Actress Steph Parry boasts a rich and varied CV which includes the musicals Thoroughly Modern Millie, Billy Elliot, Annie and Mamma Mia!.
And yet Steph is not resting on her laurels. As well as understudying the role of Madame Morrible in the West End production of Wicked, Steph is currently hard at work putting together a one woman show. Entitled Rewrites and Delights, it will play for one night on the Battersea Barge and promises to be ‘filled with comedy, music and fun’.
Steph was recently kind enough to share a little more about the show and the life of a West End understudy.
Your cabaret is entitles Rewrites and Delights. What made you choose the title?
I'm a big fan of taking a song and rewriting the lyrics so it becomes relevant to my life. I wish I could write a song from scratch. Maybe that is a future goal for me but for now it’s all about using the comedy of the rhythms that people expect with different words. The ‘delights’ element will be songs that people know and love or just downright good songs. As my musical director Chris Hatt so rightly said, "no one wants to laugh solidly for over an hour”, so I'm hoping to take the audience through a whole host of emotions.
You are a highly respected comedic performer. Who are your comedy heroes?
Oh, thank you! There are so many. I worked in a stand up comedy club for a few years and was absolutely fascinated watching comedians at work every week. I thought I can do that, and next thing I know I'm doing stand up comedy myself. I've moved away from that now but the skills I learnt have really helped with cabaret. I remember when I couldn't even speak on a mic, just a quick thank you after I'd finished a song. I love Kristen Wiig. I think she's incredible. I sit for hours watching Saturday Night Live. Her and Melissa McCarthy are brilliant. Bette Midler is a dream. She's someone I look up to hugely. And of course, Victoria Wood, who we are hoping to do a little tribute to on the night.
‘Rewrites and Delights’ is a one woman show. Having performed in some of the West End’s biggest musical casts, do you miss the energy and companionship of other actors around you or is there an element of liberation being the only person on stage?
A bit of both I guess. I love being a part of a company, connecting with my fellow performers and bouncing off each other's energy. However when you're alone on stage the only people you can connect to are the audience. That ‘imaginary wall’ is taken away and it's just you and them having a conversation. You may say a very one sided conversation, but you'll be surprised at how much you can feel from an audience. It's totally about a connection. If you're not enjoying yourself up there then they will get that and switch off.
You are currently understudying the role of Madame Morrible in ‘Wicked’ and have previously understudied Mrs. Wilkinson in ‘Billy Elliot’. What are the joys and challenges of being an understudy?
The joy of being an understudy is the amazing opportunity I've had to play certain roles that I'm probably still too young for. I've played some fantastic women. Mrs. Wilkinson was probably my favourite. That part is just a dream. I got to do it on a night when one of the young boys playing Billy was leaving. It was so special. The energy in the theatre that night was electric (excuse the pun!). In Mamma Mia!, I understudied all three of the dynamos so that was pretty cool. I can say that I played them all too - even if I only got to do Rosie just the once.
The challenges of an understudy are mostly fun challenges: Being thrown on during a show, having to be prepared at a moments notice, or not having done it for seven months. Suddenly you're wigged, costumed and ready to go.
Working on ‘Wicked’ and ‘Rewrites and Delights’ must keep you very busy. What do you like to do when you’re not on stage?
Oh gosh, lots of things! I train pretty consistently in the gym - it's my second home. Spending time with my husband, seeing friends, eating, writing… I'm pretty busy!
What does the future hold for you?
Wow! I have no idea. I'm choosing to not get scared by that thought. I have four and a half weeks left at Wicked, then I go on holiday and then who knows?! But the great thing about this business is that things can change in an instant. I'd love to do more film and TV work so hopefully that's where I'll be in the near future. All I can say right now is that I'm excited about the possibilities.
Rewrites and Delights plays the Battersea Barge on Sunday 21st August at 6.30pm. Tickets can be booked here: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/364664
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