avenue Q in the way that the music is so upbeat and charming that you forget the risqué nature of the lyrics. (Okay risqué is definitely the wrong word but you know what I mean😂)

This Session Is Going To Be Different

Michael Hyatt is AMAZING in this “Maybe This Time” style number. I’d loved her character as Rachel’s therapist up until this point so was thrilled she was given an entire number to shine in.

Where’s The Bathroom?

This is SUCH a great number performed by the incredible Tovah Feldshuh and the lyrics are just genius. Tovah is such a skilled actress and I love it when she appears in the show.

Some of my other faves from the show:

Season 1:

– What’ll It Be?

– After Everything I’ve Done For You (That You Didn’t Ask For)

– One Indescribable Instant

Season 2:

– Maybe This Dream

– George’s Turn

– Remember That We Suffered

Season 3:

– Let’s Generalize About Men

– I Feel Like This Isn’t About Me

– A Diagnosis

Finally, a note on Rachel Bloom herself. It baffles me that she’s so involved in so many different elements of this show. As someone who aspires to be not only a performer but also a creator (be that composing, writing, directing) it’s so incredible to see someone absolutely smashing all of those things respectively. Oh, and if you need another reason to be a fan of hers, she wore a t-shirt with Stephen Sondheim smoking a joint on it to the Tony Awards this year. Need I say more?

For the US readers out there (thanks for tuning in to my blog – I see you!), you can catch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on the CW and for my fellow Brits and beyond, it’s on Netflix!

I really hope this post makes you at least a little intrigued to check out the show. I want this blog to encourage people to be unapologetically stagey so, if you need that little extra push to believe that, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a great place to start.

Olivia Rose 🌹