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From Hollyoaks via Elle Woods - Meet Carley Stenson, Shrek The Musical’s new Princess Fiona

21 May 2012 | London Calling

Ahead of Carley Stenson joining the Shrek cast as Princess Fiona on Wednesday, she spoke to Nancy Groves about how nervous and excited she is...

Have you had a break between Legally Blonde and Shrek The Musical?
 
Legally finished on 7 April so I’ve had about three weeks off. My boyfriend [Hollyoaks actor Danny Mac] lives in Liverpool and my mum and my sister and dad in a little village between Liverpool and Manchester, so I went home and spent a bit of time with them and with my nieces and nephews. It was perfect to have those weeks off to feel totally relaxed, fresh and ready to start Shrek.
 
I did about 18 months in Legally, playing Margot for seven months, then nine months as Elle. I guess I’ve been lucky to go into musicals in such an extreme role where you’re on stage in every scene. Anything after that feels a little less stressful. Saying that, I’m really tired in Shrek rehearsals!
 
What made Shrek The Musical the right choice for your next show?
 
When we found out Legally was closing, lots of things were being auditioned for and Shrek was one of them. One of my good friends, Dean Chisnall, was playing Shrek and I thought to sing opposite him would be amazing. I think Princess Fiona is really cute and fun and feisty and I remember watching the movies with my nephews and thinking the music was cool, even before it even became a musical.
 
I managed to see the show last Halloween. I didn’t know I was going to audition then and I’m kind of glad because I didn’t try and figure it out. I just sat back and enjoyed it. It’s a great vibe. You can’t help but feel energised and lifted after you’ve sang “I’m A Believer” – everyone’s loving it!
 
How much of a jump is Princess Fiona from Elle Woods?
 
I could find similarities between the two characters. They’re both strong women who know exactly what they want and set out to get it – that’s the thread that runs through them. And they are both judged because of their looks, that’s the other big issue. They have to fight to be viewed differently.
 
But it will be a nice challenge to keep it fresh and exciting by concentrating on their differences, finding those little nuances and subtleties in every line and phrase. Every part I’ve ever played I’ve turned into a bit, even Steph, which probably wasn’t a good thing. By the end of my run as Elle, I was completely pink! So I don’t know whether I’ll completely shake her. I am quite girly.
 
Will you find it hard to channel Fiona’s ogre side?
 
All my friends say: “Oh, you’re going to be a princess!” And I say, “No, I’m going to be green.” The way I look at it, Fiona was always destined to be an ogre, not a princess, so I’m look for the ogre in here. I’ve had the costumes fitted but I’ve not been done up green yet and I’m looking forward to it.

Now you are the newbie on Shrek The Musical – is that strange?
 
Do you know, everyone’s been so lovely but it is daunting. I think the opening night is going to be one of the scariest nights of my life. My previous opening nights have always been with other people who are new as well. With Legally, it was half the cast, and when I went on as Elle for the first time, it was with Lee Mead and Natalie Casey. This time, it’s just me.
 
We went to The Night of 1000 Voices at the Royal Albert Hall and every time someone mentioned Drury Lane, I got all excited. Because it’s Drury Lane! To me, the greatest theatre in London. The Savoy was really intimate. But I must admit I’m not going to miss being able to see the first few rows of the audience. In a way I feel safer that it’s bigger here. You can get lost in your own character.
 
Is it scary stepping into Amanda Holden and Kimberley Walsh’s shoes?
 
They are big shoes to fill but I feel honoured that I’ve been given the role as well as them. I like a challenge – it gives me a kick up the bum. Kimberley actually came and found me in rehearsals, which was great, and she’s let me use her room when I’ve needed to. I’ve not met Amanda though I’ve been in the pub at the same time as her.
 
What I’ve learned this time is not to watch Kimberley or Amanda’s past videos or clips. Being on stage in Legally, I couldn’t help but hear how Sheridan and Susan [McFadden] did it so when I started as Elle it was really hard to shake their rhythms. It’s nice to go into a show with a blank page. You make mistakes that way but you learn more and it becomes your own quicker.
 
Are you looking forward to Fiona’s big tap routine in “Morning Person”?
 
Do you know, I’m looking forward to loving it but at the moment it’s just so hard! Because I used to dance, our choreographer Pip asks me to do something and I say, “Cool” and then I find my feet have completely forgotten. I look in the mirror and all I can see is my dad trying to do tap – sorry, Dad! So it’s my nemesis, but I had a nemesis in Legally (“So Much Better”) and I grew to love it. I really like Fiona’s first song too and I love listening to any of the Shreks. I forgot to act the other day because they were singing so beautifully behind me. Dean’s voice is like velvet, I’ve always said that. 
 
How are you feeling about Shrek and Fiona’s fart-off?
 
The dreaded fart-off. I hate the idea of it – that’s my girly side coming out. I don’t do that. Girls don’t do that. We’ll have a laff on stage, Dean and myself, but I might have to tell my boyfriend to go to the toilet through that bit!

Why should they come and see Shrek the Musical?
 
Ooh, I can’t stop smiling thinking about it. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s vibrant. You’ll laugh through the whole show. There’s beautiful music and songs. Dean is amazing; Neil and Richard too. You can’t walk away not having had a good time. And the message is to have fun, enjoy life and to appreciate yourself. To be happy with who you are.

Carley Stenson takes over the role of Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical on 23 May 2012. She stars alongside Dean Chisnall as Shrek, Richard Blackwood as Donkey and Neil McDermott as Lord Farquaad. http://ShrekTheMusical.co.uk
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