Actress Rebecca Seale is taking on the lead role of Leona Samish in Charles Court’s version of the seldom-performed musical Do I Hear a Waltz? The musical is based on Arthur Laurents’ play The Time of the Cuckoo and was adapted into a musical by Laurents, Richard Rodgers (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics). Charles Court Opera’s version is directed by John Savournin, who also founded the company in 2005.
Leona is a ‘fancy’ New York secretary who is on holiday, on her own, in Venice. She happens across a Venetian shop-keeper, Renato di Rossi, who sweeps her off her feet. In the city of romance, she begins to fall in love.
Seale’s theatre credits include Les Miserables (Queen’s Theatre and Palace Theatre), Les Miserables 25th Anniversary Concert (O2 Arena), South Pacific (UK tour), Peter Pan (Churchill Theatre, Bromley), Blondel (Pleasance, London), Blaze (Bridewell Theatre) and Mamma Mia! (Prince Edward Theatre). For Charles Court she has performed in Mikado, The Zoo and Iolanthe.
Seale tells Musical Theatre Review’s Lauren Jackson about the romance of the production and how exciting it is to work with Charles Court again.
How did you get into musical theatre?
I did an acting degree in Liverpool. I went to LIPA (The Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts). I took the straight acting route, but I did a lot of musical theatre while I was there. Then I just stayed in musical theatre after that, my first job was Mamma Mia! and then Les Miserables (it was really exciting to be part of the 25th anniversary celebrations). I got to work with Alfie Boe which was fantastic. I’ve always stuck with musicals so it’s really nice to do something that has such a big text.
How have rehearsals gone?
Really well actually, but it’s been intense. I’ve been working hard and that’s what I need to do, because it’s such a short space of time and Leona’s such a big character. It’s really important to have the time to explore everything with her because there’s so much to who she is. I want to do the best job that I can in the limited space of time that we have.
Do I Hear a Waltz? is not a well-known musical, what was it that attracted you to the project?
To be honest I hadn’t heard any of the music or book, but certainly what attracted me was working with Charles Court again because I’d worked with them before on a couple of projects: The Mikado, The Zoo and Iolanthe. I hadn’t worked with them for a good five years so it was nice to get back in touch. But also the part attracted me, she’s a fantastic character, there are so many dimensions to her.
You have appeared in a number of musicals, how have you approached such a leading role?
Well, I’m not too fazed. I always approach things as an acting piece, using the text and working from there. In terms of style that’s where David Eaton, our musical director, comes in, and John Savournin, our director, to direct me with the music, But with such a large text, I approach it as an acting piece first, building the character first and working from there.
Can you identify with Leona in any way?
Yes, definitely. I think every woman can. She’s a well written, real character. It’s very clear there’s so much to her and she’s been written in a way that’s very likeable, it’s in the script to begin with. Human, I think is the word to describe her. She has this big explosion where she gets drunk and lets out her real emotions. She doesn’t cope well in some situations. I feel she’s one of those characters that you can really relate to, she lives and learns. We really see her grow.
When the musical originally opened, there were some creative difference between Laurents, Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim, some of them about whether the story lent itself to being a musical. What do you think the music adds to the show?
Definitely the music works alongside the romantic setting of Venice. Especially with the idea of the romantic waltz, I sing the song ‘Do I Hear a Waltz?’ and it just adds so much to the romance of the place. And you know with any music it gets across heightened emotions, so the stakes are up ten-fold, everything is much more important. It definitely brings out the passion a lot more.
How is the director creating the romantic atmosphere of Venice?
The group numbers are really important, especially as we have quite a small cast. They really work with the feel created by the music, it’s all so vibrant and fast, it brings about an atmosphere that fits with Venice. In the beginning there’s a lot going on, a lot of movement to really transport you to Venice, so you feel you’re there from the beginning.
Which song within the musical is the most romantic for you?
I get sung to a lot, which I feel is pretty romantic, by the leading man Philip Lee who is playing Renato de Rossi, he pulls me in with those songs. Sometimes I feel the romance so much that I begin to think, “Oh God, yes, where am I?”. But I can’t really pick one out. The romance for me really comes from the ones he sings, but I suppose ‘Do I Hear a Waltz?’, which I sing, is very romantic.
* Do I Hear a Waltz? continues at the Park Theatre, London until 30 March 2014.
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