Earlier this week I chatted to Charlotte Wakefield who is about to star as Laurey in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Oklahoma opening at the Royal Derngate in Northampton next week and playing at various venues including The Hawth in Crawley 12- 16th May.
We are all really excited about this new touring production of Oklahoma – how are rehearsals going?
Rehearsals are going really well. We are just on our lunch break now and are about to run the entire show so that is really exciting. It is such a classy production and a real pleasure to perform.
You are no stranger to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s work having played Maria in the Regent’s Park production of The Sound of Music last year. Is there something that appeals to you about their music?
I grew up with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s music. I was a huge fan of all their music but particularly ‘The Sound of Music’. In some ways you could say I was introduced to musical theatre through Rodgers and Hammerstein by sitting down and watching my Grandparents old videos and I also performed lots of their musicals whilst in amateur operatic societies. It feels like a natural progression for me. Before Regent’s Park I had been in modern musicals for the most part. I started my career when I was 18 in a pop-rock musical called Spring Awakening and then moved on to Mamma Mia so then to find myself playing Maria in a classic musical was a joy.
Going even further back in your career you were in a RSC production called Such Tweet Sorrow that retold the story of Romeo and Juliet via twitter over the course of 5 weeks. It was remarkable, how did you get involved with that?
The Royal Shakespeare Company contacted my agent looking for a young actress to play Juliet in this twitter who could write creatively to be involved in a Twitter based project. When I was approached I didn’t have any idea what I was getting myself into but I thought that it would be really interesting not least because it was being run by the RSC. My audition was done online. They gave me a scenario and I had to ‘tweet’. I am an avid tweeter anyway (@wake_x) but through this job I learned all the ins and outs of Twitter and I developed my own version of this very famous character. For me it was almost a creative writing exercise but with my acting background it made the play very real. We had so many people following this amazing story.
It was trial and error as well. No-one had done anything like that before. We had four days of rehearsal where we prepped ourselves on what we were going to do. Then each day the writers would give us a structured schedule which we would follow in our own homes but writing our own tweets, posting on our YouTube channels and so forth in character. I didn’t even see the other actors. We were all in our own homes tweeting away. It really was as if it was happening in real time – quite clever!
So from tweeting Shakespeare to singing, acting and dancing in Oklahoma! Which do you like the performing most?
For me it is a combination, I have grown up performing musical theatre. In Oklahoma I have the opportunity to do all three at the same time. Obviously I was in Mamma Mia which required a bit of dancing but in this show I do a lot. Ashley and I are actually dancing the Dream Ballet ourselves. I have trained in ballet since I was three years old. It is lovely to be able to use my dance training for something that is so narrative driven. Choreographer Drew McOnie is an absolute genius and working alongside director Rachel Kavanaugh has created a ballet that really concentrates on the telling a story. Of course we have to look beautiful on the stage but the ballet is all about Laurey and how she is conjuring up the characters and scenarios in her dream into a story, so I really have to act as well as get my leg around my head! In that respect it has been a huge challenge, but I have absolutely embraced it, I am loving every single second.
Oklahoma has a fantastic cast. Tell me about them….
They really are some of the best! It is great to work with Lucy May Barker again, it’s been almost 6 years since Spring Awakening and to play Ado Annie and Laurey together is like playing Ilse and Wendla all over again, but just a little bit older. Gary Wilmot is just inspiring and so funny, Belinda Lang is an amazing actress and Ashley Day is simply a joy to work opposite. There is also the most amazing ensemble, the whole cast is just very special.
We did a run of Act One yesterday and the cast is bringing together something new that people won’t expect. So it is very traditional classic production with a special original twist.
Have you ever toured before?
I toured internationally with Mamma Mia, and although we went around the world we were in one place for a month or two at a time this is my first week by week UK tour. I am really looking forward to it. I have been back in London for three years now and it is lovely to have a job that takes you to places you have never been before. There are lots of places in the UK that I have never been to, and I am very much looking forward to returning to Salford, Manchester which is my home town. We shall be performing at the Lowry where I saw all sorts of things when I was growing up, and in Dublin where I turned 21 on the Mamma Mia tour. Saying that, I have never visited most of our venues so I am very excited.
You are only 24 and you have been very successful, is there a part you would particularly like to play?
There are so many characters I would like to play, I’d love to play Mary Poppins, Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie, I love to do more Rodgers and Hammerstein, I’d love to do more original musical theatre as well. I have worked on a fantastic new musical called Paradise Lost which is in development at the moment. We have just released a cast album for it which is absolutely brilliant. I have a huge passion for new writing and well as the classics so really in one sense I have only done a little bit and I am always ready for new opportunities.
Charlotte Wakefield is performing in OKLAHOMA on tour around the UK stopping at The Hawth Crawley between 12th-16th May 2015